Latin America will be in a "deep recession" in 2020, with an expected 1.8 to 4.0 percent decline in the region's GDP due to the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Economic Commission for the Region said on Friday.
"We are at the beginning of a deep recession. We are facing the greatest slowdown in growth in the region," said Alicia Barcena, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL).
Latin America already had economic problems with weak growth of only 0.1 percent in 2019.
As in other parts of the world, the region's major equity markets have seen dramatic losses as the virus crisis escalated and multiple currencies depreciated against the US dollar.
A reduction in economic activity due to barriers to fighting the spread of the virus, a decline in the value of raw materials and the blow to tourism have contributed to the bleak outlook.
Barcena said the best-case forecast only takes into account the decline in economic activity with China, the region's largest trading partner.
However, if a decrease in trade with the United States and the European Union is included in the calculation, a three to four percent decrease is expected.
"A lot of pessimism"
In the meantime, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has been widely criticized for his negligent approach to the pandemic, has questioned projections of a recession and even contradicted his own Ministry of Finance.
On Wednesday, the Treasury cut its expectations for 2020 from 1.5 to 2.5 percent to 0.1 percent to 3.9 percent.
"I have different numbers, different dates, I am talking about a temporary crisis and that will allow us to move forward very soon," he said.
"There is a lot of pessimism in the world, especially among business and financial leaders and experts … I don't share this point of view."
Lopez Obrador said it made no sense to make forecasts because the pandemic had created an unusual situation, both economically and politically.
Peru has announced it will guarantee 350,000 companies $ 8.5 billion in new bank loans to help them pay employees and suppliers.
Around 314,000 of the companies have fewer than 10 employees, said President Martin Vizcarra, describing the program as "an exceptional response to an exceptional situation".
The Venezuelan government has announced a "special plan" to combat the lack of fuel due to the virus outbreak and severe US sanctions.
The government has "implemented a special fuel supply plan to ensure mobility in priority sectors," said Tareck El Aissami, vice president of the business sector.
El Aissami did not specify what action would be taken, but said it was necessary because US sanctions had resulted in a lack of basic supplies for fuel production.
Around 160 European tourists left Nicaragua on a chartered flight from France as part of evacuations organized by the European Union to take citizens stranded by coronavirus barriers.
Most of the tourists who leave Nicaragua are French.
"It is a one-time operation" to repatriate 130,000 French tourists stranded due to the landing of airplanes around the world, French ambassador to Nicaragua Philippe Letrilliart told AFP.
Passengers were given face masks and said that those who showed COVID-19 symptoms would be quarantined upon arrival in France.
Around 600 tourists left Nicaragua this week on flights chartered by France and Germany, said EU Ambassador Pelayo Castro.
Nicaragua has reported five coronavirus cases, including one death.
Nicaragua has come under fire because it has not closed its borders or has imposed social distancing measures. It also invited its citizens to visit sights during Easter week.
The Uruguayan government allowed a second passenger of the Australian cruise ship Greg Mortimer to disembark for treatment after suffering symptoms of COVID-19 on Friday.
More than 200 people, most of them Australians and Brits, remain stranded aboard the Bahamas flagship that has been anchored 20 kilometers from Montevideo for a week.
The woman, a 75-year-old Australian with severe pneumonia, is being taken to a private hospital in Montevideo, according to the Uruguayan Navy. Earlier this week, an 69-year-old Australian with similar symptoms was allowed to disembark.
Uruguayan Foreign Minister Ernesto Talvi said at a press conference on Friday that only those whose lives are at risk can leave the ship.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and is generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)