Does Latin America Need a United Front Against Covid-19?
21 April 2020
Andrea C. Bianculli
The consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic are not all the same for all countries and regions. Latin American political leaders have addressed Covid-19 in a wide variety of ways, ranging from denial and irresponsibility to pragmatic and firm action from the outset. However, even timely and stern responses may be ineffective. Some governments in the region seem to have acknowledged this, as Mercosur shows. Based on regulations and practices in place since the 1990s, the bloc rapidly established joint lines of action, including sharing information and statistics on the evolution of the pandemic and on the measures that the member countries have adopted, facilitating the return of citizens and ensuring the movement of supplies and essentials (such as food, hygiene and health care products). Additionally, a $16 million emergency fund was approved to further promote the regional project ‘Research, Education and Biotechnologies applied to Health,’ which has been in progress since 2011, as well as the purchase of equipment, protection materials and kits for detecting the virus, thus strengthening countries’ health and response capacities. Still, this exceptional and severe pandemic is not only a clear and painful reminder of the importance of regional cooperation in managing cross-border challenges, but also of the far-reaching economic, political and social effects of health crises. Understanding this association is crucial to broadening the regional policy space and promoting collective responses in order to mitigate these wider consequences, which may exacerbate already existing vulnerabilities and inequalities. Finally, as a meso-level between the national and the international levels, the regional arena could also be a space for negotiating and providing more flexible financial support. Hence, countries’ success depends both on stronger and deeper regional cooperation and on true political leadership.