Exactly four years ago, in most Latin American countries, the existence of a list of recipients of bribes or gifts from the Brazilian company Odebrecht was debated.
History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.
In 2021, we discussed whether there are any lucky ones who, ignoring all agreed protocols, have joined the list of people vaccinated against Covid-19.
Latin America was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the vaccine. However, when the first doses started to arrive, the first reports of irregularities in their distribution and use also started to appear.
The immunization process reminded us once again that the lack of transparency and irregular management of resources is a long shadow that still haunts the region.
The lack of a clear process, opacity and the detection of some anomalies in vaccine access have turned the inoculation process into a new headache for Latin American citizens.
Although the first doses arrived just a few weeks ago, there are already several countries in the subcontinent in which cases of irregular vaccination of citizens have been recorded.
In general, these cases are directly or indirectly linked to the government in power.
The use of vaccines purchased with public resources for the benefit of the inner circle of the authorities or the non-respect of the assigned vaccination schedules have been recorded in Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Chile.
In Chile, although the country leads the vaccination rate in the world, 37,000 people under the age of 60 and without co-morbidities have been vaccinated over time.
A third of these people live in the metropolitan area. Among them is the mayor of the municipality of La Florida, Rodolfo Carter.
In Argentina, former health minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia has reserved 3,000 Sputnik V vaccines for discretionary use.
Government supporter Horacio Vebitsky personally announced that he had received the vaccine, thanks to the invitation of the former minister. Likewise, family members and friends were vaccinated, resulting in the employee’s dismissal.
Peru was the first country to register the vaccination of employees who had no relationship with the medical team and the first line to contain the virus.
In tests of the Sinovac vaccine, carried out on 12,000 volunteers in the country, it was found that around 2,000 doses were intended for the vaccination of Peruvian government officials.
Among the lucky ones were people as illustrious as ex-President Martín Vizcarra, his wife and brother – everything remains in the family, ex-Minister of Health Pilar Mazzetti, Chancellor Elizabeth Astete, apostolic nuncio, the rectors of San Marcos and Cayetano Heredia universities, and even the family doctor of former president Alberto Fujimori.
In Colombia, journalist and businessman Óscar Medina announced, via his social networks, that he had been vaccinated, thanks to the hospital for which he provides services.
Ecuador is perhaps one of the worst cases. There, not only were authorities and their families vaccinated irregularly, but the protocol was also ignored by hospital administrative staff, sports officials, tiktokers, a journalist close to the current government and even a chef. .
While the health workers who work on the front line and the elderly in geriatric centers wait their turn, others are advancing on the path of vaccination.
Rodrigo Paz, former mayor of Quito and former president of the Liga Deportiva Universitaria (LDU) football team, reportedly received the vaccine at the end of February.
Two well-known tiktokers, Salomon Doumet and María del Alma Cruz, quietly announced that they had been vaccinated in early March, thanks to the influence of the father.
The burden of corruption
In South America, it is not only access to vaccines that is a problem.
Once again, we have to face corruption, which is not only ingrained among state officials, but also part of the culture of the citizens of our countries.
A few years ago, the Odebrecht corruption scandal affected almost every government in Latin America.
Its impact was so strong that it led to a change of power and entered the public agenda, both from the point of view of the media and the judicial authorities.
Although state officials and private entrepreneurs have been convicted as a result of this corruption scheme, it seems that not enough has been learned. Today we are faced with a new list, that of irregular vaccinations, which bears witness to the bad habits that persist in the region.
Unfortunately, the law of the fastest seems to be the rule, not the exception.
We see this every day in the news and on social media, when a senior government official, congressman, local authority, religious leader or union leader is involved in irregular payments for contracts, votes to pass laws or to receive benefits outside the law.
But there are also citizens who skip the line to complete proceedings, bosses who do not pay what is owed to their employees, or workers who bring home office supplies.
The naturalization of corruption
Corruption has infected us in the heart. We are naturalizing behaviors that break the law, and they are now part of codes of conduct and structures for interpreting reality.
If we look at ourselves in the mirror and compare ourselves to our governors, they will only be a reflection of how we think about politics, the state and its institutions.
This does not mean that the banal and meaningless phrase “if we change individually, we will change the country” is true, but we must be aware that by breaking the law we are also jointly responsible for the institutional weakness that afflicts our countries.
Covid-19, since its inception a year ago in Latin America, has highlighted not only the inability of our countries’ political systems to solve problems.
It has also shown us that weak institutions are the product of a culture that legitimizes corruption and even normalizes it for survival.
Its effects are not limited to low confidence in institutions, increased populism or the cascade of scandals that go unpunished.
Perhaps most serious of all is a political culture that seems to conceive of the state not as an agreement guaranteeing a collective will, but as an opportunity to realize the individual will.