Pandemic, inequalities and geopolitics – 06/02/2021 – Latin America21

The pandemic has caused the greatest economic, political and social damage to mankind since World War II. At the international level, the first and most obvious victim has been international cooperation and its ability to deliver the necessary global public goods. Especially in a world characterized by inequalities between the inhabitants of the planet and between nations.

Latin America and the Caribbean are the developing regions most affected by the pandemic. They represent 8.4% of the world population, but concentrate 30% of deaths due to Covid-19 and suffer its worst contraction in GDP, with a decline of 7.7% in 2020.

The pandemic has caused the closure of 2.7 million businesses, with a dramatic loss of jobs affecting mainly young people and women, and a drastic drop in trade, foreign investment and remittances.

As a result of this deterioration of the region’s economies, inequalities and poverty have increased. While in previous years, Latin America had succeeded in reducing poverty from 45.2% of the population in 2001 to 30.3% in 2019, due to the pandemic, the number of poor people in the region will increase by 28.7 million, reaching 33% of its population. total population.

In general, as an ECLAC report points out, the impact of the pandemic in the region has been brutal and has widened structural disparities in inequality, affecting in particular the most vulnerable sectors of society.

But the whole world is facing a pandemic amplified by social inequalities, which requires an in-depth study not only of the structural causes that have led to this unequal impact on each society, but also of the various effects of the transition that the international system is undergoing. . experience.

The inequality that characterizes Latin America and that has led to the spread of the pandemic due to the lack of medical supplies and vaccines that contribute to a coherent health response is not unique to the region.

The asymmetry between nations in their access to these elements at the global level also marks the current global dynamic. Vaccine nationalism is emerging in economically more powerful countries that accumulate excess medical supplies, exacerbating vaccine shortages among marginalized countries and the divide between the developed and developing world. Rich countries account for 14% of the world’s population, but have acquired more than half of the doses of commercially available vaccines.

In this context, faced with the scarcity of vaccines in Latin America due to insufficient production and accumulation by rich countries, the geopolitics of vaccines comes into play – with all its weight.

In a region devastated by inequalities and the lack of health resources, “vaccination diplomacy” generates a stampede to ensure a global public good and strengthen the “soft power” of certain powers.

The void left by Western countries and some big pharmaceutical companies to help the region is being filled by the growing presence and influence of Russia and China, and even India, now in the throes of a health disaster.

A fact that does not escape the growing weight of Eurasia in the process of shifting global economic dynamism and political influence and projection from West to East.

But inequalities persist, both within Latin American societies and within the international system, while, to paraphrase von Clausewitz, global public health appears to be the continuation of politics by other means.

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