Americas

Venezuela has entered another week under preventive social quarantine, following the government’s announcement on Friday 13 March that the country’s first cases of coronavirus had been detected. A terrible burden is being borne by the working-class and poor, who were already facing a dire economic crisis before the sanction-strangled healthcare system faced the prospect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus has arrived in the immense favelas of Rio de Janeiro. The number of cases of contaminated slum dwellers is difficult to know, because counting and recording have been done based on the officially recognized neighbourhoods, which do not cover the slums.

13 March marked the anniversary of an insurrection by a small party in 1979 – with the popular support of the masses – who ousted a dictator and attempted to throw off the shackles of imperialism. This insurrection was carried out by a party known as the New Jewel Movement (NJM), self-described “Marxist-Leninists”, who set about making a series of positive gains in a country suffering from a legacy of imperialism and slavery. Democratic structures, measures to liberate women, improved healthcare and education earned popular support for the revolutionary party in the early stages of the revolution – an inspiring episode in the history of the Caribbean.

The following open letter was issued by workers of the Hotel Transamérica chain in Brazil, who are putting out a series of demands to ensure their safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio’s treatment of the NYC Public Schools is an indictment of capitalism’s prioritization of profits over the wellbeing and safety of its youth and workers.

In order to understand what is to come it is necessary to understand what came before. In January and February 2020 the Fightback editorial board drafted the following perspectives document. This piece outlined the general processes in Canadian politics and economy in order to orient the activity of revolutionaries. Most notably it detailed the coming economic crash that would impact Canada especially hard. We said that all this crash needed was a spark to set it off, but we didn’t know what that spark would be or exactly when it would strike. Now we know that the spark was the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the end of 2019, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) announced a drop in unemployment from 12.3 percent in 2018 to 11.9 percent in 2019, that is, a 0.4 percent reduction. This change is not only insignificant, it’s also distorted: over the same period the number of discouraged workers, who gave up looking for work, increased by 1.4 percent. Informal workers – those without any kind of contract or self-employed – increased significantly, reaching a record number of 41 percent of workers who have some occupation. In practice, this means that unemployment has not decreased. On the contrary, it has led to discouragement or dragged workers into a precarious work

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Workers from the Alimentos Salva Foods Company – located in the port of La Guaira – which packages food products coming from abroad that are later distributed by the Local Committees of Supply and Production (CLAP), have sent an denunciation to the editorial board of Lucha de Clases about the unsafe and unhealthy conditions in which they have been forced to work.

This statement by the El Salvadorian comrades of Bloque Popular Juvenil criticises the limited measures taken by the government to fight the coronavirus, particularly those that undermine democratic rights. Non-essential production must be halted, health services adequately supported, and the population protected. Make the bosses pay!

"We are facing one of the greatest challenges in our history," said Iván Duque on Sunday, 15 March referring to the health alarm the country is facing due to the increase in cases of people infected with the COVID-19 virus. The disease, already declared as a pandemic by the WHO, has crossed the ocean and surpassed our borders to settle in Colombian lands.

This article was originally published on 14 March. The situation in Brazil has developed since, and more updates will be forthcoming, but it shows how the Bolsonaro government’s first move was to protect profits and continue attacks on the working class rather than protect public health.

The Trade Union Block of the Social Unity in Chile has demanded that the government introduces an immediate preventative quarantine to fight the spread of Covid-19, otherwise, it will call a “humanitarian general strike” in order to shut down all economic activity “which is not essential for the maintenance of health and life”. Meanwhile the hated Piñera government is attempting to use the health emergency to put an end to the five month old uprising.

The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged American society into panic and dismay. All fifty US states and Washington, DC have now confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, and the death toll is rising by the hour, after surpassing 150 deaths on March 18. Public health officials worry the US has reached a tipping point and may fast approach the situation seen in Italy, where hospitals are overwhelmed and the entire country is locked down. Dr. Carlos Del Rio, a professor at Atlanta’s Emory University School of Medicine, recently told CNN: “I’m really worried about … having the worst possible combination: too many patients; too (few) doctors, nurses … to take care of them.”