velasco119_EVARISTO SAAFP via Getty Images_bolsonaro Evaristo Sa/AFP via Getty Images

Latin America's Monster Movie

Latin America has long suffered from left-wing populism, and now it is plagued by right-wing populism. Several upcoming elections will likely pit a right-wing King Kong against a left-wing Godzilla, promising to leave only destruction in their wake.

SANTIAGO – Latin Americans have many talents. One is a remarkable ability to misgovern ourselves, as the pandemic has made clear. Six of the 20 countries with the most COVID-19 deaths per capita in the world are in Latin America. Peru tops the list. Brazil is eighth.

Yes, poverty, a shortage of hospital beds, and overcrowded housing all helped the virus spread, but those factors alone cannot explain why the region has done so badly. Many countries in Asia and Africa suffer from the same problems but had fewer deaths per capita. Even countries that vaccinated people early, like Chile – or which, like Uruguay, were held up as successes when the virus first hit – have ended up mediocre performers.

Latin America is once again getting ready to lead the world – this time, in post-pandemic economic failure. The region enjoyed a couple of quarters of vigorous recovery, fueled by high commodity prices, but the engine of growth is already sputtering in several countries. The International Monetary Fund expects Latin America to be the world’s slowest-growing region in 2022. Even worse, the losses look set to be permanent, with the IMF’s just-released report on the region concluding that it will probably never return to the path for per-capita income envisaged before the pandemic. By contrast, the Fund projects that advanced economies will soon converge to their pre-virus trajectories.