1 1 (June 19, 2020)

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June 19, 2020


Latin America and the Caribbean: Impact of COVID-19


The Coronavirus Disease2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is
having widespread economic, social, and political effects
on Latin America and the Caribbean, a region with strong
congressionalinterest because of deep U.S. linkages.

As of June 18,2020, the region has 1.8 million confirmed
cases and over 86,000 deaths, with some countries
experiencing a surge in deaths. Brazil, Mexico, Peru,
Ecuador, and Chile have the highest numbers of deaths in
the region, and Brazil nowhas the highestnumber of deaths
worldwide after the United States. The rankings change in
terms of per capita deaths-Ecuador has the highest nunber
of recorded deaths per capita, followed by Peru, Brazil,
Chile, and Mexico (see Table 1).

There are concerns that several countries, such as Brazil,
Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, are significantly
undercounting their death tolls. Many observers have
expressed particular concern for Venezuela, where the
country's health care systemwas collapsing priorto the
pandemic. Experts have criticized the presidents of Brazil,
Mexico, and Nicaragua for playing down the virus threat
and not taking adequate actions to stemits spread.

On May 19, 2020, Director of the Pan American Health
Organization (PAHO) Dr. Caris s a Etienne maintained that
the virus is surgingacross ourregion and expres sed
concern about the poor and other vulnerable groups at
greatest risk. Dr. Etienne conveyed particular concern for
cities, towns, and remote communities in the Amazon
Basin, including indigenous communities, as well as
women (who make up 70% of the health workforce), people
of African descent, migrants in temporary settlements, and
prisoners in crowdedjails with poor sanitation. On June 9,
PAHO issued guidance onmeasures to reduceCOVID-19
transmission among indigenous populations, Afro-
descendants, and other ethnic groups.


Before the pandemic, the InternationalMonetary Fund
(IMF) projected 1.6% economic growth for the region in
2020, with reces sion forecast for several countries. In April,
the IMFrevised its regional forecast to a contraction of
5.2%, with almost every country in reces sion. Economic
recovery may be a protracted processin countries thatrely
heavily on global trade and investment, which are being
significantly affected by the pandemic. Oil-producing
countries in the region, especially Venezuela, Ecuador-
and to ales ser extent, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico-are
being negatively affectedby the historic drop in the price of
oil that beganin late February 2020. Caribbean nations that
depend on tourismare facing deep economic recessions,
with projected annual GDP declines between 5%-10%.


The decline in economic growth in 2020 is expected to
exacerbate income inequality and poverty throughout the
region. Latin America already was the mostunequalregion
in the world in terms of income inequality, according to the
U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the
Caribbean (ECLAC). ECLAC projects that in 2020
inequality will rise in all countries, with the worst results in
some ofthe region's largest economies-Brazil, Mexico,
and Argentina- The level ofpovertyis expected to increase
from 30.3% ofthe region's population in 2019 to 34.3% in
2020 (almost 215 million people), with almost 29 million
people moving into poverty during the year.

Table I. COVID-l 9 Deaths and Mortality Rates in
Latin America and the Caribbean
(top 10 countries with most deaths, as of June 18, 2020)

                                           Regional
                            Deaths per      Rank
                              100,000    (deaths per
                                           100,000)
 Brazil             46,510        22.20       3
 Mexico             19,080        15.12       5
 Peru                7,257        22.69       2
 Ecuador             4,007        23.45       I
 Chile               3,615        19.30       4
 Colombia            1,887         3.80       9
 Argentina            913          2.05       14
 Bolivia              679          5.98       7
 Dom. Rep.            633          5.96       8
 Panama               470         1 1.25      6
 United States     117,717        35.98      -
 Source: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Coronavirus
 Resource Center, Mortality Analyses, accessed June 18,2020,3:00
AM EDT, updated daily at https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mortality.
Notes: Countries ranking I Q through I 3h in terms of deaths per
I 00,000were Honduras (3.50), Antigua and Barbuda (3.12),
Guatemala (2.50), and Barbados (2.44).

Another economic challenge for the Latin American and
Caribbean region is that incoming remittances fromabroad
(the lion's share fromthe United States) are expected to
drop significantly as a result of COVJD-19. For several
countries in the Caribbean and Central America-El
Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, and
Nicaragua-remittances play a significant role in their
economies. The high rate of informality in the labor market
of many Latin American countries (reportedly about half of


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