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Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro’s defiance in the face of the world’s COVID-19 pandemic has made the most headlines, but the question of how to address the crisis has inevitably hit decision-makers across the subcontinent, as a majority of leaders ordered full lockdowns in their nations, with different exceptions to ensure the provision of basic services.
Another exception has been Chile’s Sebastián Piñera, under fire as of late due to the country’s political crisis. Piñera declared Chile to be in a “state of catastrophe” for 90 days, which gives him broad powers to restrict public gatherings, limit transit and establish curfews, with the military patrolling the streets. But it was only yesterday that the first mandatory quarantines were imposed in some regions of the country’s capital Santiago, following pressure from mayors who feared rapid contagion would soon turn into a health crisis.
In Uruguay, recently sworn in president Luis Lacalle Pou has opted for strong recommendations of social distancing, with the police patrolling beaches and public squares to advise people to go home. Former President (and doctor) Tabaré Vázquez has criticized the lack of stronger action, arguing that the country will inevitably be forced into a full lockdown soon.
Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela are already under nationwide mandatory lockdowns, although reports of irregular compliance with the decrees abound, especially in poorer regions where people need daily income to survive. Airports and borders crossings have also been closed in most countries (including those with no lockdown), with the goal of reducing circulation to slow down the spread.