Latin American billionaires surge as world’s most unequal region buckles under coronavirus strain

The fortunes of Latin America’s 73 billionaires surged by $48.2 billion since the beginning of the pandemic even as the region buckles as one of the worst-hit regions in the world, said Oxfam today. 

The region minted on average one new billionaire every two weeks since March while millions of citizens have been left battling sickness, extreme economic hardships and struggling to put food on the table during lockdowns, with hospitals on the verge of collapse.

Brazil’s 42 billionaires increased their combined net worth from $123.1 billion in March to $157.1 billion in July, while Chile’s seven richest saw their combined fortunes increase by 27 percent to $26.7 billion.

Latin American governments are massively under-taxing the wealthiest individuals and corporations which is undermining their fight against the coronavirus and poverty and inequality. Oxfam estimates that Latin America will lose $113.4 billion in tax revenue this year, equivalent to 59 percent of spending on public health in the region. 

“While everyone else is locked down, trying to survive and living in fear of getting sick, Latin American billionaires were doubling down on their fortunes and privileges to the tune of over $413 million for each and every day of the pandemic so far”, said Oxfam International Interim Executive Director Chema Vera.

“Billionaires never had to worry about being evicted for not paying their rent or having to tell their children there is nothing to eat today. Instead they invested in more stocks, bonds, gold and real estate, like they did after the global economic crisis of 2008 and 2011.

“While people are dying and facing destitution, sickness and hunger, it is unconscionable that a handful of super-rich are free to leverage yet more power and wealth. Without action to change our economic systems, governments are throwing petrol into the fire of protest against social injustices now sweeping the world.”

Latin America was already the world’s most unequal region. Governments’ efforts there to tackle coronavirus and save lives have been thwarted by the deep-rooted inequality and corruption, and the virus is set to further increase the huge gap between the richest and the rest. 

Despite ordering one of Latin America’s swiftest and most aggressive nationwide lockdowns, even before France and the UK, Peru has more than 366,550 recorded cases and a death toll of 13,767, the second hardest-hit country in Latin America after Brazil and now one of the world’s worst coronavirus hotspots.

Across Latin America, 140 million people, about 55 percent of the working population, are in the informal economy, and nearly one in five live in overcrowded shantytowns. As many as 52 million people could be forced into poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean as a result of the pandemic, setting the fight against poverty back 15 years.

Social Differences and Struggles in Brazil

Brazilian corporations are making a lot of money during the pandemic. According to Oxfam, 42 Brazilian billionaires had their wealth increased by US$ 34 billion from March 18 to July 12, 2020.

Altogether, their wealth increased from US$ 123 to US$ 157 billion. The wealthiest Brazilian is the Zionist banker Joseph Safra who owns US$ 20 billion.

Meanwhile, workers have been losing rights, jobs and lives. One thousand Brazilians have been dying everyday due to coronavirus for the last three weeks. Forty million Brazilians have no jobs.

For the working class, there is no other way but to stand up and fight back. Renault autoworkers have been on strike for a week against 747 layoffs. App food delivery workers held another protest on July 25 for better pay and working conditions. Sao Paulo subway workers decided to go on strike yesterday against 10% cut in pay and the erasing of 29 labor rights from their contract.

CSP-Conlutas and other labor federations called a national day of action against president Bolsonaro for August 7, 2020

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