Covid-19 is deteriorating democracy in Latin America

Amy Langley, Chief International Officer

30 Jul 2020

As one of the worst-hit regions across the globe by the Covid-19 pandemic, Latin America now faces antidemocratic actions by leaders who have taken advantage of weak economic and social circumstances.

Currently facing a public health crisis, as well as the worst economic recession in the history of Latin America, countries in the region are feeling the strain on already-weakening democracies. Some leaders and governments have used the pandemic to reduce oversight of government actions, silence dissent and criticism and extend their time in office. It seems that leaders who were bending the rules to begin with have now thrown critical aspects of democracy out the window. Covid-19 could open the door to a rise in human rights abuses, crime and corruption.

Bolivia has seen a postponed election, emergency aid money being funneled towards an election campaign and threats to ban the main opposition from running. In Venezuela, critics and those investigating the government’s reported statistics in the pandemic were subject to detention and home raids courtesy of President Nicolás Maduro. Political prisoners were kept detained in Nicaragua, thanks to President Daniel Ortega, whilst others went free due to the infection risk of Covid-19. Populist leaders who initially downplayed the pandemic, such as Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, have been criticised for disseminating fake news and failing to address the health catastrophe that has rolled across the region.

Given the failure of government in countries in the throws of worsening poverty, economic decline and political upheaval, Latin America’s social and economic progress in the last century could largely be erased by this pandemic. As Covid-19 continues to unfold, it remains to be seen how these steps away from democracy will eventuate once the pandemic subsides.

Read more about Covid-19 in Latin America in this BBC News article: