Pandemic and social contradictions in Latin America


Not only in Europe but also in Latin America, the pandemic is exposing the different health approaches of the various states. The Latin American countries that are doing better are Cuba, Costa Rica, Paraguay and Uruguay. The first two due to their advanced systems of territorial preventive medicine: Cuba and Costa Rica have a health structure that includes the hospital at the top, as it happens everywhere, but it rests on a large and solid base divided into clinics and, above all, medical and paramedical staff in constant contact with the population, even at home.

Over the years, both countries have invested mainly in human resources, to intervene before patients get worse enough to be hospitalized.

Uruguay and Paraguay, in South America, were the two countries that applied the measures to prevent and control contagion with more timing and intelligence. Without demagoguery – and indeed, almost silently – they moved in time, checking the outbreak by the end of April. Uruguay then collected the result of the massive investments in health made over the past fifteen years by the governments of the Frente Amplio of Tabaré Vázquez and Pepe Mujica.

The landscape changes radically when evaluating the large countries of the area, especially Brazil, which in recent days has exceeded the number of daily deaths in the United States. The four major mistakes that precipitated the situation in Brazil start with the action of President Jair Bolsonaro, who not only minimized the pandemic, but also constantly instigated the population against any preventive measures ordered by local governors.

Not only that: it was the presidency itself that flooded the web and television of fake news who wanted coronavirus in all the same way as a cold, or who proclaimed chloroquine as a universal remedy for Covid-19.

Listening to your president every day to minimize the danger has generated a feeling of false security that has favored risky behavior. Another mistake was the leopard spot quarantine, with states governed by center-left forces that imposed the lockdown, while those governed by Bolsonaro’s allies continued as if nothing had happened.

And again: three health ministers followed in 30 days, the first two expelled because they would have liked to follow the directions of the World Health Organization. In the meantime, contrary to local forecasts which predicted a return of the situation under control in mid-May, the worst phase has just begun.

This perfect storm hit Brazil’s healthcare structure, a system divided between excellent private health care and low quality health care for the poor, which, however, does not even cover the entire population. They are in fact the inhabitants of the favelas who are paying the highest price. Those neighborhoods often without water and without services that only under the government of Lula had a minimum of health attention, thanks to the intervention of Cuban doctors. Doctors who, unlike the Brazilian ones, really went to work in the favelas and that Bolsonaro, among his first acts of government, sent home.

This pattern is repeated in several countries in the area, health care for the rich and health care for the poor, and not even for everyone. In Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Argentina, despite more adequate political responses than the Brazilian one and less dramatic numbers, the problems are the same, and date back to the 1990s, when the wave of privatizations spread in almost across the continent.

Centrality of the hospital, abandonment of the territory and prevention, political disbandments. The coronavirus could not have found a better way to expose the social contradictions generated by the politics of today’s Latin America.

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