The mass panic which has gripped Britain and the rest of the world arisinf from the ‘Swine Flu’ outbreak has occupied the media for nearly a fortnight now. Schools have been shut and people are being urged to wash their hands like crazy. However those who have contracted the flu have described the symtoms as being like a ‘bad cold’ and all seem to be recovering OK. Yet in Mexico – where the flu outbreak evidently started – many have died. Why is this? Marxist.com ‘s Mexican correspondent has sent this report on who is really to blame.
By Nahum Monroy in Mexico
Wednesday, 06 May 2009
Epidemics and natural disasters occur throughout the world and to
some extent are unpredictable. Yet, prevention strategies and the
damping down 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 has no public use. Driven by ratings, the media has fed on the nervousness of the
population to gain a bigger audience. This has led to the repeated coverage
of this 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
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
The case of La Gloria, Veracruz, is an excellent example. It has
been determined that 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
- 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
To read more about what the Marxists say about Mexico click here