Epidemics and natural disasters occur throughout the world and to some extent are unpredictable. Why, however, despite the H1N1 virus spreading to several countries, are people only dying in Mexico? Here are some answers.
Epidemics and natural disasters occur throughout the world and to some extent are unpredictable. Yet, prevention strategies and the damping of the damage they produce should be under government control, where there are the resources to effectively combat the threats. The outbreak of the influenza virus in Mexico is a prime example.
Right now, the main question for Calderon's government is this: Why, despite the H1N1 virus spreading to several countries, are people only dying in Mexico? Here are some answers.
1. The workers are most vulnerable.
The illness caused by influenza virus H1N1 can be handled easily if the patient is attended to in a timely manner. One reason why the death toll in Mexico has reached 159 people so quickly is the government ignored for two weeks the reports that indicated the cases of atypical pneumonia have increased since April. But the main cause is the government's aggressive policy of dismantling the public health system, which is leaving millions of Mexicans without the right to medical attention. Even in the current health crisis, there has been hundreds of complaints from people who are denied service at public hospitals like the IMSS or ISSSTE, despite presenting all the symptoms of influenza. Calderon, who claims we don't need to worry because the pandemic is under control, ignores the fact that most Mexicans live in poor and unhealthy neighborhoods with privatized basic services. They are the ones most vulnerable to influenza. This is a problem of class and only through organizing and struggle can we find a solution.
The media have generated a collective paranoia in the population by spreading rumors and banal information that is without any public utility. Driven by ratings, the media has used the nervousness of the population to gain a bigger audience. This has led to repeated coverage of one issue day and night, and little to no coverage of other important topics like the security reforms proposed by Calderon, education, and drug trafficking.
Televisa, TV Azteca, and a major consortia of communication companies have protected Calderon's government by concealing their past mistakes and ignoring valuable information. To find any accurate information revealing the criminal actions of the federal government one has to go to the country's independent media or foreign news sources.
AFP and Reuters were the first to report that in the town of La Gloria, near Perote, a person contracted the flu. This was reported again on April 13 in the State of Oaxaca, where a 39 year old women died from the swine virus infection. The question now is, where did the virus come from? The industrial farming industry has largely been successful at keeping this question out of the news.
3. The Origin of the Virus
Owners of industry are primarily concerned with enriching themselves. Under Capitalism, safety standards and public welfare take a back seat to profits. The concentration of animals in the industrial food processing industry creates all kinds of problems, especially with unsanitary conditions and waste disposal, but the owners can only make an acceptable profit by housing such large quantities. The consequence of such high numbers of animals in such a small area is the emergence of all types of viruses, or what has been known recently as "viral mutations". Of course a government of the ruling class, such as in Calderon's Mexico, will ignore all the attacks on public health from these companies.
The case of La gloria, Veracruz, is an excellent example. It has been determined the first outbreak of influenza was there. The Carroll Farms Company, a subsidiary of Smithfield (one of the largest pork producers in the world), was the cause of a massive outbreak of respiratory disease that affected 400 people. The overcrowding of the animals, mixed with the industrial injections of antibiotics and hormone supplements, proved to be an excellent promoter of leading strains of the virulent pathogen. The overcrowding and weak immune systems of pigs produced in these conditions are also conducive to generating extremely fast transmission rates. Given the issues mentioned above, along with waste accumulation, low genetic variability, as well as the overall cruelness towards the animals, common sense would suggest this simply isn't a good way to produce food.
As of now, there is no effective vaccine for the virus these conditions created. This H1N1 virus has a special ability to withstand adverse environmental conditions and has shown an ability to transform its genetic structure. The origin of this new virus that has mutated and been traced to a mixture of avian and swine influenza, which affects humans. How is it possible that a virus that affects livestock can also affect people? According to research by Dr. Earl Brown, professor of microbiology at the University of Ottawa, "when one host is infected by two or more strains of a virus like influenza, new combinations can result." He goes on to say, "Influenza, for example, has eight distinct segments to its genome, increasing its ability to form new combinations that can include elements of avian flu, swine flu and human flu. It's these recombined versions of the flu that have the potential to cross over and actually spread through a new host." (FAQ: How viruses mutate on cbcnews.ca)
4. Defense of Democratic Freedoms
Within the context of the political crisis, and the violence of the drug trafficking, Calderon has launched a mechanism to assault democratic freedoms and criminalize social struggles. The government is consciously taking advantage of the health crisis to implement measures to restrict the right to strike and demonstrate. These are desperate measures of a cornered, wounded, and weak government.
Workers should not allow the President and Parliament to advance in their attempt to strengthen the repressive apparatus of the State. We must oppose any attempt to remove democratic freedoms. Calderon was recently authorized by Congress to raid homes without warrants under the pretext of quarantining areas said to be affected by the influenza virus. On top of that, the Senate approved a law allowing the military to monitor and cancel individual rights in various areas of the country. Panic is an ally of the right-wing. Through these actions the State seeks to control the emotions and morale of the workers and put a stop to the organizing and workers' demonstrations. The only effective way to respond to the weak government of Calderon is organization of the working class and struggle on the streets.
5. The Employment Situation
The labor secretary, Javier Lozano, has called for the bosses to be fair to the workers if they are missing or late getting to the factory, but so far there has been no guarantees of employment or a safe environment for workers who toil in crowded industrial areas, and nobody has talked about measures to prevent infection. The government was ordered to suspend all activities from May first to the fifth, which aside from the national school system now includes the federal public services and the restaurants of the capital. They closed all schools from kindergarten through university indefinitely. All restaurants, cinemas, theaters, museums, gyms, sports clubs, dance halls, bars, auditoriums, and anywhere else people might come in close contact with others, has also been shut down indefinitely. The unions have canceled the march on the first of May. It is extremely important that we workers are the most organized during of these events, because we are the most vulnerable to infection.
In the International Marxist Tendency we support:
- All working mothers granted free days to stop work until they pass this crisis without affecting pay and benefits.
- Universal health insurance for all workers who have no social security and for all the unemployed.
- Compensation to families affected by the infection in Perote and in places where there are cases of government negligence.
- Nationalization under workers' control of the pig and poultry industry, which under the control of the capitalists have put at risk public health.
- Free transport for children of workers.
Calderon and the capitalists alone are responsible for the current health crisis! Down with the government of Calderon!
April 29, 2009