Latin America, the biggest loser in the pandemic

With quarantines that have already reached five months, Latin America is the region of the world where closures have lasted the longest

Latin America, the biggest loser in the pandemic
People are pictured in "El Mercado de Jamaica," a popular Mexican which was reopened after 18 days of being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic - Photo: Diego Simón Sanchéz/EL UNIVERSAL
English 27/08/2020 16:39 Mexico City Solange Márquez Actualizada 17:14

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With quarantines that have already reached five months, Latin America is the region of the world where closures have lasted the longest. The quarantines have ranged from total closures to cases of less severe confinement due to political discrepancies, such as the case of Brazil.
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Two countries in the region are in the top 3 of the countries with the highest number of deaths (Mexico and Brazil), and five are in the top 10 with the highest number of infections.
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The social and economic impact of these closures has not been long in coming. Countries like Mexico, which was already coming off a quasi-recession in 2019, now faces prospects for economic contraction ranging from -9% to -12.5% announced by the Central Bank a couple of days ago. Peru will fall -13%, Argentina -9%. In general, ECLAC anticipates that the Latin American economy will fall -9% this year, figures higher than those faced by the region during the crisis of 2009.
The practical result of these figures translates into job losses, business closures, lack of inputs and resources, and, therefore, an increase in poverty and inequality in the region, already the most unequal in the world. Last June in Mexico, it was announced that the country had lost around 1 million jobs in the three months they had been locked up. ECLAC estimates that the number of unemployed would reach 44 million, that is, 18 million people have already been or will be without a job.
But the delay that the region will suffer will also be seen in educational levels. With schools closed and countries poorly prepared for digital education, the return to classes online has turned into chaos. Each State has a unique formula for its case. Mexico has prohibited the returning to in-person instruction, transferring 100% of children to digital education. However, the lack of inputs makes it impossible for many low-income families for their children to continue their education.
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In most cases, you don't have a computer or tablet. Smartphones, which are often parents' work tools, are now used to take online classes, "download and upload" assignments, and more. But for that, it is required to have and pay for an internet connection, and if there is no work, that is simply not possible.
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The debate about the best way to handle the return to the classroom is not exclusive to the Latin American region. Many countries are at the crossroads between the face-to-face but dangerous or the digital but dysfunctional. However, conditions in Latin American countries are very different from other regions. While Germany or Canada have allocated considerable amounts to alleviate the crisis for millions of families, countries like Mexico decided to leave alone the poorest and most vulnerable. They have denied them any type of economic incentive that could contain the employment loss or contribute to reducing the digital divide.
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Dropout and poor school performance will be two indirect but predictable consequences of the pandemic. All these factors together will make a recovery, which will take a long time to come, slow and uneven. Time will tell which of the strategies taken by the different countries was the most and the least significant. The biggest challenge is for the poorest.

Twitter: @solange_