Latin America was hit by COVID-19 in a moment of (socio-)economic distress and political unrest. This essay reflects on the immediate repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis for democracy in the region. It expounds how responding to the pandemic put to the test the still consolidating democracies with their long-standing defects in the areas of political and civil rights and horizontal accountability. In the course of coping with the crisis, it is precisely in these problem areas that additional risks for democracy have arisen due to infringements of political rights and the performance of presidents. Regarding the latter, the ambiguities of presidential leadership become particularly evident when comparing pragmatic and populist responses to the crisis.
Brigitte Weiffen has held the Martius Chair for German and European Studies, a visiting professorship sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), at the Department of Political Science, University of São Paulo, Brazil, from 2015 to 2020. Her research interests include comparative democratization, transitional justice, and conflict and crisis management by regional organizations, with a particular focus on Latin America. E-mail: email@example.com