COVID-19 Pandemic in Latin America Webinar
May 29, 2020 01:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a global impact on various aspects of our society. The aim of this panel was to take an interdisciplinary perspective to examine the impact that COVID-19 has had on five regions in Latin America (Brazil, El Salvador, Mexico, Paraguay, and Peru) in the following topics: government policies, marginalized communities and poverty, public health, higher education, and social distancing. The panelists included a diplomat, a journalist, a professor in Brazilian studies, a professor in linguistics and Andean studies, and the director of the Center of Latin American Studies at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
The five panelists discussed the following questions:
1. What impact has COVID-19 had in Latin America?
2. How have governments and educators responded to the emerging complexity of the pandemic in Latin America?
Professor César Félix-Brasdefer, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Ambassador Manuel Cáceres, Paraguay Ambassador to the United States
Policies of the Government of Paraguay related to COVID-19
Paraguay faces the COVID-19 pandemic following the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the CDC of the United States. So far, the statistics have shown positive results. The great challenge for Paraguay is to find the point of balance between health and economy. If this unsustainable rhythm continues, it will result in the closure of companies, loss of jobs, and in an increase of the public debt for a country that has always been characterized by its fiscal and macroeconomic sustainability. Paraguay is fighting against COVID-19 as a responsible government that took immediate and drastic measures from the outset with state policies.
Journalist Óscar Martinez
El Salvador: Between Hunger and Pandemic—El Salvador, entre el hambre y la pandemia [Presentation in Spanish, with translation in English]
El Salvador, the smallest country in the north triangle of Central America, was one of the first on the continent to adopt extreme measures in the face of the pandemic. Since March 22, El Salvador lives under mandatory quarantine that will last until mid-June. Public transportation, informal sales, factories, and borders are closed. El Salvador is a country where 60% of the population lives in poverty and their essential work is informal: shoemakers, domestic workers, and street vendors. Remittances from the United States have decreased dramatically and hundreds of small- and medium-sized companies have gone bankrupt. The outlook for the future is discouraging overall, and added to this is the fact that possibilities for ‘los desesperados’ will be increasingly unlikely as migrating to the United States without documents is now more expensive and more complicated.
Professor Andrea Siqueira, Faculty, Hamilton Lugar School of International Studies, Indiana University
COVID-19: a portrait of the Brazilian (lack of) governance, and its social and health inequalities
In Brazil, the first COVID patients were identified in early February in Sao Paulo, the largest city in the country. All of them were upper middle class individuals, returning from their vacations in Europe. However, soon it spread to all corners of the city, state, and most of the country, affecting all, but particularly the urban poor. Brazil has the world’s third highest number of infected people. The president Jair Bolsonaro continues to downplay the risks. He lacks a coherent plan to address the health crisis, and continues to undermine the lock down and social isolation policies put in place by state governors. This epidemic exposes the “epi-divide” and inequalities of Brazilian society. In this presentation the evolving scenario of COVID-19 in Brazil and its effects on the most vulnerable parts of the population, including the indigenous populations will be addressed.
Professor Rubén Ruiz Guerra, Director of Centro de Investigaciones de América Latina, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)
COVID-19 Challenges in Higher Education in Mexico [Presentation in Spanish, with translation in English]
In order to understand the challenges COVID–19 poses to higher education in México, this presentation will cover the following topics: The policies adopted by the national government, the impact of the disease, and the role of higher education. It, also, addresses social and political implications, such as, social and political polarization, the press vs the government, economic stagnation, and inequalities. The last part of this talk addresses the current situation at Universidad Nacional Autónona de México, including remote teaching, teacher training, and social limitations to technological use.
Professor Miguel Rodríguez Mondoñedo, Faculty, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú
COVID-19 in Peru: Languages, Culture, and Education
Peru ordered a lockdown very early achieving initial success, but at this moment the country has one of the highest rates of infection in the region, second to Brazil. Analysts agree that the blame for this failure in containment rests in the weakness of the State and its institutions, which were unable to enforce the lockdown, such as, the national organizations in charge of public health and security. As a result, there was great disparity in compliance, and an unequal distribution of infection. A group heavily affected by COVID-19 has been indigenous people in the Amazon, where medical staff is scarce. A disparity, also, exists in urban areas with respect to Education. While private schools and private universities have resources to online classes, public schools and universities have just closed their doors, and the government has implemented a daily TV show in lieu of classes in public schools.