Forus member, the MESA de Articulación Asociaciones Nacionales y Redes de ONG de América Latina y el Caribe [an organization of national associations and NGO networks for Latin America and the Caribbean], which brings together thousands of organizations in civil society, is publicly expressing its concern at the actions taken by several nation-states in tackling the Coronavirus epidemic (COVID-19) on our continent. 


That the pandemic is extremely serious is not in doubt. However, in some countries, governments have delayed taking the necessary protective and preventive measures, often promoting policies that only benefit the most elite sections of our society. To make matters worse, in some countries in the region, the criminalization of social movements and the assassination of those movements' leaders have continued. These attacks must be stopped immediately. 

We are concerned about the vulnerable situation of the Venezuelan migrant population and indigenous peoples, as well as people deprived of their liberty. In particular, we wish to express our solidarity with the citizens of Guayaquil, Ecuador, as a result of the inhumane and undignified circumstances in which people who have contracted the virus have died.  

The pandemic has exposed the failure of neoliberal politics in Latin America and the Caribbean, which have commodified health and health services. These services have now collapsed as they no longer have the capacity to deal with urgent cases in hospitals. It has once again exposed social inequality, giving us the opportunity to put forward a different model for economic growth and development.  

It is for this reason that measures need to be universal in nature and meet the needs of all social classes when it comes to information, attention, and protection, especially those who are most vulnerable due to their age, physical condition, location or economic situation. 

Steps to ensure social distancing are necessary, but in order for measures to be effective, it is essential that national governments urgently implement universal basic income policies for the large sections of society who live at the margins of the formal economy. Additionally, job stability needs to be guaranteed to those workers in non-essential sectors.  

Personal protective equipment also needs to be guaranteed to healthcare workers, waste management workers (collection and recycling) and public transport workers. The right to public information on the development of the Novel Coronavirus pandemic must be guaranteed, as well as transparency in the measures and allocation of public funds to tackle it.  

In this context, governments should not take on the work of organizations and social movements; rather, they should support such initiatives and use their own capacity and legitimacy to work with the most vulnerable communities. 

It is essential that national governments act with transparency, and with respect for human rights, autonomous organizations, and social movements. They must encourage and support community solidarity networks by providing human resources, materials, and funding. In relation to this, we must pay particular attention to measures to remove or isolate working-class communities or social groups in order to fight the pandemic. Additionally, we are calling for greater attention to be paid to rising levels of domestic violence resulting from the prolonged lockdown families are experiencing. 

The MESA de Articulación will continue to contribute, working towards compliance with social distancing measures at its HQ, with steps to mobilize financial resources to support solidarity networks in suburbs, rural areas, in deprived areas and in the Quilombo and indigenous communities of our nations, as well as putting pressure on parliaments to urgently push through the necessary policies, approve the allocation of resources, regulate abusive price increases and take responsibility for measures which effectively protect lives. 

We will continue to oversee the development of the pandemic in our countries, as well as the decisions are taken by the constituted public authorities while condemning violations of democracy and human rights, and appealing to the spirit of solidarity, the defense of life and the common good. 

We are living in a period of profound change in which the values of the "divine" markets have proved incapable of promoting the common good; and in which solidarity, a sense of humanity, coexistence, the role of communities, and environmental protection stand out above wars, genocide, exclusion, and inequality.  The post-pandemic Latin America could be a more supportive, democratic, and equal continent. That is what we will work towards.