IMF fears more violent protests in Latin America as Covid pandemic batters economies, increases poverty
The International Monetary Fund is concerned that social unrest will make a comeback in “lots of countries” across Latin America once the COVID-19 pandemic recedes, a top IMF official said on Thursday.
Economies across Latin America and the Caribbean are forecast to contract as a group by 8.1% this year, with an uneven 2021 bounce at just 3.6%, and most countries are not seen returning to pre-COVID output levels until 2023, the Fund said earlier on Thursday.
“Some of the determinants of social unease are going to worsen and that generates our concern for the region, for lots of countries in the region,” Alejandro Werner, the Fund’s director for the Western Hemisphere, said in an interview with Reuters.
“Coming out of the pandemic, we will have a level of economic activity and employment that will be much lower than before, a level of poverty and income distribution that is worse,” he added.
Protests that sometimes turned violent rocked countries including Chile, Ecuador and Colombia even before the pandemic hit, fueled by anger over inequality, corruption and government austerity policies.
Just this week, marches to mark the anniversary of the Chilean uprisings became violent in parts of Santiago. Chile will hold a referendum on Sunday on whether to scrap its dictatorship-era constitution, a key demand of the 2019 protests.
Werner said the referendum was evidence that Chile was channeling the social concerns through an institutional process.
He said what remained to be seen was if the vote leads to a result that will allow Chile “to continue growing as it has done so in the last three decades, but also achieve more social inclusion and accelerate the social inclusion aspects.”
Werner added that mass protests may be delayed in countries where there is a higher fear of the pandemic. “Experts tell us that Covid infections could continue for months and this could be a deterrent to protests in some countries. In Ecuador this week, officials were prepared for mass labor marches but the protests were far smaller than expected and according to protest leaders the reason was fear of contracting Covid.”