Argentina has suffered more than 52,000 deaths from COVID-19 and cases have risen above 2 million but the vaccination program is finally underway. Unfortunately and perhaps unsurprisingly for a public programme in Argentina, the political class has been embroiled in scandal even around vaccinations.
This latest scandal has culminated in President Alberto Fernandez requesting the resignation of the Minister of Health, Ginés González García after it was revealed that those close to him had been vaccinated in his office, without having to request an appointment like the other Argentines.
In total, it is alleged that some 70 political leaders, their families and related journalists received preferential vaccinations, without respect for established procedures. The fact that many of the beneficiaries have said they were not aware they were breaking any rules exemplifies the inequality problems facing much of Latin America.
A former senior politician in Argentina commented, “The underlying problem is that the institutions do not work. There is a strong movement in search of transparency but compliance, codes of conduct, creating anti-corruption offices, etc., are all issues in which progress is made by obligation, not by conviction, and this is the result.”
“Compliance, codes of conduct, creating anti-corruption offices, etc., are all issues in which progress is made by obligation, not by conviction, and this is the result.”
Former senior politician, Argentina
A senior health figure with no political affiliation was not surprised by the recent events, “The problem is that there are no checks or controls on the political class, not from Congress or the Judiciary, even the media are often silent … they are paid off.”
“The problem is that there are no checks or controls on the political class.”
Senior health figure with no political affiliation
A political analyst had a similar view, “I honestly don’t think politicians even considered that they would be discovered. Politicians in Argentina think they are from a different ‘caste’ that has benefits rather than obligations. They are primarily motivated by private interests and will openly abuse their office for privilege.”
In anticipation of such problems, the new Minister of Health, Carla Vizzoti, has taken a series of measures to ensure the vaccination procedure was transparent. But considering she was the 2nd in command below the previous minister, there is great disbelief that she was not aware of what was happening. The senior health figure believes the Minister would be better off focusing on scaling the vaccination programme, “In my opinion, rather than fighting the uphill battle of making the vaccination programme transparent, it would be better to focus on increasing the supply of vaccines, so that as the percentage of the vaccinated population increases, the issue will naturally disappear from the agenda.”
This is just another example of weak institutions in Latin American countries. A severe change in mindset and culture is needed across the political class but many people in Latin America do not even know what institutionality is, never mind the benefits it can bring.