The COVID-19 pandemic is now widespread throughout Latin America and has been present since January. However, it was not until the beginning of March that local cases were reported. Information on the total number of cases is not equally reliable across all countries in Latin America since the number of tests per thousand habitants changes from country to country. As of April 27, available information from the Johns Hopkins Resource Center (1) indicated that Brazil reported the largest numbers of COVID-19 patients with 63,328 cases, followed by Peru (27,517), Ecuador (22,719), Mexico (14,677), Chile (13,813), Panama (5,779), Colombia (5,379), and Argentina (3,892). All other Latin American countries had reports of less than one thousand cases. Notwithstanding, the region is still a long way from reaching the peak of the infection curve. In total, Latin America, with a population nearing 500 million, has reported less than 8,000 deaths.
As a whole, the Latin American region has opted for a full quarantine. Most governments have issued executive orders for the population to stay at home through mid-May, only allowing exceptions for those providing essential services in utilities, food services, and medical duties, among others. Making this decision at an early stage of contagion has helped to keep numbers low. However, closing down Latin American countries has also meant closing down their economies, which will have a devastating effect on poverty levels. Although nations are undertaking immense fiscal efforts, they do not always have the resources to fully cope with the needs of the poorest sections of the population. According to the World Bank (2), GDP in the Latin American and Caribbean countries (excluding Venezuela) is expected to contract negative 4.6% in 2020 .
World Trade Centers (WTCs) in the Latin American region have indeed been impacted by the economic slowdown as most of their core businesses revolve around real estate developments, and are complemented by services to their tenants and local communities. With employees working remotely and companies in financial distress, WTCs in the region are seeing some of their office space being vacated or are renegotiating rents with tenants. The main efforts of these centers have been geared towards retaining tenants, lowering rents, and, in some cases, wavering them. For example, WTC Querétaro has given some of its tenants two months of free rent while WTC Buenos Aires has extended rent discounts to some tenants.
Despite the challenging situation facing many WTCs in the region, every active center has gone to great efforts to support their local communities. For example, WTC Montevideo has collected $3 million USD among its tenants to support the city’s healthcare system. WTC Buenos Aires is working with parishes in the city to collect funds to support supplies for those most in need. And WTC Monterrey has set up a free-of-charge consulting effort to guide small- and medium-sized businesses through this crisis.
Since lockdown measures were imposed at the beginning of April, WTCs in Latin America have held weekly virtual meetings to share experiences and explore ways to collaborate and have a positive impact on the region. This has resulted in a regional campaign with the theme of “I take care of myself and I help you” to create support groups throughout the region. This initiative is being led by WTC Cali, WTC Colonia del Sacramento, WTC Guanajuato, and WTC Valencia with the participation of most WTCs in the region, and even beyond Latin America, including WTC Arkansas and WTC Winnipeg. This program has just started and by early June, we will be able to evaluate the impact of this commitment of Latin American WTCs with their communities during crises.
Further, WTCs have invited special guests to these weekly virtual meetings to learn more about steering businesses in times of crisis. WTCA’s Regional Teams who are looking to integrate regional efforts on COVID-19-related initiatives have also been invited to join. Overall, Latin American WTCs have taken the challenges stemming from COVID-19 with innovation, courage, and generosity.
(1) JHU CSSE, Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, (Johns Hopkins University & Medicine, 2020), Accessed April 27, 2020. https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html. NOTE: Please be advised that we/the WTCA have obtained permission from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine to share this link with our WTCA Members. If you choose to share it with your own members/tenants in any form, you need to inquire.
(2) Coherent Policy Response Needed to Overcome Crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean, (Washington D.C., The World Bank, 2020), Accessed April 27, 2020. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/04/12/coronavirus-crisis-latin-america-and-the-caribbean.