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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.




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.




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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Capitalism & Wall Street feasts on death!

16 Apr



Yesterday, April 14, the total worldwide deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic passed 126,000. In the United States, more than 2,400 people died on Tuesday, bringing the total nationwide number of victims to 26,000. These official numbers are undoubtedly substantially lower than the actual number of people who have died as a result of being infected by the coronavirus.

Not since the 1930s has the United States experienced a crisis on its soil that has had such a devastating impact on the social well-being of the American people. Images showing mass graves being dug in New York City, body bags piling up in Detroit hospitals, and endless lines of cars with drivers waiting to collect food to feed their families will be remembered like the Depression-era photos of Dorothea Lange. Tens of millions of Americans are without an income and lack sufficient savings to cover their mortgages and rent, insurance premiums, interest on outstanding loans, and other inescapable daily, weekly and monthly expenses. More than 16 million people have filed unemployment claims. It will take weeks, if not months, before their jobless checks arrive. The promised payment of $1,200 that was supposedly part of the CARES bill passed last month by Congress has shown up in very few bank accounts.

A social disaster is unfolding, and the media’s joyful invocation of “glimmers of hope” bears no relation to reality as it is being experienced by the vast majority of the population. The references to “peaks” and “plateaus” are of a largely hypothetical character. The pandemic is raging throughout the country. For millions who are still on the job, showing up for work means running the serious risk of being exposed to the coronavirus.

And yet, in the midst of this immense crisis, there is one small segment of society that has richly prospered during this time of troubles.

Just over three weeks ago, on March 23, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 18,591. During the previous five weeks, as the seriousness of the pandemic was being gradually and reluctantly acknowledged, the Dow had fallen nearly 35 percent from its February 13 high of 29,551.

Since March 23, two numbers have risen in tandem: COVID-19 deaths and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (along with other major markets’ averages such as the S&P and NASDAQ).

On March 23, the number of pandemic victims in the US had reached 556. Over the next four days, Congress hastily enacted its multi-trillion-dollar bailout of financial and corporate institutions and investors. The “CARES Act” was signed into law on March 27. On that day, the DJIA closed at 21,636. Expectation of the imminent passage of the bailout had lifted the market nearly 3,000 points in just four days. But between March 23 and March 27, the number of pandemic deaths in the United States nearly tripled, rising to 1,697.




During the week of March 30, there was a further explosive rise in pandemic victims. By Friday, April 3, the number of victims reached 7,139. Throughout the weekend, the media sought to prepare the public for a further rapid rise in the death toll. But there was also a distinct change in the tone of the media narrative. Phrases such as “hopeful signs,” “turning the corner,” and, inevitably, “glimmers of hope” became part of the media’s propaganda repertoire. This was combined with an increasingly aggressive campaign for a more or less rapid return to work.

Throughout the week, the rapid rise in the death toll revealed the expanding dimensions of the social tragedy. The rise in the stock market averages reflected the financial elite’s expectation, having been gifted trillions of dollars by the government, that it will profit from this crisis and emerge wealthier and more powerful than ever.

By Monday, April 6, the number of COVID-19 deaths reached 10,895. The Dow closed at 22,679. By April 9, the death toll had climbed to 16,712. The Dow closed at 23,319. And yesterday, as the number of dead went beyond the staggering 26,000 mark, the investors and speculators joyfully watched the Dow gain another 569 points and close at 23,935.

Let the reader pause over these numbers. Since March 23, the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed, according to official statistics, more than 25,000 lives in the United States. During the same period, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen more than 30 percent.

On the surface, there is nothing in the economic news that justifies the extraordinarily rapid rise in the markets. In fact, all available information indicates that the global impact of the pandemic may prove to be as serious and long-lasting as the Great Depression of the 1930s.




Yesterday morning, the International Monetary Fund issued a report titled, “The Great Lockdown: Worst Economic Depression Since the Great Depression.” Written by chief IMF economist Gita Gopinath, the report describes the prevailing situation as “a crisis like no other,” and forecasts a prolonged decline in global economic growth. “This makes the Great Lockdown the worst recession since the Great Depression, and far worse than the Global Financial Crisis [of 2008–2009].” The report continues:

The cumulative loss to global GDP over 2020 and 2021 from the pandemic crisis could be around 9 trillion dollars, greater than the economies of Japan and Germany, combined.

Clearly, it is not current economic projections that have fueled the euphoria on Wall Street; and it is highly unlikely, as the global contraction grows ever more severe, that the current rally can be sustained. But for the time being, the euphoria is being driven by the trillions of dollars of free and unsupervised money that is being provided by the Federal Reserve; and by the expectation that the crisis will provide the corporate-financial oligarchy within the United States as well as in Europe with an opportunity to restructure the capitalist economy and class relationships in a manner that facilitates the accelerated transfer of wealth into the coffers of the capitalist class.

But there is another factor that will counteract the euphoria; and that is the growing social resistance of the working class, which is developing its own ideas about how the American and global economy should be restructured and wealth redistributed.

David North


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




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As COVID-19 death toll mounts, US ruling class demands a more rapid return to work!

15 Apr

Published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) By Bryan Dyne 13 April 2020


After a week in which more than 10,000 Americans died from COVID-19, the US media and political establishment have launched a concerted effort to get workers back to work, even as the pandemic continues to spread and kill in the United States and internationally.

This effort is being spearheaded above all by the Trump administration. During the most recent coronavirus task force media briefing, Trump claimed that country as a whole is “doing really well” and “doing much better than we thought it would.”

Task force coordinator Deborah Birx said the White House was “ensuring that everybody gets optimal care,” a claim that went unchallenged by the press even as hospitals such as Elmhurst in New York City were still inundated with patients.

Throughout the week, Trump repeatedly called for US businesses to “open with a big bang.” Members of the administration have claimed that Trump is seeking to reopen much of the American economy on May 1.

These demands contradict the warnings of global health officials. Last week, Dr. Hans Kluge, the UN body’s regional director for Europe, stated bluntly, “Now is not the time to relax measures. … This is not the time to lower our guard,” he added, pointing to a danger of a resurgence of the pandemic.

Trump’s demands to prematurely reopen businesses are being echoed internationally. Spain is planning to restart construction and manufacturing. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has eyed summer for a loosening of lockdowns and a return to work.

Little mention is being made of the actual figures in the United States. The total number of coronavirus cases nears 560,000, and the deaths are just under 22,000. Significantly, the number of recovered patients is less than 32,000, an indication both of the length of time those infected must suffer and a warning of how many are still sick and may die from the pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the top US public health advisers under Trump, told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “When one starts to relax some of those restrictions, we know that there will be people getting infected.” Nonetheless, the administration was considering “rolling re-entry” of individual states back into normal economic operations, “maybe next month.”

Tapper did not ask, and Fauci did not explain, how states will handle workers traveling from those that are not locked down to those that are, and back again, continuing the spread of the pandemic.




Various news outlets have amplified the return-to-work message.

On the segment “Global Public Square,” Fareed Zakaria criticized early predictions that the number of needed hospital beds as “way too high.” He did not attempt to reconcile that statement with the mass graves for COVID-19 corpses being dug on Hart Island in New York City or the shortage of body bags at Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit.

Zakaria claimed, “In the places with the best testing … the numbers of who are actually infected suggest a fatality rate similar to the seasonal flu.” This would result in “fewer than 40,000 deaths,” rather than the 100,000 to 240,000 earlier predicted by the Trump administration. He concluded by intoning that while this “is still a tragedy” and “we should be glad that the work we’ve done to abide by social distancing has done some good … it has come at a price.”

The “price” for Zakaria and his ilk is not the lives lost to the disease, but the collapse of the Dow Jones index in March and the fact that the markets have not since recovered to their record highs of February. Billions of dollars in wealth have been and will be lost, reflected in projections by Goldman Sachs that the US gross domestic product will contract by 24 percent from April to June of this year.

In the ruling class, there is no genuine concern for the price of the pandemic being placed on workers. It was reported Friday by the Washington Post that Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia is using his authority to limit who qualifies for the supposedly expanded unemployment benefits passed by Trump, even as nearly 17 million workers have been forced off the job.

Under Scalia’s orders, “gig economy” workers such as Uber and Lyft drivers are less likely to get benefits, and companies now have an easier time denying their employees coronavirus-related sick and family leave.

Nor is there any mention made of the massive budget shortfalls at the state and local levels. New York, Ohio and Illinois are estimated to lose billions in tax revenue while having huge coronavirus costs, while cities including Phoenix, San Antonio and Washington, D.C. are predicting shortfalls of tens of millions. Nationally, states and municipalities are expected to lose between $158 billion and $203 billion through 2021.

State and local governments are already eyeing massive social cuts to make up for these deficits, including schools, art programs, public libraries, as well as pensions for state employees. Pennsylvania has withheld payroll for 9,000 of its workers who have been forced to stay at home. “I do think cities across the country are looking at some degree of austerity,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.

What none of the mayors, governors, members of the media or the White House are discussing seriously is what is actually needed for workers to return to their jobs safely. World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday, “Important factors to consider are, first, the transmission is controlled; second, that sufficient public health and medical services are available; third, that outbreak risks in special settings like longterm care facilities are minimized; fourth, that preventive measures are in place in workplaces, schools and other places where it’s essential for people to go.”

None of these conditions exist in the US or in any other of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic. At most, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that employers “should” provide masks, gloves and other protective equipment and that they “may” want to provide their workers with sick leave. Similar “guidance” has been provided by the public health organizations in other countries.

Without the resources being spent to put these measures in place, any back-to-work order will be a bloodbath for workers. The unsafe and unsanitary conditions will expose millions to the disease, and rapidly accelerate a pandemic from one that has infected millions to one that will infect tens or hundreds of millions of people around the globe.





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