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Latin America emerges as new COVID-19 epicenter!

14 May

Cemetery workers place crosses over a common grave after burying five people at the Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery in Manaus, Brazil, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. The new section of the cemetery was opened last month to cope with a surge in deaths. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

The Americas have for the first time surpassed Europe in terms of the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Wednesday. The total number of officially reported infections in the Western Hemisphere reached 1.74 million, compared to 1.73 million in Europe.

While this shift has undoubted significance, the figures themselves are universally regarded as a gross underestimate of the real spread of the deadly virus, both in the United States and through ever-expanding areas of Latin America.

With five percent of the world’s population, the United States accounts for more than a quarter of the confirmed cases across the globe (over 1.4 million) and nearly a third of deaths worldwide (nearly 85,000). There could be no more irrefutable indictment of American capitalism and the criminal incompetence and indifference to human life on the part of the Trump administration and the entire US ruling oligarchy.

But the shift of the pandemic’s epicenter from the Old World to the New is also driven by its increasingly uncontrolled surge in Latin America, where the rate of increase in the number of infections is among the highest on the planet.

Fueling the spread of the deadly virus are pre-existing social and economic morbidities that have made Latin America the most socially unequal region on the face of the Earth. A century of oppression and economic exploitation by US imperialism, along with the rule of rapacious national bourgeoisies determined to place the full burden of the region’s crisis onto the backs of the working class, have left the working masses of Latin America among the most vulnerable to the pandemic.

The spread of the coronavirus has had region-wide impacts, including soaring unemployment and poverty, bloody revolts among the continent’s 1.5 million prisoners trapped in overcrowded jails that have claimed the lives of hundreds, and a growing intervention of the military into political and social life.

 

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The horrifying scenes that first played out in Ecuador’s coastal city of Guayaquil, with bodies left lying in the streets, have been repeated in the Amazonian cities of Manaus, Brazil and Iquitos, Peru and elsewhere. In country after country, health care systems that have been mercilessly cut in the fulfillment of successive structural adjustment programs have been overrun, along with morgues and cemeteries, with mass graves being dug in a number of major cities.

The starkest examples of the uncontrolled spread of the virus and the criminal neglect and indifference of the capitalist ruling classes towards its cost in human life are to be found in the region’s two largest countries—in terms of both population and economy—Mexico and Brazil.

Both saw their largest single-day confirmed COVID-19 death toll on Tuesday, 881 in Brazil and 353 in Mexico.

In both countries, these new highs in fatalities are largely of a symbolic character. Everyone knows that the real number of dead is far, far higher.

In Brazil, the 881 deaths represent not the number who died over the previous 24 hours, but the number of deaths that were confirmed, some of them from days earlier. At the same time, the government acknowledges that it still has 2,050 fatalities that are presumed to be from COVID-19 but have yet to be confirmed. On top of this are countless thousands more impoverished Brazilians who have died in their homes in the crowded working-class neighborhoods and favelas of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and other cities without any medical care.

A study done at the University of Sao Paulo Medical School estimates that the number of infections is 15 times higher than the official figure; in other words, close to 3 million. There has been barely one-tenth the amount of testing done in Brazil, compared to the US, where testing is still grossly inadequate.

In Mexico, the 38,324 confirmed infections and 3,926 confirmed deaths are a fraction of the real toll of the pandemic. In Mexico City alone, medical authorities have tallied thousands of deaths that have gone unreported by the government. Hospitals are overflowing with COVID-19 victims, unable to admit new patients. Caskets have been piling up outside the city’s crematoriums. Mexico has done the least testing among the 36 member nations that make up the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).

Despite this reality, the governments in Brasilia and Mexico City have joined with capitalist employers to force workers back into factories and workplaces, exposing them to disease and death to further profit interests.

 

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Brazil’s fascist President Jair Bolsonaro has expressed the interests of the Brazilian capitalist class and world finance capital in the most brutal fashion, proclaiming all industrial and construction activities “essential services.” He joined leading capitalist businessmen in a “march” on Brazil’s supreme court to demand that it strike down limited quarantine measures imposed by the states.

While previously derided as a lunatic for dismissing the coronavirus as “a little flu,” Bolsonaro has now emerged as the most consistent spokesman for capitalist interests. On Wednesday, he crudely summed up, in a speech to his far-right supporters, the ultimatum being delivered to the Brazilian working class: “The people have to go back to work. Whoever doesn’t want to work, then fucking stay at home. End of story.”

Meanwhile, 4,000 miles to the north in Mexico City, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador held a news conference Wednesday in which he proclaimed that there was “a light at the end of the tunnel” and a “new normal” was dawning in Mexico. What he meant was that Mexican workers are to be herded back into the maquiladora sweatshops and auto plants on the border, as well as into mining, construction and other industries, after hundreds of workers have already lost their lives to COVID-19.

López Obrador was not only acting in the interests of Mexican capitalists, but on the orders of the Trump administration and the US automakers, arms manufacturers and other US industries, whose supply chains are dependent upon production in Mexico.

Workers in both Mexico and Brazil have already struck and protested against the attempts to force them to keep working even as their co-workers grow sick and die on the job, from the maquiladora workers in Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana, Mexicali and Reynosa, to the call center and delivery workers across Brazil. The redoubled back-to-work campaign in both countries can only lead to an explosion of class struggle.

In the face of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, the sociopathic and fascistic ex-army captain Bolsonaro and López Obrador—who has been promoted by the international pseudo-left as a “progressive”, “left-wing” and even “socialist” representative of the Mexican people—have arrived at the same policy, defending the interests of native oligarchies and international finance capital at the expense of workers’ lives.

Nothing could demonstrate more starkly the indispensable necessity for the independent political mobilization of the working class throughout Latin America against all of the existing political parties and institutional structures representing the interests of the capitalist ruling classes and imperialism. This includes not only the far-right governments of Bolsonaro, Piñera in Chile and Duque in Colombia, but also the supposed “left” bourgeois nationalists like López Obrador, the “Bolivarian socialists” of Venezuela and the corrupt bourgeois apparatus of the Workers Party (PT) in Brazil.

The decisive task posed by the coronavirus pandemic and its sharpening of the class struggle is the building of a new revolutionary leadership in the working class based upon the fight to unite workers across Latin America, together with workers in the United States and internationally, in a common struggle to put an end to capitalism. This means building sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International in Brazil, Mexico and across the hemisphere.  by Bill Van Auken

 

Published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI)

 

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Cashing In on Pandemic? Documents Show Lawmakers Made 1,500 Stock Transactions Worth $158 Million as Covid-19 Spread!

2 May

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) talks with reporters in the Capitol after the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump adjourned for the day on Monday, February 3, 2020. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

“It’s ridiculous that the public should even have to wonder if a member’s personal financial interests are playing a role in any public policy, let alone the response to a crisis like Covid-19.”—Delaney Marsco, Campaign Legal Center

 

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new analysis of financial disclosure documents found that Republican and Democratic members of Congress made nearly 1,500 stock transactions worth up to $158 million between February and April as the coronavirus spread across the U.S., heightening suspicions that elected officials in charge of the federal response to the pandemic have opportunistically cashed in on it.

“It’s ridiculous that the public should even have to wonder if a member’s personal financial interests are playing a role in any public policy, let alone the response to a crisis like Covid-19.”
—Delaney Marsco, Campaign Legal Center

The Campaign Legal Center (CLC), a non-partisan watchdog group, uncovered at least 127 purchases or sales in securities by senators and at least 1,358 transactions by members of the House between February 2 and April 8.

“Of those transactions, some members of Congress were strategically buying stocks in companies that might see a boost during the crisis, as well as selling stocks that seemed likely to tank,” CLC said. “Public servants made purchases in remote work technologies, telemedicine companies, and car manufacturers that were shifting their production to ventilators. Sales were made in companies in the restaurant and hospitality industries.”

Last month, as Common Dreams reported, Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) faced calls to resign after it was revealed that they sold off stock in late January and early February just before the market tanked due to the Covid-19 crisis.

The CLC analysis (pdf) shows that Burr and Loeffler—both of whom remain in the Senate—are not alone.

“The stock trading was bipartisan—27 Democrats, 21 Republicans, and 1 independent were making trades as the devastation that Covid-19 would exact on the U.S. crystallized,” CLC said. “Most congressional members are millionaires and a number have investments in the tens of millions and far more likely to have investments in the markets.”

Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) had the most transactions of any member of Congress with 366 worth between $2.4 and $10.6 million. Rep. Gilbert Cisneros (D-Calif.) trailed Roe with 219 transactions worth between $1.9 and $6.7 million.

“It’s ridiculous that the public should even have to wonder if a member’s personal financial interests are playing a role in any public policy, let alone the response to a crisis like Covid-19,” tweeted Delaney Marsco, ethics counsel with CLC.

While it is not clear whether any of the transactions were illegal, CLC said “the volume of trading during this short time period highlights a serious problem.”

“The onslaught of public disclosure in the next few months coupled with the increased financial hardship of Americans creates an opportunity for constituents to unite and demand a change from their elected representatives,” CLC said. “Disclosure is the first step towards government accountability, but to rebuild public trust in government, Congress needs to go further and restrict trading of certain individual stocks.”

 

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If Trump Fires Dr. Fauci and Installs a Barr-Like Toady, Whatever Will Become of Us?

Trump is perfectly capable of installing some suck-up crony as head of the coronavirus task force, someone who would be all right with declaring the pandemic over.

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NICARAGUA: PRESIDENT ORTEGA DECLARES ‘IT IS TIME TO SWAP NUCLEAR WEAPONS FOR HOSPITALS’

19 Apr

By Daniel Ortega, Tortilla con Sal.  | EDUCATE!

 

President Comandante Daniel Ortega Addresses Nicaragua’s People (And A World In Crisis).

NOTE: Daniel Ortega spoke to the people of Nicaragua on April 14, 2020, describing how the country is responding to COVID-19 and suppressing the pandemic. We have published, Nicaragua And Covid-19: The Secret Best Hidden By The Western Media, which describes Nicaragua’s excellent work in suppressing the virus.

Ortega framed his speech as a time to stop nuclear weapons and invest in hospitals. He pointed out that nuclear weapons will not save the world from a pandemic. And, he argued there cannot be a nuclear war because the human race will not survive it so it is time to rid the world of these weapons and work for peaceful relations between nations.

Also notable about Ortega’s speech is that he gave it. The Guardian, which consistently publishes false information about Nicaragua and other progressive Latin American countries, published an article last week in which they even claimed he had died. They wrote: “… in the battle against coronavirus, Daniel Ortega has been invisible, sparking wild speculation over whether Nicaragua’s septuagenarian leader is self-isolating, bed-bound in hospital – or might even have died.”

And, the opposition, which is supported by the United States, is using the virus to create chaos in Nicaragua. See Nicaragua: US-Backed Opposition Exploits Pandemic To Create Chaos.

Well, Ortega is very much alive and focused on the health of the people of Nicaragua and leading a government that is being very effective in its response to the virus.  – KZ

 

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April 15, 2020 – Good afternoon, Nicaraguan sisters and brothers, Nicaraguan families. First, our Solidarity and our Condolences to all the families who are suffering from the hardships of this pandemic, whose loved ones have died; others who are in serious condition, connected in ICUs; others in quarantine. All are suffering and in great pain. This is a time that calls for solidarity and unity among the peoples of the World.

And if we are called to show solidarity and unity as the peoples of the World, it means that we are being called to Peace. That is the first principle: Peace; to put an end to all types of war, to all types of aggression, against any people, and to cultivate Peace, to strengthen Peace. Because only a world at Peace will allow us, particularly the more developed countries, to create the conditions so that on this planet we do not face such dramatic situations like those in developed countries where there is a lack of beds and medical instruments, simply because the health services do not reach the people, do not reach the poor, do not reach the workers. Public services have been totally abandoned.

Of course, there are great, highly qualified hospitals, with a lot of technology and great scientists. But who can go to pay for services in a private hospital in a developed country or in a developing country? This is what is bleeding, that is, the world’s flesh has been ripped open by this pandemic.

And what use are atomic bombs? Are atomic weapons going to end the virus, the missiles that are being developed now in these arms races to conquer space and turn space into a battlefield, for killing, to kill? What are those weapons for? These weapons are not for life, they are not for health; they are not for the feeding of millions of human beings that perish year after year from hunger.

These weapons are for killing! And trillions are spent on them! And those who spend those trillions know perfectly well that these weapons cannot be used, because the day they are used, the entire population of the Planet will disappear. They know perfectly well! So why this madness of investing billions and trillions in weapons?

 

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And how many epidemics, how many pandemics has humanity experienced? How many? How many millions of human beings have died in those pandemics, in those epidemics? In the midst of the World Wars, in the First World War, in the Second World War, there were epidemics and pandemics, and in the midst of the epidemics and pandemics there was no ceasefire. They kept killing each other, making war.

I am convinced that this pandemic, this virus that has multiplied throughout the planet and no force is able to block it; there is no barrier that can block it, there is no wall that can block it. There is no way! There is no billionaire who can block it.

Of course, peoples in developing countries are the most exposed, the most vulnerable to this pandemic, and we already know how tragedies are repeated every year in developing countries, from the migration from Africa, seeking to reach Europe, during which thousands of adults, women and children die, drowning there in the sea, in that beautiful sea there, from Europe facing Africa, North Africa, and from North Africa they seek a way into Europe.

There are those migrants, there they are right now. What can these migrants do in the face of this pandemic, and likewise the migrants here who are also moving northwards, where we see that many of them are kept in cages there. Nicaraguans who have been deported home tell us how they are caged, how they are mistreated, and that there is no health care.

But what health care can they give them, if they don’t even have the capacity in that country, the world’s greatest superpower, the greatest military power in the history of humanity, the greatest economic power in the history of humanity, which does not have the capacity to meet the needs of its own citizens in the great cities of the United States. This is a tragedy that Europe is experiencing too.

This is what we can see and it is calling upon us, and it is a call that we can make from this small country, where we are facing the pandemic with our limited resources. With great patience, with great discipline, with great sacrifice on the part of health workers, with a high level of citizen’s engagement, with a high level of discipline from the workers, with great dedication from the Army, from the Police, protecting security and our territorial integrity; well, we have been fighting the fight.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, from the moment a pandemic was decreed, the pandemic was decreed on March 11th. Let’s see, from March 11th to April 15th, we have 1,237 reported deaths in Nicaragua. Of all these, just one was from coronavirus. The other deceased, men, women and children, why did they die? From malignant tumours, diabetes, renal diseases, acute myocardial infarction, hypertensive diseases; traffic accidents, cerebrovascular accidents, liver cirrhosis, neonatal asphyxia, congenital malformations, neonatal sepsis, bacterial pneumonia, septicaemia; malignant tumours. Suicides… yes, suicides! Drownings, yes, by drowning! Deaths from HIV too.

See how much pain we’ve had in these families too! So much pain! We are talking about that in this period, from March 11 to April 15, in Nicaragua, 1,237 people died from different causes.

And in the fight to take care of these families, of the families of people who arrive injured and need hospital care, in this fight to also bring health to thousands of Nicaraguans, how many medical consultations took place in this period? Thousands of doctor’s visits, thousands of operations, totally free of charge. Thousands of hemodialysis treatments!

Here the health system has not stopped providing free hemodialysis; that is the public health system. The private one is different, the private one charges, of course. The poor go to the public health system. The workers use it, and families looking for ways to improve their lives.

 

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Hemodialysis! We’ve been incorporating even more hemodialysis systems; incorporating radiotherapy systems to attack cancer more effectively; inaugurating ICUs in the departmental hospitals and in municipal hospitals. Over the last few days an ICU was inaugurated in Chontales, in Juigalpa.

In the midst of this pandemic, we have not stopped working, because here if we stop working, the country dies, and if the country dies, the people die, they get wiped out. If rural workers stop planting to harvest beans, if they stop sowing to harvest corn, if they stop planting to harvest coffee, if they stop sowing to ensure the supply of potatoes, carrots, radishes, onions… because, thank God, we are a country that even in the midst of the greatest difficulties, the greatest tragedies, the greatest boycotts, we are a country with working people and thanks be to God with land our people know how to cultivate very well and also know how to rear livestock.

Our people that will not die of hunger! Big investments, big capital, can be affected by all these developments, because here there is a whole supply chain in the field of international trade, in the field of international markets, which is unquestionably impacted and causes unemployment, which is felt here.

Well, the important thing here is that we have continued working, following guidelines very conscientiously and with great discipline; our people follow the rules the Health System dictates. And this is repeated everywhere, multiplied not only by transmitting these guidelines via the media, but also through house to house visits, giving people the leaflet and explaining to families how to protect themselves from this pandemic. That is what helps explain and what does explain why the pandemic has spread so slowly. It’s not that it hasn’t entered Nicaragua, of course it has entered and has already caused one death, but its progress has been slow; and everyone affected is has been as a result of outside contact.

Over the last few days they arrested a Nicaraguan girl in Costa Rica, a 17 year old girl, who was pregnant. The Costa Rican authorities arrested her because she was crossing the border illegally, and they have closed the border, and immediately the media there began reporting that the Nicaraguan girl had Coronavirus. But the Costa Rican authorities, acting with great professionalism, seriousness, and responsibility, examined her and said: She does not have Coronavirus! That is to say, a Nicaraguan woman has not been found carrying the virus from Nicaragua to a sister country.

But yes, sister and brother Nicaraguans arriving from other countries, when they come, they are detected; they may not arrive seriously ill, but they are subject to the corresponding procedure and the majority have left the process of care, examination, follow-up, treatment, even some serious cases that seemed to be dying.

One of them, a very well known comrade of ours, lived in the United States, and arrived very, very seriously ill, including from other illnesses he already had. And well, we prayed to God, and he managed to survive the state he was in, thank God, when he seemed about to die. There was another woman who arrived very, very seriously ill. That is, when the doctors began caring for her they thought it would be hard for her to survive.

But they received care from Nicaraguan doctors, who are highly specialized, highly-skilled, not only because they have studied in our country, but also for having studied specialized careers, specializations in other countries, in other sister nations.

 

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In Cuba, in the Soviet Union, how many doctors studied specializations! In Mexico, how many doctors have done specializations there! In Venezuela, how many Nicaraguans have received specialized training! And how many specialized doctors from the United States too… in other words, we do have highly specialized doctors.

And as for hospitals? Practically 90% of the hospitals that are in the public health system are equipped with all the basic resources to care for patients to the extent of the bed capacity that these hospitals allow.

There are enough respirators. Thank God it has not been necessary to use all the ventilators; some have been used, not all have been used.

Intensive Care Units? Yes, we have Intensive Care Units everywhere, with highly specialized doctors.

The reserve of medicines in the health system, in the whole public health system, including of course the Social Security system, there we are talking about 90% and sometimes more, and some medicines that only the State has, like Interferon for example.

In other words, we have the capacity to care for the population, while the rate at which the epidemic has spread has been one we have managed to control… Yes, we have managed to do so!

In other words, we didn’t call for a stampede. If we had triggered a stampede, what happens to people in stadiums would have happened to us—we would have been crushed. Instead, in an orderly manner, and guided by international standards, we have been adopting a series of measures and applying them according to our national reality, our material possibilities, our economic possibilities, our scientific possibilities.

Meanwhile, the police are also protecting the country’s security. Imagine, if we were to send the Police to isolate themselves, or if we sent the Army to isolation, and rural workers to isolate themselves and stop producing, the country would simply disappear. So here it has been a combination of careful measures to be able to deal with this plague.

The latest data was given today by Doctor Saenz. He gave the latest data on the cases we currently have. In the region, we have the least number of cases. Of course, it’s also true that we have many hospitals, we have built many hospitals; even the hospitals they burned down in April 2018, we have already rebuilt them; the health posts they burned down that April, we have already rebuilt them. Yes, we have already rebuilt all that! And all the equipment, and medical instruments they destroyed by fire in April, we have already bought and replaced them.

We’re building roads, we’re opening bridges. Yes, for example, the Malacatoya Bridge, a historic bridge, just like the highway to San Carlos, after years and years, after centuries waiting for that highway. The Malacatoya Bridge, which is the second-largest bridge in Nicaragua, opened in the midst of this situation, and none of the workers have been affected. No cases have been found in the town of Malacatoya.

So, the thing now is to continue managing with follow-up, with permanent monitoring. In any case, when patients are found to have signs that could be symptoms of the virus, they are isolated and treated, and once they have passed the isolation period, well, if they are ok then they go home, or they get to go back out on the streets.

I do believe that this is the time for change in the world. This is a sign from God, yes… this is a sign from God, who is telling us: You are going the wrong way, spending trillions on atomic bombs, on atomic weapons, on military bases, on military alliances. It is fine for the army to protect a country’s sovereignty and territory and a country’s security—that is all right. And the Police, that is fine. But those transnational forces now only aspiring to dominate the whole planet, that is a sin!

And God is telling us, the Lord is telling us, the Lord is sending us this sign, and this is our chance to make a change towards Peace. This is the time for those great resources to be used decisively once and for all, the peoples of these countries that are suffering the onslaught of this pandemic, the peoples of the developed countries that are suffering, it is hitting them terribly, they can decide to tell their Governments: No more money for nuclear arms, for sophisticated weaponry. Let us limit weapons to those needed to protect our territory.

And those funds that have already been allocated, amounting to billions and trillions, let them be reallocated to build hospitals for the poor, for the people and for the workers, right in the United States, who so badly need them. They should be given all the medical equipment needed so they are prepared to face situations such as this. Because this is not the first time a pandemic has ravaged the world, but it is the first pandemic to hit this hard. Although pandemics have affected the developed world before, this one is hitting the developed world much harder, and it is hitting international markets, it is hitting stock prices, and it is hitting the world economy.

So, it is time to swap nuclear weapons for hospitals, for health posts, for all the basic conditions that can be provided to the peoples of the developed countries, and for them to cooperate so that we in the developing countries can also enjoy that protection.

In other words, the best atomic weapon humanity can have is health, medicine, hospitals, preventive medicine, and curative medicine, and for that we need resources, and we know very well who has them, and we know very well how they use them; therefore, now is the time for change.

And it is time to change the United Nations as well, and we have been repeating this for years. The United Nations needs to be totally remodelled, reconverted, reconstituted… It must be re-founded, as Father d’Escoto said when he was President of the United Nations General Assembly. It must be re-founded, and he planted the Nicaraguan flag there, proposing the re-founding of the United Nations, the re-founding of all the instruments of the United Nations, the re-founding of those regional instruments which are also totally discredited, decrepit and worn out.

The world demands an ethical and moral re-founding, and that happens because resources need to be placed where they belong, so as to save lives and give security to families, and give true Christian Love to Humanity.

Thank you, Nicaraguan Sisters and Brothers.

 

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