The most difficult year in Latin America

Fundación Alternativas presents the Iberoamérica 2020 Report
Women and children wait in line to receive a free meal in the district of Villa María del Triunfo in Lima (Peru)

AP/ROFRIGO ABD  -   Women and children wait in line to receive a free meal in the district of Villa María del Triunfo in Lima (Peru)

Latin America is experiencing one of the most complicated moments in its history. The pandemic, which was initially more benign to the region, is out of control. Its ravages are very pronounced in Mexico or Brazil. ECLAC, the UN's arm for the region, has already predicted that this year the subcontinent will suffer the worst recession in its history due to the coronavirus. But this disease is only one of the problems that the region has. Inequality, the informality of economic activity or the lack of fiscal space were there before. In 2019 there were large protests, especially in Chile, demanding better living conditions. 

With the aim of addressing all the challenges facing Latin America, Fundación Alternativas has prepared the Iberoamérica 2020 Report, which was presented on Wednesday in a virtual conference with the participation of Arancha González Laya, Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation; Érika Rodríguez, Latin America Coordinator at Fundación Alternativas; Karina Cáceres, expert consultant in political communication, Latin America and Gender and Andrés Serbin, President of the Regional Coordinator of Economic and Social Research (CRIES). 

Although the current crisis will hit the political and economic systems of all nations on the planet, not everyone will suffer equally. However, this blow will be cushioned differently in different places, depending on the structural dynamics that structured the social realities of each region before the arrival of the pandemic.

Latin America is one of the regions in the worst position. Preceded by an economic stagnation of more than five years, Latin America's 2019 was already an extraordinarily turbulent year: in addition to the usual problems of drug trafficking, public safety, poverty and migration crises, there was a series of unprecedented social protests that, among other things, demonstrated the limits of governance in a region immersed in a cycle of political instability.

"I think that if this report shows anything, it is the great resilience of Latin America. Social inequality and fiscal incapacity are two of the great challenges still facing the subcontinent," said Arancha González Laya, Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, during the presentation of the report, which reviewed the region's turbulent year before the arrival of the pandemic: Evo Morales' flight from Bolivia, the unsustainable situation in Venezuela, deaths in the streets of Nicaragua... "You are facing a very complex stage in this area, but it has not been the only one. In the 1980s they had to deal with a large number of dictatorships," explained González Laya. 

The minister pointed out that many thought that the Latin American continent would "manage the pandemic better" after the "experiences of Asia and Europe", and if this was "true" in the initial phase, as it has progressed "its devastating effects" have also impacted in a very "particular" way on the countries of Latin America. "For Latin America, 2020 is a particularly complex year. Social and political pressure is added to the economic crisis and the pandemic," explained the study's coordinator, Erika Rodríguez, Latin America coordinator for Fundación Alternativas. 

"The protests and discontent were already there before the pandemic. A new way of doing politics is needed in the face of new challenges. Public policies have to be ambitious and have to offer a global response, but with a regional outlook," asked Karina Cáceres, communications consultant. This report also offers some recommendations for moving towards a better future: strengthening taxation, administration... For Cáceres, this study is an opportunity to continue advancing the dialogue on Latin America. 

"Inequality continues to be the great scourge of Latin America and this report reflects this very well," explained Andrés Serbin, president of the Regional Coordination of Economic and Social Research (CRIES). "We also have a crisis of representation. The citizens are not happy with their institutions and there is more and more political polarization", concluded this Argentine political scientist with concern.