Socioeconomic and Political Impacts of COVID-19 in Bolivia and Argentina
In the first #GLOVicariously webinar, GESI Bolivia Site Director and FSD Bolivia Program Director Mauricio Ramirez Parra provided insights into the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in South America, with particular focus on Bolivia and Argentina. Ramirez Parra was introduced by GESI Bolivia alum Stephanie Marin, who thanked Ramirez Parra for “being a fearless advocate and educator” and noted that he “challenged me to consider diverse perspectives and connect with the Bolivian community, for which I am forever indebted.”
Ramirez Parra discussed how various governments in the region responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, including Ecuador as the first country seriously affected in the region, Brazil and Chile governments’ reluctance to implement lockdown requirements, lack of verifiable information about the situation on-the-ground in Venezuela, and Uruguay and Paraguay governments’ swift and effective response.
Considering responses across the region provides helpful context in understanding the governmental responses in Brazil and Argentina, from issuing economic bonuses to preventing price inflation of agricultural products to implementing strict quarantines. Yet Ramirez Parra also noted that the response to COVID-19 in Bolivia and Argentina has not been without difficulty, including:
- Corruption scandals within federal and local governments – “For example, the government bought machine respirators for intensive care. The real price was $9,500 and we paid $29,000 for these,” Ramirez Parra said.
- Lack of personal protective equipment for health care workers – “We don’t have the resources to buy basic things like protection, masks, gloves, medicines. So the doctors are working without basic conditions and they are getting infected. Many of them passed away, and many of them are in intensive care now because they were working for hours,” Ramirez Parra said.
- Political protests questioning the validity of COVID-19 – “There are some groups in rural areas who were protesting the disease, arguing that the political right was using COVID-19 to target rural areas,” Ramirez Parra said.
In particular, the high number of COVID-19 cases is straining the health care system in Bolivia, causing the population to seek other potential treatments for the disease, including plasma, experimental drugs, and traditional medicine. “Since we can’t go to hospitals since everything is collapsing, we are buying other medicines in case we need them [to try to treat COVID-19] later,” Ramirez Parra said. Additionally, Ramirez Parra noted that Bolivia is “one of the few countries in the world that legally accepts the use of traditional medicine.” Lack of access to health care is particularly troubling for people in rural areas, many of whom do not have access to hospitals or medicines.
Finally, Ramirez Parra highlighted how NGOs have adapted amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, providing examples of NGOs who have transitioned to offering workshops via WhatsApp or Zoom and have even expanded their offerings to meet the population’s need at this time. “There are not many possibilities [for how to conduct work during a pandemic], so you have to work with what you have on the table,” Ramirez Parra said.
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About #GLOVicariously Webinar Series:
Amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing anti-racism protests, global engagement across difference and development of intercultural skills are critically needed to build a more just and peaceful world. We want to continue fostering global learning opportunities for students throughout this summer 2020 through our virtual webinar series, #GLOVicariously. #GLOVicariously webinars feature speakers involved in GLO programs who have expertise on a variety of critical global issues. View upcoming #GLOVicariously webinars.