South America is gradually being locked down
In an effort to curb the growth of the 19-COVID epidemic, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Colombia and Bolivia are entering into quarantine.
Either because Latin American governments are learning from the mistakes of Europeans and trying to anticipate the level of catastrophe currently being experienced in Italian hospitals, or because fear has led them to do so, five South American countries have declared quarantine: Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Colombia and Bolivia.
Nicolas Maduro's government was the first in the continent to impose the quarantine on the entire territory. The first case of COVID-19 in the country was diagnosed on March 13 and the measure was radically imposed four days later, on the 17th. Even so, to date 70 cases have been diagnosed. Although the government's authoritarianism may be a factor contributing to the imposition of the measure on the population and the consequent containment of the epidemic, the Venezuelan government is going to have serious difficulties in accessing international financing for the fight against the virus given that most countries recognize Juan Guaidó as the legitimate leader.
Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra was the next to decree the quarantine, which began two days after Venezuela's on March 15 and will last until March 30, although he has already announced that the measure will probably have to be extended because thousands of people have failed to comply with the confinement. At least 8,000 people (including nationals and foreigners) have been detained.
The Peruvian case has a singularity in relation to its Constitution, which provides that the restriction of fundamental rights such as freedom of assembly and transit through the country can only occur for a maximum of 60 days, so that if the quarantine were to be further extended, a reform of the Magna Carta would have to be made, which could jeopardize the Peruvian State's ability to guarantee the application of the measure.
Argentina entered into a quarantine on March 20 and it will last until March 31. The president of this country, Alberto Fernández, had already decreed the closure of schools since March 15 and recommended social distancing to everyone since March 19, but due to the non-compliance of thousands of people, it was necessary to impose a total quarantine. In an economy that has already been hit hard, where approximately 40% of the population depends on informal work, the imposition of not going out into the streets is also a condemnation of hunger for thousands of people. This is a circumstance that not only Argentina faces, but also the entire continent.
Colombian President Iván Duque decreed that the quarantine will formally begin on March 24 and will last until April 13. However, more than a third of the population has been in quarantine drill since March 20. Initially the drill would run from the 20th to the 23rd and Duque decreed that the quarantine would begin on the 25th, leaving a day in between. To avoid the stampede of people to the shops, the national government coordinated with the local governments to extend the drill until the 24th, when it will coincide with the beginning of the official quarantine.
Bolivian President Jeanine Áñez decreed the beginning of the quarantine from March 22nd to April 4th. She also announced that the presidential elections would be postponed indefinitely. While this is understandable in the state of health emergency in which the country finds itself, it can also be detrimental to her governance insofar as it feeds the idea that she is a person who refuses to hand over power to someone else, as she promised she would do when she took office.
In Bolivia, the directors of the largest public hospital network in the capital sounded the alarm about the absolute lack of the minimum inputs needed to deal with the virus "caps, chinstraps, boots, glasses, gowns, and even less with high-level inputs such as intensive care drugs. They send us to war without weapons, they condemn us to fight in unfavorable conditions."
For the moment, the other countries could be grouped into two categories: those that have imposed curfews and quarantine measures only on suspected or confirmed cases (El Salvador, Guatemala, Ecuador and Paraguay) and those that have not imposed any measures to control the movement of the population for fear of hurting the economy, even though in the medium and long term the impact on the economy will be directly proportional to the spread of the virus.In this second group, which depends on the self-imposed social distancing of its citizens, are Mexico, Uruguay, Brazil and Chile. The Chilean case has the additional aggravation that the constitutional referendum for which the Chileans gave their eyes - literally - has been postponed until October 25 and as long as drastic containment measures are not taken, the expansion of the epidemic will continue, which in turn will continue to make the democratic process impossible.