Tuesday, November 10, 2020


Panel Addresses Latin America as COVID-19 Epicenter

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every country in the world, yet Latin America and the Caribbean have borne the brunt of its devastation, showing the highest death toll and case rates. The World Health Organization (WHO) designated the Americas the new COVID-19 global epicenter, and the International Monetary Fund has projected it to be the developing region with the highest GDP contraction. Why have the Americas been affected so strongly by COVID-19? What sorts of national or international policies ought to be enacted in response? The Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy and Yale Law School’s Latinxs Students Association held a public panel to discuss these issues.

Professor Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Mexico from 1994 to 2000 and Frederick Iseman ’74 Director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, introduced the event. Zedillo has recently been named to serve on the Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response, established by the WHO, an initiative to carry out an impartial, independent, and comprehensive evaluation of the international health response to COVID-19.

The panel featured global leading experts, scholars and officials: Amanda Glassman, Executive Vice President and Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development; Harold Robinson, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the United Nations Population Fund; Lorena G. Barberia, faculty member of the Department of Political Science at the University of São Paulo; and, Lucia Dammert, Professor of International Relations at the Universidad de Santiago de Chile and Global Fellow of the Wilson Center. Solomon Center Fellow Ximena Benavides moderated the conversation, which addressed the main post-pandemic regional challenges as governments and regional organizations work on recovery plans and several countries in the region are facing presidential elections.

The panel reflected on a number of structural factors that have contributed to a regional perfect storm. “Latin America is the region with the highest inequalities in the world,” said Robinson, and the pandemic has made them apparent along with “significant institutional unpreparedness,” according to Glassman.

Barberia noted a visible failure of leadership in the case of Brazil, with “fragmented, unarticulated and incoherent responses.” Responses to the pandemic have shown “a combination of individualism and magical realism,” claimed Dammert, and Robinson called for urgent regional social reconstruction “holding governments accountable by social action.” Barberia highlighted the important role that active academics have “to go out to society and be credible voices of what our research shows,” and encouraged Yale students to join efforts toward that end.

The Solomon Center has held a number of events and worked on a number of projects related to the pandemic. For videos of this and prior events, and ongoing COVID-19 scholarship, visit the Solomon Center COVID-19 webpage.