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Pandemic Help to Latin America and the Caribbean: The Roles of USAID and the Department of State

Image - Pandemic Help to Latin America and the Caribbean
Image - Pandemic Help to Latin America and the Caribbean

In the fifth and final article in a new Wilson Center series on “medical diplomacy” in Latin America, the region hardest hit by COVID-19, Annie Pforzheimer, a former career U.S. diplomat, reflects on how the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) responded to Latin America’s unprecedented public health crisis.

In her article, “Pandemic Help to Latin America and the Caribbean: The Roles of USAID and the Department Of State,” Pforzheimer, a former director of the State Department’s Office of Andean Affairs, highlights barriers to a rapid and large-scale U.S. response, including the rapid spread of the virus in the United States, the evacuation of many U.S. personnel from diplomatic posts and restrictions on the export of medical products. The United States still played a critical role, including through the delivery of 3,486 ventilators to 13 countries in Latin America. But at least early on, Chinese assistance was far more prominent, Pforzheimer concludes: “Should another pandemic occur, the U.S. government should learn the lesson that there is no substitute for showing up, on time and at scale.”

Previous reports in this series, from the Wilson Center’s Latin American Program and Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, have examined China’s response to the coronavirus in Latin America and the impacts in Latin America of tensions between the United States and China. For more information on “medical diplomacy” in Latin America, please visit our interactive tracker and COVID-19 portal, where you can find previous papers in this series by Cynthia Sanborn, Jorge Heine, Haibin Niu and Jean Manes.

About the Author

Image - Annie Pforzheimer

Annie Pforzheimer

Former Global Fellow;
Former U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission in Afghanistan
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Latin America Program

The Wilson Center’s prestigious Latin America Program provides non-partisan expertise to a broad community of decision makers in the United States and Latin America on critical policy issues facing the Hemisphere. The Program provides insightful and actionable research for policymakers, private sector leaders, journalists, and public intellectuals in the United States and Latin America. To bridge the gap between scholarship and policy action, it fosters new inquiry, sponsors high-level public and private meetings among multiple stakeholders, and explores policy options to improve outcomes for citizens throughout the Americas. Drawing on the Wilson Center’s strength as the nation’s key non-partisan policy forum, the Program serves as a trusted source of analysis and a vital point of contact between the worlds of scholarship and action.  Read more