The Latin America Working Group offers a roundup of the actions by governments in Latin America that use the pandemic to expand corrupt or repressive rule or respond with police brutality. The following article was published in the July-August 2020 issue of NewsNotes

COVID-19 has begun to drastically affect life in Latin America. While government restrictions are essential to save lives, measures must protect, not harm, citizens.

El Salvador: The national stay-at-home order in El Salvador is being enforced by the military, and some of those accused of violating it are arbitrarily detained and confined in quarantine centers. The Supreme Court declared President Bukele’s COVID-19 containment measures to be unconstitutional. Despite this ruling, Bukele ordered security forces to continue arbitrarily detaining anyone violating his lockdown order. Read more here.

Honduras: Seventy-six percent of the Honduran population that work outside of the agricultural industry belong to the informal sector and many cannot afford to abide by lockdown measures. Efforts to relieve some of the pressure through handouts with food or undercut by government corruption. The Alvarado Brothers, for example, defied lockdown measures to sell bread only to be shot by the military police, leaving one of them dead. Read more here.

Ecuador: One of South America's smallest countries, Ecuador has the fifth highest number of COVID-19 deaths. Human rights organizations fear the pandemic will devastate Ecuador's indigenous groups, which they say have been neglected by the country's health ministry. Despite confirmed cases of COVID-19, indigenous communities have been slow to receive tests and medical supplies. Read more here.

Brazil: As of June 18, Brazil has reported a total of 46,842 COVID-19 deaths, making it the hardest hit country in the world after the United States. President Bolsonaro fired his Health Minister over disagreements regarding the country's coronavirus strategy, and the most recent one quit after four weeks. Bolsonaro has called social distancing useless and participated in two “anti-lockdown” protest outside the presidential palace in Brasilia, even as Brazil was predicted to be the new epicenter of the virus. Read more here.

Find this roundup as a graphic and PDF at

Faith in action: Ask Congress to support the bipartisan Protecting Human Rights During Pandemic Act: 

Photo: Woman stops to adjust her sandle on a sidewalk in Sal Paulo, Brazil.