The COVID-19 pandemic is not just a health crisis, or even an economic crisis, but also a critical inflection point for democracy and the rule of law. The pandemic has presented a test for the legitimacy of democratic governance, and perhaps nowhere are the stakes higher than in Latin America, which as of August 5, as a region had the world’s highest death toll per population.
Even before the pandemic, the region as a whole faced staggering levels of social inequality and political polarization. Chile had been wracked by months of massive protests against neoliberal austerity, and is now preparing for a national referendum on a constitutional reform. In Colombia, the Supreme Court ordered the house arrest of former president Alvaro Uribe, unleashing calls for judicial and constitutional reform. Brazil’s conservative populist president, Jair Bolsonaro, repeatedly dismissed the seriousness of the virus, and often found himself at odds with the judiciary. In Argentina, a new administration, which was facing a social and economic crisis before COVID-19, has now proposed sweeping judicial reform that critics see as institutionalizing impunity.
A panel of leading constitutional and human rights scholars from these four South American nations will join us to analyze these developments and discuss their expectations for the post-pandemic future of their countries.