Differing approaches across the hemisphere have had different impacts on presidential popularity and, at least in one case, on democratic institutions and human rights. Yet, even within that diversity, South America’s Southern Cone countries (Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay) have shown a sign of solidarity: protecting and facilitating trade flows, sponsoring cross-border research and ensuring citizens’ return to their home countries.
The response from populist leaders
On the extreme have been the responses of presidents of Brazil, Nicaragua and Mexico, all of whom have ignored the science of the virus and of experts and refused to implement isolation policies. President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil fired his health minister, Luis Henrique Mandetta on 16 April for contradicting him and earlier had claimed that the pandemic was a hoax or little more than a ‘measly cold.’
Meanwhile, Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega has resisted closing businesses and schools. After a mysterious 34-day absence, Ortega appeared on television on 15 April reinforcing his refusal to close businesses saying that Nicaraguans must work or they will die and claiming that the virus was ‘imported.’
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