Latin America’s COVID-19 Fiasco Is Also a Crisis of Regional Integration

Source: Foreign Policy

Deadly Fragmentation

When the presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay virtually convened last Friday to celebrate the 30th birthday of South American customs union Mercosur, what should have been a moment of affirmation ended in a verbal spat between Argentina’s Alberto Fernández and Uruguay’s Luis Lacalle Pou over a long-running debate on easing some of the bloc’s rules. Unwillingness to evolve, in Lacalle Pou’s view, has held Mercosur back.

The open bickering was symptomatic of wider diplomatic paralysis in the region. From the mid-2000s to mid-2010s, South American countries often came together on topics from health to defense. But in the years since, the continent has politically fractured—culminating in dismally low coordination during the COVID-19 health emergency.

This is likely a factor behind the region’s staggering death toll. Latin America accounts for around a quarter of global COVID-19 deaths, despite being home to only 8 percent of the world’s population.



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