The COVID-19 virus arrived in Latin America later than Europe and the United States, but it is currently spreading across the region, with peaks expected to come later in May. Brazil, the continent’s most populous country, has the largest numbers of cases so far. This week, the country’s Senate is expected to vote on an economic package for states and cities to compensate for economic losses.
Kenneth Roberts, professor of government at Cornell University, studies political parties, populism and social movements in Latin America. He is available for media interviews and says the combination of political, economic, and public health crises creates extraordinary uncertainty for Brazil.
“Brazil, the region's largest and most populous country, has the largest number of cases with over 100,000 confirmed cases and 7,000 deaths. With extreme social and economic inequalities, limited testing capabilities, and a health care system that leaves many of the poor without effective coverage, the country is highly susceptible to a public health emergency.
“Nevertheless, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a former military officer and an admirer of Donald Trump, has consistently downplayed the threat of the virus and criticized state governors for imposing social distancing guidelines. With the economy teetering on the brink of a severe recession and his government showing signs of internal disarray, Bolsonaro has sacked his health minister and addressed public rallies where he attacks the governors for lockdown policies that cost Brazilians jobs.
"The combination of political, economic, and public health crises creates extraordinary uncertainty for Latin America's most important country in the months ahead.”