Neoliberalism has been implemented in Latin America for about three decades. This article reviews Mexico’s neoliberal trajectory to illustrate the political, economic, and social alterations that have resulted from this process. It finds that representative democracy has been perverted through fear, putting central political decisions in the hands of power groups with special interests. The border between the state of law and the state of exception is blurred. Economic structural adjustment with liberal- ization and privatization has provoked recurrent crisis, but has been maintained, leading to the destruction of the national productive structure in favor of supra- national corporations, particularly financial capital. The association between criminal economy and economic criminality is also discussed. The privatization of social benefits and services requires state subsidies and allows the privatization of profits and the socialization of losses. The social impact of this process has been devastating, with a polarized income distribution, falling wages, increased precarious jobs, rising inequality, and extreme violence. Health conditions have also deteriorated and dis- orders associated with violence, chronic stress, and a changing nutritional culture have become dominating. However, in Latin America, massive, organized political and social mobilization has broken the vicious neoliberal circle and elected progressive governments that are struggling to reverse social and economic devastation.
This article analyzes the content and outcome of ongoing health reforms in Latin America: Universal Health Coverage with Health Insurance, and the Universal and Public Health Systems. It aims to compare and contrast the conceptual framework and practice of each and verify their concrete results regarding the guarantee of the right to health and access to required services. It identifies a direct relationship between the development model and the type of reform. The neoclassical-neoliberal model has succeeded in converting health into a field of privatized profits, but has failed to guarantee the right to health and access to services, which has discredited the governments. The reform of the progressive governments has succeeded in expanding access to services and ensuring the right to health, but faces difficulties and tensions related to the permanence of a powerful, private, industrial-insurance medical complex and persistence of the ideologies about medicalized ‘good medicine’. Based on these findings, some strategies to strengthen unique and supportive public health systems are proposed.