BEIJING, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- Uncertainties lie ahead for Latin America in 2022, as several countries are about to hold presidential elections and main economies lack development momentum amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic.
Left-wing parties in Peru and Chile came to power in 2021. As Brazil, Costa Rica and Colombia will hold presidential elections in 2022, whether the region will usher in a new round of left-wing governance has gained much attention.
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has once again become the leader of the Workers' Party, and is seen as the most likely candidate for the presidency because of his high political prestige if he runs for the position.
At present, among Costa Rican presidential candidates, Jose Maria Figueres from the left-wing National Liberation Party leads in the polls, while leftist Gustavo Petro in Colombia has the highest support rate now.
Xu Shicheng, an honorary member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes that no matter left or right parties take office, they may face difficulties in fully meeting the expectations and demands of voters as the region is faced with haunting pandemic waves and economic downturn.
As the Omicron variant spreads, many Latin American countries, which saw another wave of the pandemic, have tightened their prevention and control measures, such as resuming the "mask order" in public places.
Despite mass vaccination campaigns against COVID-19 in 2021, the continent is still plagued by a shortage of vaccine supplies and low vaccination rates.
According to the Pan American Health Organization, the current vaccination rate in Latin America is about 57 percent, and there are wide disparities between countries, which pose a potential threat to the region.
Noting that Latin American countries are still fighting the pandemic alone without effective regional cooperation, Lu Siheng, an associate researcher with the Institute of Latin American Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that countries in the region should enhance cooperation at the sub-regional level and strengthen communication and coordination on jointly formulating action standards and implementing emergency response plans.
On the economic front, Latin America and the Caribbean is expected to grow 6.7 percent in 2021, but the growth is projected to slow to 2.6 percent in 2022 before increasing slightly to 2.7 percent in 2023, according to the World Bank's latest Global Economic Prospects report.
Experts pointed out that due to the rising external uncertainties and the difficulty in eradicating internal structural problems in the short term, Latin America's economic growth is facing a lack of momentum. In particular, some Latin American countries are confronted with high debt risks, which threatens the economic recovery.
Though trapped in some crisis, Latin America has seen steady growth in its economic and trade cooperation with China, which has injected great impetus into the region's economic development.
According to data released at the 14th China-Latin America Entrepreneurs Summit, trade volume between China and Latin America has reached 331.88 billion U.S. dollars from January to September 2021, a sharp increase of 45.5 percent year-on-year.
Besides, more and more Latin American countries have joined the Belt and Road, hoping to board the express train of China's development. ■