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President Jair Bolsonaro, center, wears a mask during a coronavirus press conference in Brasilia, Brazil. President Jair Bolsonaro, center, with the economy minister and health minister during a press conference on the coronavirus, Brasilia, Brazil, March 18, 2020 (AP photo by Andre Borges).

The New Divide in a Polarized Latin America: How to Respond to COVID-19

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Political leaders around the world have responded to the coronavirus pandemic in a wide variety of ways. Some are strictly adhering to the advice of epidemiologists, like the presidents of South Korea and Taiwan. Others are brazenly launching autocratic power grabs, in the case of Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban. Still others are to trying to deny reality itself, as in Turkmenistan, where the government has banned the word “coronavirus.”

In Latin America, the responses from national leaders have ranged from buffoonish irresponsibility to stern action. The region is a good place to try to identify what it is about a government that makes it act so recklessly in the face of a looming public health crisis. ...

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