By CLarice Borges | Translation: Daniela Aires
South America is a subcontinent that has nowadays 6% of the world population with high percentage of mestizos. Marked by the rise and decay of empires and foreign domination this territory was the scene of colonial wars, slavery, and immense exploration. Even recently after independence wars is victim of dictatorships and redemocratizations. Much dependent and vulnerable relatively to the USA, in Latin America is in effect a tough combat to neoliberalism by means of alliances of left-wing, like the Puebla Group (“Grupo de Puebla”).
The year of 2021 was regally the turning point in the political context of South America, revealing a rising wave of the socialist left-wing and this one tends to affect Brazil and Colombia in the approaching elections of 2022. Stage of Coup d’Etat in Honduras (2009) and later in Brazil (2016), Conservatism settled in the South American governments, showing through its political measures, economic inequality, concentration of capital and mainly lack of investment and employment.
In 2015 considering the rise of the right-wing in the different states, either from South America or all around the world, it was perceptible with the entrance of Mauricio Macri (Argentina 2015), Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil 2019) and Ivan Duque (Colombia 2018). However, the elections that occurred in South America in the year of 2021 balanced the scales with the exit of some conservatives and the entrance of Pedro Castillo (Peru), Xiomara Castro (Honduras) and Gabriel Boric (Chile).
It is believed in the returning of the “red wave” or at least in a turn of the right-wing, which is felt in Brazil, being 2022 the year of elections, the current president Jair Bolsonaro had at the end of 2021 a disapproval rate of 53% and according to a research by Datafolha, the former president and possible left-wing candidate Lula da Silva would take the lead with 48% of the votes. In Colombia the population’s discontent with the right-wing government of Iván Duque is expressed in the streets through manifestations, which creates a climate of hope for the victory of Gustavo Petro. If such victory occurred this would be the first left-wing candidate to be elected for president of Colombia.
The year of 2022 will be marked by the returning of a left-wing majority in South American governments, with the defeat of Bolsonaro (Brazil) and Iván Duque (Colombia).
The voting for the new Constitution of Chile in the second half of 2022 and Gabriel Boric’s power takeover after the defeat of the extreme-right, will be marks not only for the year that follows, but also historical ones and at first everything indicates that the changes will be for the best.
The political polarization had a gradual increase, and this was intensified with the coronavirus pandemic, putting in risk the democracy of Latin America. The tendency to extremisms increases with this polarization and both right and left-wing contribute to the destabilization of the states, either economically or socially.
Venezuela, victim of a far-left government ended the year of 2021 as one of the countries with the lowest income per capita on the American continent and simultaneously the state with one of the largest oil reserves in the world. The country that once had the third largest economy in the South America suffered a drop of 81,8% of its GDP in a period of only seven years, lives in hyperinflation and about 76,6% of its population lives with less than US$ 1.2 dollars per day. Considering that the 2021 data can be influenced by the impacts of the pandemics, but still between 2013 and 2017 the Venezuelan GDP fell by 37% and more than 3 million Venezuelans left the country, proving that the current situation of the country is a political instability and not only a health crisis.
The current government of Brazil, despite not being explicitly identified as extreme-right, sometimes endangers the country’s democracy. Being this one of the countries with the largest economy in the world, in 2021 presented an increase in its GDP of only 0.5%, however it ended the year with an average of 70.9% of households in debt and inflation exceeded 10%. In fact, much is due to the pandemic, but when analyzing data from 2019 in first year of Bolsonaro’s mandate, the GDP grew only 1.1%, being lower than in the two previous years in which the country was in a state of economic downturn.
With extremisms aside, in the year of 2021, the Latin American economy in its entirety showed a recovery, compared to the previous year despite the continuation of the pandemic context, with a growth of 6.3% of GDP, which was lower than the fall of 6.7 % in 2020. The chief economist for Latin America and Caribe from the World Bank points out that this growth will not be enough due to the pre-pandemic structural problems such as problems of infrastructure, education, energy policy, entrepreneurial capacity, and innovation.
Brazil will remain one of the countries of Latin America with the lowest economic growth in 2022.
There will be a decline in the growth of the region as a whole, with an increase of only 2.1% in GDP, against a growth of 6.2% recorded in 2021. The countries with the highest economic growth are Paraguay and Colombia. It is also believed that food and energy inflation will continue to rise.
South America is certainly the region with the most tragic and unfavorable history in the world regarding to the pandemic, with the highest number of deaths and unprepared at political and economic levels. Since the denialist leaders, the lack of investment in health in this region presented since the beginning of the health crisis, 2.740 deaths per million of inhabitants.
The beginning of 2021 was not very easy for the American subcontinent, since the peak of daily deaths occurred in the same year, with an average of 10,85 deaths per million of inhabitants. In a certain way, it ended 2021 with a promising data, with 64% of the population completely vaccinated and 74,3% with at least one dose.
Regarding to vaccination, the country with the best vaccination rate in South America is Chile, with a rate of 85,6% of the population fully immunized and initiating the immunization of children starting at 3 years old. In contradiction, Bolivia and Suriname are examples of South American countries with the worst rate, which is below 40%.
The year of 2022 should provide more answers regarding the need of reinforcement doses, if in 2021 South America showed surprising numbers of vaccination in the global parameter, this year will not be left behind with the beginning of immunization of children in many countries of the region.
In any case, the numbers related to the vaccination do not decrease the governments’ concern about the pandemic, since with the Omicron variant, the number of cases and hospitalizations has risen again.
Climate change is nothing new and is felt in all hemispheres, with the increase of heat waves, floods, extreme droughts, and hurricanes. The year of 2021 couldn’t be different, this was among the hottest years in history.
With the course of pandemic, climate problems were often put aside, but they improved after the beginning of the pandemic, due to the 2020 lockdowns. In 2021 the emission of greenhouse gases and environmental degradation were present soon after the reduction of restrictive social measures in face of the health crisis.
The Brazilian state of Amazonas was affected by floods that affected the countryside, this also concerned the authorities in Paraguay, Uruguay, and northern Argentina. Brazil in 2021 registered 163 occurrences of landslides and floods in more than a thousand cities across the country.
The year of 2022 will be no different when it comes to the environment, the trend is that it is increasingly a victim of climate change. South America will continue to be at the mercy of heat waves, and it is expected that in the first week of the year, temperatures up to 50ºC will be reached in Uruguay, Argentina and some Brazilian states. Floods will be more frequent due to this increase in the temperature and average level of the seas.