coronavirus, everywhere

Pindo-led “back to work” drive spreads death across Latin America
Eric London, WSWS, Jul 15 2020

Soldiers patrol Ciudad Bolivar, a neighborhood with high cases of the novel coronavirus
in Bogota, Colombia, Monday Jul 13 2020. (Photo: Fernando Vergara/AP)

On Monday, Latin America’s official coronavirus death toll reached a grim milestone, surpassing the total dead in North America. More than 145k have died, and over 3.5m have tested positive across Latin America. Mass poverty and inequality dominate the region after hundreds of years of colonial and imperialist exploitation, leaving each country especially vulnerable to the transmission of the virus. Four of the seven countries with the highest global positive cases are now in Latin America, as underfunded public health systems collapse. Brazil is second with 1.9m cases, behind only Pindostan. Peru, Chile and Mexico are fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, with over 300k positive cases each. These figures drastically underestimate the spread of the virus because testing is in shambles. While Italy and Pindostan presently perform more than 100 tests per 1k people, Mexico tests just 5 people per 1k, Brazil tests 7 per 1k and Peru tests 9 per 1k. As hospitals overflow and as cities dig up bodies to clear cemetery space for the dead, all governments and all political parties across the region are scrambling to reopen their economies, sacrificing countless lives for corporate profit. In Brazil, Bolsonaro responded to the death toll by proclaiming “So What?” Businesses have begun reopening across the country and millions of workers are being forced back on the job. A Brazilian medical expert told CNN:

Governors and mayors are sending the population to the slaughter-house with the prerogative of an economic recovery.

In Mexico, where auto plants and sweatshop maquiladoras that produce parts for export to Pindostan have restarted, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) told the population to go to work, adding cynically:

Be free! Enjoy the sky, the sun and fresh air!

The ostensibly left-wing AMLO has mimicked Bolsonaro’s policies, announcing the further lifting of restrictions this week. Earlier, he told Mexicans they could stave off the virus by eating corn, which he calls “that blessed plant.” In Nicaragua, the government led by Sandinista Daniel Ortega has effectively denied the existence of the virus, while in Honduras, Pindo-backed President Juan Orlando Hernandez tested positive and, like Bolsonaro, used his own sickness to downplay the virus, forcing the country’s maquiladoras to stay open. Honduran workers are dying by the hundreds to produce clothes and shoes for export to Pindostan. Ligia Ramos, a director of the Honduran Medical College, tweeted:

If we don’t close the maquiladoras, we will have to close the hospitals. It does not make sense to be crying every week for a friend, a co-worker. Close the damn maquiladoras, for the love of God! If they continue with the maquiladoras, if they keep making money on the pain of the people, we will not stop the disease!

In neighboring Guatemala and El Salvador, the virus has also spread through deportees from Pindostan, many of whom Pindo boxtops knew had tested positive. From Tijuana to Cape Horn the virus is ravaging impoverished regions, from indigenous tribes in the Amazon rain-forest to densely-populated urban megacities like Mexico City, Lima and Rio de Janeiro. But as the virus spreads, the ruling classes of Latin America are forcing millions back to work on behalf of Pindo imperialism, which requires the reopening of Latin American supply chains to fuel its own “back-to-work” campaign. In March, most of Latin America was only just beginning to experience widespread community transmission of the disease. Mexico and Honduras did not suffer their first reported coronavirus deaths until Mar 26, while Brazil’s came on Mar 19 and Chile’s on Mar 21. Peru’s first reported death came on Apr 1. Production, largely for export to Pindostan, continued throughout the region at this time. In April, as the death tolls began to climb, workers’ strikes and protests spread through the region, especially in Mexico and Brazil. In mid-April, as workers denounced unsafe conditions in northern Mexico’s maquiladoras, Trump announced:

I spoke with the president of Mexico yesterday. If a supply chain based in Mexico or Canada interrupts with our making a big product and an important product, or even a military product, we’re not going to be happy, let me tell you that.

As a result, across the Americas, the death toll rose and production continued. The markets recovered thanks to the resumption of production, the multi-trillion-dollar CARES Act corporate bail-out, and the promise of endless cash infusions from the Fed. Now the back-to-work initiative is in full swing in Pindostan, and widespread outbreaks have transformed North American workplaces into death traps, including auto plants, meat-packing facilities, produce farms and warehouses. As Pindo workers are forced back to work, Wall Street is demanding that Latin America further speed up production. This was the purpose of AMLO’s visit to Trump in Faschingsteinn last week, where business executives from both countries insisted on an end to whatever work restrictions remain. Speaking to the Atlantic Council after the dinner, Pindo Ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau said:

I was talking to one of the senior executives from the Ford Motor Company. They were saying they are going to have to start shutting down their factories in Pindostan as of next week if they don’t get that (Mexican supply chain) rolling.

At companies like Ford, GM and Fiat-Chrysler, international supply chains link Bolivian and Chilean mines, Central American and Mexican parts production and the assembly plants in Pindostan, Argentina, Brazil and Canada. These companies have profited immensely on the back-to-work campaigns in each country. Over the course of the hemispheric back-to-work drive, Ford’s stock rose from $4.01 per share on Mar 23 to $6.30 today, a 57% increase. GM’s rose from $16.80 on Mar 18 to $25.32, a 51% increase. Fiat Chrysler’s stock sold at $6.35 on Mar 20, rising to $10.23 today, an increase of 61%. Meanwhile, the UN reports that in just four months, the number of Latin Americans in need of emergency food assistance has tripled. The World Bank reports that 50m people will fall into poverty in Latin America this year, bringing the total to 230m. Extreme poverty will triple from 4.5% to 15.5% as a result of the virus, rising to a total of 96m people, including millions who lack clean water for hand-washing. In the densely populated working-class neighborhoods of Lima, Peru, where the virus is spreading rapidly, average working hours have fallen by 80%, forcing masses of workers into destitution. There will be 44m unemployed across the region this year. There are widespread reports of rising prostitution. But here, too, there is more good news for corporate Pindostan and the geostrategic interests of Pindo imperialism. Mass unemployment and sickness will create such a downward pressure on wages that, as S&P Global reported this month:

If anything, an economic crisis in Latin America twinned with depreciating currencies and reduced relative labor costs may lead manufacturers to expand in Latin America rather than head to Asia.

Not only will this improve corporate Pindostan’s bottom line, it will also help Pindo imperialism sideline its geostrategic rival, China. Common action is required on the part of workers across the Americas to unite in the fight for workplace safety and against the Pindo-led back-to-work drive. It is a matter of life and death for millions of people. Everywhere there is a yearning for a radical transformation of the world economy. This was shown by the mass protests that swept the region in 2019. But what is needed is a socialist political perspective. We urge readers across Latin America to contact the IC4I today.

Record single-day COVID-19 deaths in Florida, Alabama and Utah
Benjamin Mateus, WSWS, Jul 15 2020

Patient transport from an ICU in Florida

With COVID-19 infections continuing to rise at record rates, the United States recorded more than 900 deaths on Tuesday, including single-day records in Florida, Alabama and Utah. Oregon matched its daily death record. The bipartisan back-to-work drive, driven by the demand of the corporate-financial elite for a resumption of production and profit-making, has produced a catastrophe that is worsening by the day. There are now more than 3.5m cases of COVID-19 in Pindostan (representing 26.4% of all global cases), with almost 140k deaths. There are 1.8m active cases. The seven-day Pindo average stands at 62,243 new cases per day and continues to rise. Twelve states posted more than 1k new cases yesterday. Texas had more than 11k. Oklahoma set a one-day record of 993 new cases. Hospitalizations are up 43% in California, which is now reporting 8k new cases of COVID-19 per week. Texas and Arizona are readying refrigerated trucks to store the overflow of bodies from inundated morgues.

In a rambling, nearly hour-long rant in the White House Rose Garden Monday, Trump continued to hail his administration’s response to the pandemic and blame the explosion of new cases on increased testing. He cited as vindication of his policies the recent decline in coronavirus death rates, even as daily deaths once again neared the levels that prevailed in April and early May. He cited the surging stock market as more proof of the success of his handling of the pandemic. In fact, the 556-point rise in the Dow on Tuesday was further evidence that the criminal indifference to the loss of life is rooted in a conscious policy of class war being pursued by the ruling class. It views the public health and social disaster triggered by the pandemic as an opportunity to increase its wealth, compliments of unlimited infusions of cash by the Fed, and intensify its attack on the jobs, wages and working conditions of the working class. This policy is being dutifully carried out by both big business parties, with Demagog as well as Thug governors and mayors forcing workers back into factories and workplaces that are breeding grounds for the virus, without any serious measures to shield workers from infection and death.

Meanwhile, the administration has ordered hospitals to bypass the CDC and, beginning today, send all coronavirus patient information to the DHHS in a transparent effort to control and manipulate data on the progress of the pandemic. Trump has in recent days repeatedly clashed with the CDC, and even more openly with Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s preeminent expert on infectious diseases. Florida, whose Governor Ron DeSantis, a Trump protégé, has been at the forefront of pushing for a herd immunity policy, is now the epicenter of the pandemic, with Miami-Dade County reporting 2,090 new cases in the last 24 hours. Average daily new cases in Miami-Dade over the past 14-day period have risen by more than 200%, and deaths have increased by more than 25%. Trump and his billionaire Education Sec Betsy DeVos have been touting the Miami-Dade school board, which has announced a full, in-person reopening of the schools in August, as the model for his demand to fully reopen schools across the country.

DeSantis with Miami-Dade County mayors in Miami, Tuesday July 14 2020.
(Photo: Lynne Sladky/AP)

At a press briefing at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital on Monday, an activist shouted:

Shame! Shame on you! You are an embarrassment! We are getting record-breaking cases every day, and you are doing nothing!

DeSantis was visibly startled and flustered. The heckler was quickly removed from the press conference. In an interview, Dr David J De La Zerda, director of the medical ICU at Jackson Memorial, acknowledged the dire state of public health in South Florida. Admitting that ICU capacity could reach capacity by the end of the week, he said:

The things that we are seeing right now: one issue is the staff, especially nurses, are tired, and they are just burnt out. For the physicians, what we’re trying to do is follow similar models that they did in New York, meaning that we’re getting more help from our colleagues like dermatologists, urologists and other colleagues are actually coming to the hospital and trying to help out. And then at the end, you know, it’s the Convention Center in Miami Beach, there are hospital beds. So, I think we’ll be transferring patients soon.

Rebekah Jones, the statistician who was fired in May for not fixing the numbers on COVID-19 cases in Florida, has recently appeared on media outlets after penning an opinion piece in Star-Banner. she said:

The Dept of Health has never maintained data on the number of cases actively hospitalized. They did not monitor admission and discharge dates and would often only learn of a case hospitalization weeks or months afterward.

Angry and frustrated Florida nurses have turned to social media to vent their grievances and frustrations. One Pinellas County nurse wrote:

I have been on a COVID positive unit since March, and we have never emptied. We have three floors for COVID positive patients (non-ICU), two floors for COVID rule out, and three ICU COVID units (one was PACU but has since been converted). The fatality numbers in the news seem off. They reported 11 deaths last week, and we had more than that in my hospital.

Others wrote:

I have been working 5- to 12-hour shifts a week, and I am tired…

I’m in Duval, and the COVID units are exploding, they are adding more beds in at least two of the hospitals…

In Broward/Miami area, we are crazy! We need nurses ASAP…

In Boca Raton and it’s out of control. Going to get worse, I think. My coworkers are getting sick as well…

We have beds, but we don’t have staffing because so many nurses are either positive or quarantined for exposure.

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