Reported deaths in the region have exceeded 230,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, putting the death toll for the region as a whole higher than that of the United States and Canada combined. If preventive measures are not maintained, the death toll could reach 438,000 in October, according to the World Health Organization’s regional director for the Americas.Brazil is the second most affected country in the world, just behind the United States, surpassing 3 million cases of coronavirus and more than 105,000 deaths. President Jair Bolsonaro himself contracted the virus after refusing to wear a mask in public and continuing to hold public rallies during the height of the crisis. Bolsonaro’s wife and eight government ministers have also contracted the virus.
Bolsanaro made a full recovery and used the experience to minimize the virus by saying, “What are you afraid of? Face it. His government’s failure to respond has led local governments and even local gangs to implement their own lockdowns.
Mexico City has never completely closed its doors, and Mexico recently overtook Britain as the country with the third highest death toll in the world, with 54,000 dead.
Other heads of state in Latin America have also tested positive for COVID-19, including Bolivian President Jeanine Añez and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, hospitalized for a few weeks.
A United Nations report warns that if the region is unable to control the spread, countries could see 45 million more people fall below the poverty line. The report says that as the gains in inequality and poverty begin to corrode, so too will democracy, with the potential for civil unrest.
“The pandemic arrived in Latin America at a time when the region was already suffering from a democratic disaster,” said Daniel Zovatto, senior researcher at the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy and Latin America Initiative, referring to the wave of anti-government protests that in the region last year, in countries like Chile, Venezuela, Honduras and Haiti.
“We were also in an economic situation which was already on a downward trend. When the pandemic arrived, it exacerbated and accelerated all these negative problems, ”he said.
In some cases, such as El Salvador, Zovatto said President Nayib Bukele used the pandemic to consolidate executive power in congress and supreme courts since he did not have a majority. But there are more serious examples, such as Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua – countries that already have authoritarian regimes – that have used coronavirus restrictions to quell dissent and protests.
“We need to coordinate and speak with one voice to defend our interests,” said Zovatto, of all Latin American countries, “to let the world know that Latin America also needs help. If we do not find this help, we will find ourselves in a very difficult situation. “