Celebrations in Plaza Dignidad: Thousands celebrate the referendum result in Chile

In a landslide victory, the people of Chile have decided to rewrite the Pinochet-era constitution.

From https://progressive.international/wire/2020-10-26-celebrations-in-plaza-dignidad-thousands-celebrate-the-referendum-result-in-chile/en and elciudadano.com

There is a joyful atmosphere at the Plaza Dignidad as thousands gather to celebrate the results of the referendum, with the word renace (“reborn”) projected onto the Telefónica Tower.

In addition to the fireworks and celebratory atmosphere, the word renace (“reborn”) was projected onto the Telefónica Tower in a clear reference to the Chilean people’s decision to write a new Constitution to replace that of 1980, inherited from the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

A poster was also hung, reading: Plaza de la Dignidad, no olvidamos, 1973 (“Plaza de la Dignidad, we haven’t forgotten, 1973), in reference to the year of the coup d’état that overthrew Salvador Allende and to the new name the square was given in the midst of the social explosion that began in October 2019.

A sea of citizens defied the heavy police siege by banging on pots and waving flags to celebrate in the emblematic square in the capital which has become a symbol of the struggle for a dignified country.

During the celebration, thousands of voices in unison chanted the mythical Chile despertó (“Chile has awoken”) and El pueblo unido jamás será vencido (The people united will never be defeated), which have become the slogans of the popular revolt.

Atenea Ramírez, 68, who came to Plaza Dignidad tonight told Agencia Efe: “This is where the most political call of all came from: let dignity become a habit. What we are experiencing today is thanks to the young people, and that is why we have come to celebrate.”

Carlos Fuentealba, 54, said: “I am here to celebrate the triumph of the people, who, for the first, time will be able to write a democratic constitution by exercising their sovereignty. This is the beginning of a new Chile where social rights are respected.”

Before the results were known, the carabineros (Chilean police) had tried to disperse a group trying to hang a flag, but when the uniformed police approached them, they were repelled by the demonstrators.

Although the police responded with water cannons and zorillos (police vehicles that shoot tear gas, also referred to as skunks), they were unable to disperse the growing demonstration.

Editorial 10/27/2020

Lisa Savage is an Independent Green candidate for U.S. Senate.

“In a U.S. Senate campaign with unprecedented spending by millionaire candidates and their wealthy sponsors, health care has been a hot topic. The Oct. 15 debate sponsored by Maine Public featured a lengthy exchange between the two corporate-party candidates criticizing each other for both health policies and fibs told about the other candidate’s actions on health policy.

It was a typically absurd discussion about health care that didn’t use the word or even mention the concept of “profit.” Researchers estimate that between 15 percent and 30 percent of health care costs in the United States are accounted for by the profit margin.

With a COVID-19 pandemic still raging across the U.S., voters everywhere cite “health care” as among their top concerns. As one of the few rich countries that lacks a system for universal health care, our economy continues to be pummeled by the recession brought on by pandemic-related shut downs. So Maine voters reply “jobs” and “the economy” along with health care when asked what issues are most important to them.

How are health care, jobs and the economy related?

Nearly 1 in 7 Maine workers lost their job when the pandemic hit, and many of them lost their health insurance at the same time.

Thousands in Maine lack health care coverage under the so-called Affordable Care Act because even if they have health insurance, they often can’t afford to use it. The premiums, deductibles, copays and prescription drug prices are out of reach for working class people.

When it came my turn at the debate to talk about health care, I said, “We’re looking at two parties that both accept money from health insurers, the people who have put profit into health care … and made it into a commodity rather than a human right.”

The majority of people in Maine want Medicare for All. The majority of people in the United States want Medicare for All.

Quite simply, people want real health care. They don’t want insurance. They want health care that they can afford to use and that they can count on when someone in their family becomes seriously ill so that they do not lose their home or lose their life savings because of an illness.

I am often asked the very good question about Medicare for All: “But how will we pay for it?” The surprising answer: We’re already paying the cost of national health care — we’re just not providing it.

Physicians for a National Health Care Program compiled data for 2018 on per capita spending for health care in Europe, Canada and Japan. At $7,273 spent by the government per person, the U.S. was tied with Switzerland at the top of the chart. But in the U.S. an additional $3,847 was spent by private individuals. So total per person spending was a whopping $11,120, pre-pandemic.

Sadly, this enormous price tag doesn’t even buy the best health outcomes. On measures like infant mortality and maternal mortality we rank far below the top performing countries — countries who spend less per person on health care, often dramatically less. Also, sadly, most people whose medical bills cause them to file for bankruptcy had health insurance when they incurred those bills.

One word explains this high-priced, low-performing health care system: profit.

In the midst of a public health crisis, the time has never been better for the U.S. to join the rest of the world in getting the profit motive out of health care. Voters who agree with me about the urgent need for Medicare for All should rank me first on their ballots to send a message to the big money interests that rule Washington, D.C.”

Labor Voices: Union Members in Berkshires Vow to Strike if Trump Interferes with Election Outcome by Larry Parnass

Women rivet heaters and passers at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, May 29, 1919. Photo: Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Museum.

From https://portside.org/2020-10-24/union-members-berkshires-vow-strike-if-trump-interferes-election-outcome

PITTSFIELD, MA — A labor group with members in Berkshire County is pledging to take nonviolent action to defend the democratic process, “if Donald Trump and his GOP enablers attempt to obstruct, subvert, sabotage, overturn or reject a fair and complete count of presidential ballots.”

In a unanimous vote Monday, the Western Massachusetts Labor Federation approved a resolution calling for a general strike, should it be necessary. Lydia Wood, a field organizer for the federation, said in an interview Tuesday that while details are being worked out, members of 30 unions are prepared to use a general strike to protest any effort by the current administration to hold on to power despite evidence that his rival, Joe Biden, has won the presidential election.

“We consider that the most powerful tool the movement has,” she told The Eagle. Wood said that the federation’s members will meet during the week of the Nov. 3 election to decide how to proceed.

“It’s not about conservatives or liberals,” Wood said. “It’s more about defending our democratic process.”

Similar votes have been taken by groups associated with the AFL-CIO, the national labor group. The AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka, has called for action in support of a peaceful transition of power, should Trump lose his bid for reelection. The AFL-CIO has endorsed Joe Biden.

“America’s workers will continue to be steadfast in defense of our democracy in the face of President Trump’s antics, and we stand ready to do our part to ensure his defeat in this election, followed by his removal from office,” he said in a statement provided by the local federation.

The group’s president, Jeff Jones, said the resolution serves to put members on notice that they might be called upon to defend democracy.

“This resolution aims to get us thinking about how we as a labor movement intend to respond in the case of an attempted coup,” he said in a statement.

Wood said that in the Berkshires and Western Massachusetts, the federation represents workers at Berkshire Community College and with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and with SEIU Local 509, among others.

The resolution notes that Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have declined to say publicly that they will respect the outcome of the election, whatever it is.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Rochester AFL-CIO Calls for General Strike if Trump Steals Election, by Mike Elk at Portside

Rochester AFL-CIO President Dan Maloney leading a picket line as president of UAW Local 1097 during the GM strike in September of 2019 (Zach D. Roberts)

From: https://portside.org/2020-10-21/rochester-afl-cio-calls-general-strike-if-trump-steals-election

This week, the 70,000 member Rochester AFL-CIO Labor Council became the first regional AFL-CIO body in the United States to call for a General Strike if Trump does not respect the outcome of this year’s election. 

“Therefore, now be it resolved that the Rochester Labor Council, AFL-CIO, stands firmly in opposition to any effort to subvert, distort, misrepresent or disregard the final outcome of the 2020 Presidential elections,” read the resolution passed by the 70,000-member strong Rochester Labor Council this week. 

Rochester AFL-CIO President Dan Maloney, who in the fall of 2019 helped lead a 6-week-long strike at GM in Rochester, said the Council hoped the resolution would spark a national conversation. 

“We hope to encourage other labor groups and get the discussion started now about possible action strategies if Trump and his supporters do not follow the Constitutional transfer of power,” said Maloney. “The voice and vote of ‘We the People’ must be respected.”

The call for a General Strike comes at a time when high strike activity levels, a result of the pandemic and the growing energy of the Black Lives Matter movement, have not been seen since the end of World War II. According to Payday Report’s Strike Tracker, there have been at least 1,160 strikes since March 1 of this year. 

The National AFL-CIO did not respond to requests for comments if they plan to strike if Trump doesn’t respect election results. However, in Rochester, workers say they are beginning to prepare a strike that would help push Trump from power. A General Strike could hurt the bottom line of many large corporations, putting corporate pressure on Trump to leave office. 

“The extreme risk currently posed to the historic institutions of democracy in our nation may require more widespread and vigorous resistance than at any time in recent history,” said the Rochester Labor Council in a statement. “The most powerful tool of the Labor Movement in our history has been the power of the General Strike.”

Normal is gone—where do we go from here? by Grace from MR Online

From https://mronline.org/2020/10/16/normal-is-gone-where-do-we-go-from-here/

Posted Oct 16, 2020 by Grace

It is Sunday, August 30, 2020, 1:57 a.m. I am sitting in my dorm room, knowing I will have to start training myself to wake up for my 8:30 a.m. class on Monday, yet completely restless. I reflect on the state of our country, the state of our world. There are people still in the streets chanting “Black Lives Matter!” on deaf ears, the deaf ears of this country that so desperately wants a return to what life was like eight months ago. Amid the various crises the United States is currently facing, from the rising cases of COVID-19 and the subsequent economic downturn to the tragic death of beloved Marvel star Chadwick Boseman, it seems the whole nation craves a moment of peace or a return to “normalcy.”

But what exactly is a return to “normalcy”?

“Normal” itself is subjective. This new fervor of protestors in the streets, this new push toward violence and destruction of private property is out of the ordinary to you. But all that Black people have known their entire lives is violence. That is their normal. You complain about the looting of Targets, the stealing of property from a multibillion-dollar company. But all Indigenous people, in the Americas and in the Global South, have known is the “looting” of their property and land, watching as all they have is taken by force. That is their normal.

You wish to elect Joe Biden, as in your mind, disposing of the “cheeto in the White House” will mysteriously solve all our problems and bring back the peace and quiet. If not that, you see it as the crucial first step that must be taken before any other change may occur. Perhaps you even put a little “BLM” as a decorative ornament in your social media bios or link Change.org petitions under your posts, hoping these quick and easy demonstrations of performative activism bring back the easy, quiet life.

What you do not understand, though, is that this movement, this passion, this ardor, this energy, is so much bigger and so much more powerful than the casting of a ballot or the signing of a petition. What you do not understand is that it matters not who sits in the Oval Office, that casting a vote means nothing more than choosing which color, Red or Blue, you prefer to carry out this oppression for the next four years. Biden will not stop the violence, not for the Black and Brown victims of U.S. imperialism and colonialism, domestic or abroad.

What you must understand is that your call for “normalcy” is a call for the deaths of millions of Americans due to hunger, homelessness, lack of health care, and various other conditions the working class of capitalist countries face. What you must understand is that your call for “normalcy” is a green light for the United States and other Western nations to invade and murder civilians in the Middle East in the name of imperialism and global capitalism. What you must understand is that your call for “normalcy” is a call for the continued exploitation and ruthless slaughter of Black and Brown people, as long as you can turn on the TV and open your window without having to hear the words “Black Lives Matter,” as long as you can drive around town without having to navigate the roadblocks and protestors, or as long as you can visit your favorite shops in the city without them being boarded up.

What you must understand is that your normal is gone—and it is not coming back.

This virus has uncovered the inefficacy of the U.S. government, both in shutting down the country too late and reopening it too early, through the continuously rising numbers of cases while most other countries have it under control. We stand at nearly 5.9 million cases as I write this, comprising nearly 25 percent of the 25 million world total, while only making up 4 percent of the world population.1 In addition, it has demonstrated the inefficiency of the U.S. for-profit health care system, slow to provide both affordable testing services to Americans and proper medical supplies and equipment to doctors and nurses.

The simultaneous emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement has laid bare the problems inherent in the nation’s “justice” system, purposely built to perpetuate in justice and racism. The decades of violence the prejudiced institution of the police has inflicted on the Black community is garnering more attention than it ever has before, an attention that is quickly transformed into anger and revolutionary energy and resulting in the declarations of “ACAB” [“All Cops Are Bastards”] or “1312” making their ways into many Americans’ mouths. The realization that the police evolved out of the slave patrol, that it, from its very roots, is compromised, has brought forth calls for total abolition in place of the lukewarm reformism that prior movements have pushed.

This is our new normal. Both these crises are results of state violence against marginalized groups and have exposed how overwhelmingly Black and Indigenous people are harmed. The peace that you held prior, the peace that lay in blissful ignorance will never return. It is easy to be lost, confused, and to wonder what to do.

So, where do we go from here?

First comes the recognition that there is something terribly wrong. This realization must occur before any other step is taken, for why would you work to fix a system you do not believe is broken? This comes with the understanding that essentially every socioeconomic injustice and inequity, from women’s rights to poverty to LGBTQ+ issues to racism to the environment, can be traced back to Western, or more specifically U.S., imperialism and capitalism. Clearly, this applies to the rampant violence within the “justice” system, but perhaps, in a more hidden manner, it also applies to the United States’s mismanagement of the COVID crisis in the prioritization of profit over people. The same injustices occur today under Democratic and Republican mayors, and the same will occur under the leadership of Biden or Donald Trump.

This also means coming to the realization that Trump is not the problem that has plagued our country, but rather that he and Biden are on the same side, mere symptoms of the U.S. decline into fascism. A vote for the ineffectual, controlled opposition candidate that is marginally better than Trump, the supposed “lesser of two evils” will bring nothing but a cycle of right-wing demagogue and “marginally better” pairs, each moving further and further to the right until we fall into fascism.

It means ridding yourself of the illusion that once Biden is in office, change will be able to take place. When Trump is gone, would you continue to listen, pay attention, and march? Would you hold Biden, the new imperialist/war criminal-in-chief, accountable, like you say? (This is an impossible task, for the office of the presidency is oppressive in nature). Or would you be at brunch? To recognize there is something wrong with this system is also to recognize change must occur outside of the system entirely, for, as Audre Lorde said, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” You must realize that in the past, voting has done little to nothing for colonized Black and Brown people, in the United States and even less across the world in the Global South. You must realize that going forward, electoralism will bring us nothing and continued faith in it not only perpetuates but also enables our deeply broken system.

At this stage, there may not be a clear solution in your head to this now identified systemic issue of global capitalism. That is alright, this comes through the next step: reading. You must read and learn. As long as you have access, many works are available free online in the form of downloadable PDFs. Read Black revolutionaries and abolitionists like Angela Davis, Frantz Fanon, Kwame Nkrumah, Walter Rodney, Aimé Césaire, and more. Read the works of anti-capitalist philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Read the works of revolutionary anti-imperialist leaders such as V. I. Lenin, Mao Tsetung, and Che Guevara. Reading theory not only helps organize your thoughts through different frameworks, it helps you understand how your frustrations have been previously expressed by historical revolutionary leaders. Moreover, theory provides you the answers to your questions and the knowledge that there is only one antidote to the plague of capitalism and its decline into fascism: a wholly different society that puts people over profits.

Socialism or communism are the singular solutions to capitalism, and can only be implemented through two crucial transformations. First, the transformation of the self: radicalization. This is not a quick and easy process that happens overnight, it is the absorption of the ideas you read in theory slowly becoming part of you. It is transitioning into being hypercritical of everything you read, watch, or otherwise consume; it is the realization that all media in fact puts forward a position and that bias is inherent everywhere. It is the distrusting of every facet of the U.S. and Western imperial machine, from the government to the education system. It is the acceptance that you will never know peace again, because peace is a privilege for you. Peace in the United States translates to bloodshed, violence, oppression, and terror abroad.

I recall sitting at this very desk yesterday, preparing for my first course on Monday entitled “China Under Communism” by working on the assigned reading. As I read the introduction, the author launches into a brief history of China spanning the last three hundred years or so, beginning with the imperial, dynastic era. The author describes this as the “glorious era” where China was able to greatly increase their wealth and size. He goes on to tell of the “failures” China suffered under Mao such as the Great Leap Forward and the subsequent “rise” after Deng Xiaoping’s dissolution of the communes and implementation of market capitalist policies.

Just in the telling of the “history” of China, it is apparent just how deeply entrenched anti-communist sentiments lie in the West and how easy it is to incorporate propaganda into academia. Radicalization comes with the ability to recognize this sort of misinformation and to combat it, as well as to recognize the liberal capitalist bias in the education system as a whole. This author introduces his book saying it is a new and novel take on the history of China, one that focuses on institutions rather than ideologies or rulers. But this distinction is hardly relevant to the way he presents the history. In reality, his interpretation is the same as those the West has produced over the past few decades; just like the rest, it is an analysis from an imperialist and capitalist point of view.

Self-transformation or radicalization consists of unlearning all the lies we are fed from our childhoods and replacing them with truths. I criticized electoralism, but did not necessarily offer an alternative to active participation. The idea that the casting of a ballot is somehow activism is reflective of how deeply electoral politics has been shoved down our throats; we are taught that a vote is the sole way in which we can use our voices. But voting is not your voice.

“So, what is my voice?” you may ask. The second type of transformation is community transformation. Once you have been radicalized, once you have transformed yourself to a certain extent (for self-transformation is never fully complete, we are all always learning), you are ready to begin your practice of enacting the theories you have learned within your community. This leaves us with several answers to the question, “what is my voice?”

As long as you are able to speak, your voice is your voice. You have the opportunity to speak up for those ostracized people who have had their voices stolen from them. You must combat liberalism, complacency and the tendency to “let things drift” if they do not personally concern you; you must take advantage of the constant opportunities to correct misinformation and misdirection. Whether you hear deliberate anti-communist propaganda on the news or hear your friends echoing this unwittingly, call it out. At the dinner table, when your parents spend forty-five minutes discussing election news, redirect the conversation, slowly explain and help them understand how broken the electoral process is, day after day adding more and more information and recommending reading until they start to realize the system itself is futile. Use your voice as your voice.

As long as you are able to walk, your legs are your voice. Go into the streets, protest, march. Walk in solidarity with those that are being murdered by the state. Walk in remembrance of those that have been murdered by the state. Scream at the top of your lungs, straight into the ears of the police officers. If you are not Black, stand as a human shield between the Black protestors and the cops. Use your legs as your voice.

As long as you are able to use them, your arms are your voice. Help your disabled neighbors carry their groceries into their house. Make sandwiches, drive around the city, and hand them out to the homeless population. When it gets cold, bring some soup and hand it out to them along with some extra coats. Open the door to your house to them, invite them in for a warm, home-cooked meal sometimes. If you see police violence happening before your eyes, do not walk idly by. Use your arms as your voice.

As long as you have a dollar in your pocket, your wallet is your voice. Buy a meal for a homeless person or a struggling friend. Donate to mutual aid funds and crowdfunded medical expenses. At this moment in time, Black, transgender women are at the most danger in society. Help them pay for their surgeries. Help them escape their abusive and unreceptive family or living situation. Help them pay their rent. Donate to Cashapps and Paypals of those being evicted or those bankrupt by their medical expenses. Use your wallet as your voice.

Through all these methods of community transformation, through all these uses of your voice, they show your heart. Your own self-transformation, or radicalization, is manifested in your actions plainly and clearly. Your heart is seen to be one that loves, takes care of, and actively works to uplift its community. You show yourself to understand that we all have the mutual responsibility to care for one another, especially in such an unpredictable time. You become an example that begins to demolish the capitalist mindset of individualism in your community and instills the new idea of collective responsibility, one that will begin to spread into communities, with or without the explicit recognition of doing so.

That is where we go from here.

Your parents at the dinner table laugh and say revolution will not happen in two and a half months. You respond saying perhaps they are right—revolution may not occur in the next two and a half months. But, as Che Guevara said, “the revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.” You explain that we cannot simply wait around to take up arms when the time for a revolution comes—it will never come that way. A revolution first develops through the revolution of the mind, through these aforementioned transformations of self and of community, eventually leading to the transformation of society from slaves of capitalism to a group of liberated souls, ready to fight against the oppressive bourgeoisie.

I think of the time eighty years ago, at the height of the Great Depression, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president of the United States. The growing frustration with the status quo in the United States at this point in time, the one that exacerbated and worsened the economic crisis, culminated in the election of Roosevelt, the most left-wing president the country has seen (a problem in and of itself). He came to power by appealing to the masses of exhausted working-class people and populists, portraying himself as an ally of the struggling population in the United States, effectively quelling third-party opposition from the left, such as the Socialist and Communist Parties, by acting as the “unifying” candidate.

As president, Roosevelt continued to connect with Americans on a personal level, giving regular “fireside chats” and gaining the trust of the population as a fearless leader who would bring them out of the depression. With the angry communists and socialists behind him, he approached the bourgeois class, the bankers and the CEOs, and struck the New Deal, a deal in which the capitalist system they created would be left intact, provided they pay a bit more in taxes. The ruling class and elites complied, knowing that if they did not, the alternative was total destruction of their apparatuses of control by the communists. Essentially, Roosevelt saved capitalism. To this day, the strongest welfare state the United States has ever had, and the highest taxes the wealthy have ever paid, were under Roosevelt. All subsequent presidents have made all their best efforts to roll back the progress he made, leaving us where we are today, with the worst wealth inequality this country has ever seen.

Today, there is a man named Bernie Sanders, recently emerging prominent in U.S. politics, whom many see as the reincarnation or second coming of Roosevelt. In the eighty years since Roosevelt’s presidency, the United States has experienced another huge market crash, along with a plethora of other smaller ones every few years. Capitalism is crumbling before our eyes. But, for the second time this year (the first in 2016), the bourgeoisie has declared that it is uninterested in the prospect of striking another New Deal under Sanders in order to save it.

Well, that is okay—neither are we.

We are uninterested in another temporary solution that fails to consider what got us here in the first place and will last a few decades, just to leave us in a situation worse than where we started. We are no longer interested in this capitalist compromise, one that compromises millions of lives of colonized peoples abroad to fund the weaving of a welfare state mask to cover the destructive U.S. imperial war machine underneath. We want the complete and total destruction of the bureaucratic state, we want the seizing of the means of production from the capitalist class, and we will stop at nothing short. This is where we are headed, this is what we march and protest and scream and fight for. Will you come with us?


  1. CDC COVID Data Tracker,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed August 31, 2020; “Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak,” New York Times, January 28, 2020.

Medical Doctors Seek Social and Political Solutions for COVID 19 Crisis, W. T. Whitney Jr.

By W. T. Whitney Jr.

It didn’t seem to fit. The website of the Colombian Communist Party on October 5 published an article in which author Félix León Martínez MD recharacterizes a disease. Martínez quotes extensively from an editorial appearing in the famous British medical journal Lancet. There, editor Richard Horton MD claims that COVID 19 is a “syndemic” rather than a disease. 

A disease manifests signs and symptoms. Usually causation and treatment of a disease are familiar. COVID 19 has signs and symptoms too, but Martínez and Horton say that as a syndemic, COVID 19 has causes and treatment methods that are still unknown. In his article, Martínez draws from Horton’s editorial to study the COVID 19 situation in Colombia. The present report aspires to do likewise in regard to the United States. We explore how the insights of both authors apply to managing the disease.   

Martínez, who is an academic investigator specializing in social protection and public health, maintains that “the [COVID 19] pandemic, although in principle a phenomenon of biological origin, affects each nation differently, according to the political, economic and social organization it has established.” His article’s title is “From Pandemic to Syndemic: Poor Prognosis.”  

(Singer et. al, “Syndemics and the Biosocial Conception of Health”, 2017)

Horton, as quoted by Martínez, states that, “We have viewed the cause of this crisis as an infectious disease … But … the story of COVID-19 is not so simple. Two categories of disease are interacting within specific populations—infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and an array of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). These conditions are clustering within social groups according to patterns of inequality deeply embedded in our societies. The aggregation of these diseases on a background of social and economic disparity exacerbates the adverse effects of each separate disease.”

As described by Horton, “Syndemics are characterized by biological and social interactions between conditions and states, interactions that increase a person’s susceptibility to harm or worsen their health outcomes … The hallmark of a syndemic is the presence of two or more pathological states that interact adversely with each other, adversely affecting the mutual course of each disease trajectory.” COVID-19, is more than a pandemic.

Horton observes that, “For the world’s poorest billion people today, Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) account for more than one-third of their disease burden.” And, “The most important consequence of seeing COVID-19 as a syndemic is to highlight its social origins. The vulnerability of older citizens, black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, and key workers, who are commonly underpaid and have fewer social protections, points to a hitherto barely recognized truth, namely that no matter how effective a treatment or protective vaccine is, the search for a purely biomedical solution to COVID-19 will fail.”

In his article Martínez highlights Colombia’s extreme economic inequalities. For example, 10% of landholders own 82% of the productive land, and soon “three of every five persons in Colombia will be living in a state of precariousness or poverty,” and “24% of the vulnerable middle class will fall again into poverty.”  

He notes that even before COVID 19 appeared in Colombia, mortality was increasing from heart attacks, cerebrovascular illnesses, and hypertension – the three major causes of death – and from diabetes. And these conditions, plus obesity, had become more frequent. Too many Colombians were finding healthcare to be inaccessible and/or of poor quality. Martínez points out that on being infected with COVID 19, the chronically ill are highly susceptible to terrible sickness and even death.

At this writing, nearly 29,000 Colombians have died from COVID 19, The case fatality rate is 3.1%, the 10th highest in the world. Martínez cites a recent poll indicating that 16% of people in Bogota lack food and that 65% of households there include at least one person who is unemployed due to COVID 19.

Similarly in the United States, societal dynamics determine the likelihood of dying from COVID 19.  According to the CDC, Blacks, Indians, and Latinxs face at least 2.6 times the risk of being infected by COVID 19 as do white people. And COVID 19 death rates for Indians and Blacks are 1.4% and 2.1% greater, respectively, than the rate for white people.

But according to epidemiologist Sharrelle Barber, writing in the Lancet, “Blacks comprise 13% of the US population but roughly one quarter of COVID-19 deaths and are nearly four times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to whites … Blacks across all age groups are nearly three times more likely than white people to contract COVID-19.”

Prior to the arrival of the virus, Black people and Latinxs were already more likely than whites to die from cancer, diabetes, hypertension, chronic respiratory disease, and other noncommunicable diseases. Their life expectancy at age 50 is significantly reduced, compared to U.S. whites.  As with Colombians, their burden of chronic ill health becomes dangerous on being infected with COVID 19. Multiple studies highlight the racial discrimination and racist attitudes that often limit their access to healthcare or the quality of care they receive.

The average African American family income in 2018 was $41,361; for white families, $70,642. The poverty rate for African Americans that year was 20.8%, more than twice that of whites. Indeed, poverty alone predisposes Blacks and Latinxs to serious illness or death from COVID 19. Low income often translates into lack of insurance or inability to pay; African-Americans may have no regular healthcare provider. Their work and housing situations frequently allow for easy exposure to the virus. Nevertheless, effects of low income and racism often merge, and are not easily separated for study.

Ideally, healthcare practice is collaborative. Physicians regularly seek help from colleagues knowledgeable about unusual medical conditions or skilled in special treatment methods. They seek consultation. Editor Richard Horton was advising infectious disease specialists themselves to seek consultation as they deal with COVID 19. Specifically: “Limiting the harm caused by SARS-CoV-2 will demand far greater attention to NCDs and socioeconomic inequality than has hitherto been admitted [and] Unless governments design policies and programs to reverse the deep disparities, our societies will never be truly safe from COVID-19.”

Both Horton and Martínez were inviting political practitioners – politicians and the people’s movement – to participate in fashioning all-encompassing programs of prevention and treatment. Also, in publishing Martínez’s article, the editors of the Colombian Communist Party website were, in effect, calling upon healthcare workers to attend to a sick society and, doing so, know who their consultants would be. These would include Communists and socialists who have advanced skills in this area.

Socialists win big in Bolivia; Morales expected to return from exile by W. T. Whitney Jr.

Luis Arce, center, Bolivian presidential candidate for the Movement Towards Socialism Party, MAS, and running mate David Choquehuanca, second right, celebrate during a press conference where they claim victory after general elections in La Paz, Bolivia, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. Early results indicate Bolivian voters massively rejected the right-wing policies of the government that took power after former President Evo Morales was overthrown in a coup last year.| Juan Karita / AP

Luis Arce and David Choquehuanca, presidential and vice-presidential candidates, respectively, for Bolivia’s Movement Toward Socialism Party (MAS), scored an overwhelming first-round election victory on Oct. 18. They won 53% of the vote, showing strength in cities and rural areas alike. MAS was formerly headed by deposed President Evo Morales.

The Supreme Election Tribunal certified the voting results based on exit polls. Right-wing presidential candidate Carlos Mesa, president of Bolivia from 2003 to 2005, garnered only 31.2% of the vote. Right-wing nationalist Luis Fernando Camacho accounted for another 14.1% of the total. Some 7.3 million Bolivians cast ballots.

An Indigenous supporter of presidential candidate Luis Arce stands outside the headquarters of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party one day after elections in La Paz, Bolivia, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. | Martin Mejia / AP

From Buenos Aires, where he lives in exile, former President Morales proclaimed, “We have recovered democracy.” MAS gained control of both houses of parliament. At a Monday morning press conference, Morales said the ending of his exile was imminent. “Sooner or later we are going to return to Bolivia, that is not in debate.”

Morales, in power from 2006 until being overthrown in 2019, was Bolivia’s first Indigenous president. On his watch, Bolivia’s poor and mostly Indigenous majority secured rights and economic gains. Nationalization of oil and natural gas production turned into a revenue bonanza for social programs. Bolivia’s government was put on a secure financial footing. Morales gained worldwide attention for espousing Indigenous rights and for bringing attention to the global environmental crisis.

A military coup backed by the United States and the Organization of American States brought down Morales’s government on Nov. 10, 2019. In the process, Luis Fernando Camacho, a lead plotter and a recent presidential candidate, displayed fascist-like ideology and own brand of Protestant fundamentalism. Jeanine Añez, the coup government’s interim president, did not run in the recently completed elections.

Late on election day, the Supreme Election Tribunal and government officials for several hours delayed the release of early election results. A spokesperson for MAS  leveled the accusation that they sought a period of uncertainty that “might yield a climate of violence leading to the elections being nullified.”

Following the coup of 2019, the government of Añez canceled presidential elections set for May and for September. Her pretext was danger from COVID-19; though many viewed it as an effort to stall a bad outcome for the right wing. An observer suggested the delays actually gave time to Bolivians, allowing them to experience “[White] supremacist, racist, fascist-like politics [and] to make comparisons with what had been a revolutionary process that over 14 years changed the face and whole nature of this Bolivia.”

Indeed, unemployment moved from 3.9% in mid-2019 to 11.8% a year later; poverty increased markedly in 2020, and the rate of economic growth fell almost 6%.

Luis Arce served as economics minister under Morales from 2006 until the November 2019 coup. He arranged for nationalization of hydrocarbon extraction and the financing of social programs. He was chiefly responsible for Bolivia achieving the highest rate of GDP growth for Latin America and accumulating great amounts of foreign cash reserves.

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales speaks at a press conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, after general elections in his home country, Monday, Oct. 19. 2020. | Marcos Brindicci / AP

Arce has proposed new taxation on Bolivia’s very wealthy. He recently claimed that MAS was “the only political party that guarantees that natural resources, including lithium, will not be privatized and handed over to transnationals.”

Many technology companies, including those that manufacture batteries for electric cars and mobile phones, have an interest in controlling the country’s lithium reserves, believed to be among the world’s largest.

Bolivia’s incoming vice president, David Choquehuanca, whose heritage is Indigenous and who is experienced in union organizing among rural workers, served as President Morales’s foreign minister from 2006 until January 2017.

Bolivian journalist and educator Mario Rodríguez saluted, “a victory in enemy territory, in a conservative enclave where the most fascist politics that can be are concentrated. [It’s] … a triumph over money, media power, and the dominant powers.”

In his own remarks, Luis Arce said nothing about inevitable speculation among democratic forces worldwide that his victory might strengthen resistance against recently installed neoliberal, U.S.–aligned governments in Latin America.

“We are recovering hope,” he declared, plus “the certainty that small, medium-sized, and big businesses will benefit, as will the public sectors and Bolivian families. I will govern for all Bolivians and, above all, with work to revamp efforts at achieving economic stability for the country.”

W. T. Whitney Jr.
W.T. Whitney Jr. grew up on a dairy farm in Vermont and now lives in rural Maine. He practiced and taught pediatrics for 35 years and long ago joined the Cuba solidarity movement, working with Let Cuba Live of Maine, Pastors for Peace, and the Venceremos Brigade. He writes on Latin America and health issues for the People’s World.