Aviso LatAm: COVID-19 May 7, 2022

​​​​​What you should know

  • Chile: President Boric aims to tame surging fuel costs that have driven annual inflation to a 14-year high, as global commodity costs spike in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • New normal: Countries have lifted mask mandates and restrictions on mass gatherings and travel requirements after two years.
  • “Staggering inequality”The core factor behind the region’s disproportionate COVID-19 deaths according to a new Amnesty International report. LAC accounts for 8.4 percent of the global population and 28 percent of coronavirus mortality.

Monitoring COVID-19 economic recovery in the region

  • Chile: March GDP expanded 7.2 percent, above market expectations due mostly to post-pandemic reopenings and relative stabilization of goods prices.  
  • Colombia: The Central Bank raised benchmark rates to 6 percent to combat inflation.
  • Mexico: According to numbers released by INEGI, the national statistical agency, March trade balance was $1.1 billion lower than in February. This dip in the trade surplus reflects March’s low non-oil exports and an overall stalled recovery.
  • Brazil: Amid electoral uncertainties and international turmoil around Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, growth remains weak­ (forecasted as 0.3 percent for 2022 due to inflation)
  • Venezuela: Emboldened by surging oil exports that are fueling economic growth and helping keep the foreign-exchange rate steady, the government is pushing citizens to use the Bolivar more by implementing a 3 percent tax on US dollars.

In focus: The rise of crypto in LAC

In 2021, El Salvador became the first country in the world to authorize the use of bitcoin as a legal tender. Despite a lukewarm response from Salvadorian businesses and investors, the Panamanian Congress ratified a law approving the use of bitcoin and eight other cryptocurrencies for paying taxes and for paying transactions—the legislation is now waiting for presidential approval.  

Argentina’s largest private bank, Banco Galicia, and Brubank SAU, announced that they will allow customers to purchase cryptocurrencies starting May 2, 2022.  As bitcoin usage and adoption spreads across the region, the International Monetary Fund urged El Salvador to remove Bitcoin’s legal status, citing  “large risks for financial and market integrity, financial stability, and consumer protection”. 

Health + Innovation

  • 25 percent: The share of COVID-19 deaths reported globally between April 25 – May 2 that was from the Americas.
  • COVAX: In the agency’s latest allocation, Mexico will not receive Pfizer vaccines to inoculate minors. Health officials are exploring new alternatives, including direct contracts with Pfizer and Cuba for its Abdala vaccine.
  • May 12: The date Belize, Germany, Indonesia, Senegal, and the United States, will host the second global COVID-19 summit.

Expert take: CARICOM at the forefront of the second global COVID summit

Belize’s inclusion as a co-chair of the second global COVID summit is a model for how to use multilateral channels to address shared, international challenges. Belize is the current Chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) – a group of 14 independent Caribbean countries – and will be tasked with representing the views of a region that is among the most vulnerable to the pandemic’s health and economic effects. Most CARICOM members are dependent on tourism – which came to a halt during the pandemic – and are reliant on importing medical equipment and services. Therefore, working with allies and adopting a regional approach to the pandemic was a necessity for CARICOM countries. This is the perspective that Belize will bring to the Summit. It will emphasize the importance of regional coordination and elevate the views of small states, ensuring that commitments resulting from the Summit account for the unique challenges facing other developing countries. In many ways, the inclusion of the CARICOM chair can be a blueprint for how the world addresses other global challenges, like the ongoing energy crisis and climate change.

  • Wazim Mowla, Assistant Director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center’s Caribbean Initiative

Geopolitics of vaccine donations: US vs. China

  • The United States outpaces China in its donations of COVID-19 vaccines to Latin America and the Caribbean, with Colombia and Mexico topping the list. The region has received roughly 52 percent of all US COVID-19 vaccine donations. To learn more, visit our COVID-19 vaccine tracker: Latin America and the Caribbean.