In a world of great disorder and extravagant lies, we look for compassion / by Vijay Prashad

Francisca Lita Sáez (Spain), An Unequal Fight, 2020.

Greetings from the desk of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.

These are deeply upsetting times. The COVID-19 global pandemic had the potential to bring people together, to strengthen global institutions such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), and to galvanise new faith in public action. Our vast social wealth could have been pledged to improve public health systems, including both the surveillance of outbreaks of illness and the development of medical systems to treat people during these outbreaks. Not so.

Studies by the WHO have shown us that health care spending by governments in poorer nations has been relatively flat during the pandemic, while out-of-pocket private expenditure on health care continues to rise. Since the pandemic was declared in March 2020, many governments have responded with exceptional budget allocations; however, across the board from richer to the poorer nations, the health sector received only ‘a fairly small portion’ while the bulk of the spending was used to bail out multinational corporations and banks and provide social relief for the population.

In 2020, the pandemic cost the global gross domestic product an estimated $4 trillion. Meanwhile, according to the WHO, the ‘needed funding … to ensure epidemic preparedness is estimated to be approximately U.S.$150 billion per year’. In other words, an annual expenditure of $150 billion could likely prevent the next pandemic along with its multi-trillion-dollar economic bill and incalculable suffering. But this kind of social investment is simply not in the cards these days. That’s part of what makes our times so upsetting.

S. H. Raza (India), Monsoon in Bombay, 1947–49.

On 5 May, the WHO released its findings on the excess deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the 24-month period of 2020 and 2021, the WHO estimated the pandemic’s death toll to be 14.9 million. A third of these deaths (4.7 million) are said to have been in India; this is ten times the official figure released by the Government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which has disputed the WHO’s figures. One would have thought that these staggering numbers–nearly 15 million dead globally in the two-year period–would be sufficient to strengthen the will to rebuild depleted public health systems. Not so.

According to a study on global health financing, development assistance for health (DAH) increased by 35.7 percent between 2019 and 2020. This amounts to $13.7 billion in DAH, far short of the projected $33 billion to $62 billion required to address the pandemic. In line with the global pattern, while DAH funding during the pandemic went towards COVID-19 projects, various key health sectors saw their funds decrease (malaria by 2.2 percent, HIV/AIDS by 3.4 percent, tuberculosis by 5.5 percent, reproductive and maternal health by 6.8 percent). The expenditure on COVID-19 also had some striking geographical disparities, with the Caribbean and Latin America receiving only 5.2 percent of DAH funding despite experiencing 28.7 percent of reported global COVID-19 deaths.

Sajitha R. Shankar (India), Alterbody, 2008.

While the Indian government is preoccupied with disputing the COVID-19 death toll with the WHO, the government of Kerala–led by the Left Democratic Front–has focused on using any and every means to enhance the public health sector. Kerala, with a population of almost 35 million, regularly leads in the country’s health indicators among India’s twenty-eight states. Kerala’s Left Democratic Front government has been able to handle the pandemic because of its robust public investment in health care facilities, the public action led by vibrant social movements that are connected to the government, and its policies of social inclusion that have minimised the hierarchies of caste and patriarchy that otherwise isolate social minorities from public institutions.

In 2016, when the Left Democratic Front took over state leadership, it began to enhance the depleted public health system. Mission Aardram (‘Compassion’), started in 2017, was intended to improve public health care, including emergency departments and trauma units, and draw more people away from the expensive private health sector to public systems. The government rooted Mission Aardram in the structures of local self-government so that the entire health care system could be decentralised and more closely attuned to the needs of communities. For example, the mission developed a close relationship with the various cooperatives, such as Kudumbashree, a 4.5-million-member women’s anti-poverty programme. Due to the revitalised public health care system, Kerala’s population has begun to turn away from the private sector in favour of these government facilities, whose use increased from 28 percent in the 1980s to 70 percent in 2021 as a result.

As part of Mission Aardram, the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala created Family Health Centres across the state. The government has now established Post-COVID Clinics at these centres to diagnose and treat people who are suffering from long-term COVID-19-related health problems. These clinics have been created despite little support from the central government in New Delhi. A number of Kerala’s public health and research institutes have provided breakthroughs in our understanding of communicable diseases and helped develop new medicines to treat them, including the Institute for Advanced Virology, the International Ayurveda Research Institute, and the research centres in biotechnology and pharmaceutical medicines at the Bio360 Life Sciences Park. All of this is precisely the agenda of compassion that gives us hope in the possibilities of a world that is not rooted in private profit but in social good.

Nguyễn tư Nghiêm (Vietnam), The Dance, 1968.

In November 2021, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research worked alongside twenty-six research institutes to develop A Plan to Save the Planet. The plan has many sections, each of which emerged out of deep study and analysis. One of the key sections is on health, with thirteen clear policy proposals:

If even half of these policy proposals were to be enacted, the world would be less dangerous and more compassionate. Take point no. 6 as a reference. During the early months of the pandemic, it became normal to talk about the need to support ‘essential workers’, including health care workers (our dossier from June 2020, Health Is a Political Choice, made the case for these workers). All those banged pots went silent soon thereafter and health care workers found themselves with low pay and poor working conditions. When these health care workers went on strike–from the United States to Kenya–that support simply did not materialise. If health care workers had a say in their own workplaces and in the formation of health policy, our societies would be less prone to repeated healthcare calamities.

1. Advance the cause of a people’s vaccine for COVID-19 and for future diseases.
2. Remove patent controls on essential medicines and facilitate the transfer of both medical science and technology to developing countries.
3. De-commodify, develop, and increase investment in robust public health systems.
4. Develop the public sector’s pharmaceutical production, particularly in developing countries.
5. Form a United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Health Threats.
6. Support and strengthen the role health workers’ unions play at the workplace and in the economy.
7. Ensure that people from underprivileged backgrounds and rural areas are trained as doctors.
8. Broaden medical solidarity, including through the World Health Organisation and health platforms associated with regional bodies.
9. Mobilise campaigns and actions that protect and expand reproductive and sexual rights.
10. Levy a health tax on large corporations that produce beverages and foods that are widely recognised by international health organisations to be harmful to children and to public health in general (such as those that lead to obesity or other chronic diseases).
11. Curb the promotional activities and advertising expenditures of pharmaceutical corporations.
12. Build a network of accessible, publicly funded diagnostic centres and strictly regulate the prescription and prices of diagnostic tests.
13. Provide psychological therapy as part of public health systems.

Roque Dalton

There’s an old Roque Dalton poem from 1968 about headaches and socialism that gives us a taste of what it will take to save the planet:

It is beautiful to be a communist,
even if it gives you many headaches.

The communists’ headache
is presumed to be historical; that is to say,
that it does not yield to painkillers,
but only to the realisation of paradise on earth.
That’s the way it is.

Under capitalism, we get a headache
and our heads are torn off.
In the revolution’s struggle, the head is a time-bomb.

In socialist construction,
we plan for the headache
which does not make it scarce, but quite the contrary.
Communism will be, among other things,
an aspirin the size of the sun.

Originally published: Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research on May 12, 2022

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than twenty books, including The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (The New Press, 2007), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso, 2013), The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016) and Red Star Over the Third World (LeftWord, 2017). He writes regularly for Frontline, the Hindu, Newsclick, AlterNet and BirGün.

MR Online, May 13, 2022,

Burkina Faso gives way to justice / by Julio Morejon Tartabull

Havana (Prensa Latina) Paraphrasing an African sentence, it could be affirmed that in Burkina Faso “no matter how high the grass grew, it failed to hide the truth”, regarding the assassination of President Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara in 1987.

Almost three and a half decades after the assassination of the president and a group of his close collaborators, the trial against the perpetrators of the crime – to which the Blaise Compaoré government vetoed any substantial reference – shows signs of interest in doing justice, although its full exercise is limited by the absence of two defendants.

The results of the trial opened in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, were at first convincing -according to the media- after learning that the three main defendants in the murder of Sankara (1949-1987) received life sentences, who was He calls him the African Che Guevara.

According to politicians and public opinion, this judicial decision put an end to impunity and improved the face of the new government led by Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who came to power through a coup in January 2022.

In the hearing that took place in a military court, Blaise Compaoré, president of Burkina Faso (1987-2014), and Hyacinthe Kafando, head of his security device, were sentenced in absentia to prison for life, while nine others culprits received various sentences for the 1987 coup.

Applause erupted in the courtroom as the long-awaited verdict was read, bringing down the curtain on a case that has afflicted the impoverished and volatile state for 34 years.


Compaoré, who during his mandate delayed the holding of the process to clarify what happened on October 15, 1987, acted cunningly as Joseph Mobutu did in the Congo -later Mobutu Sese Seko- in 1961, both betrayed their respective bosses and companions in the performance of power.

Mobutu destroyed the aspirations of Patricio Emery Lumumba to maintain Congolese sovereignty in the face of the neo-colonial offensive of the transnationals; Blaise Compaoré first stopped and then reversed the nationalist process that brought former Upper Volta out of political anonymity, then Burkina Faso (Country of worthy men).

“Yes, justice has been done. For the people, because they are 34 years of struggle of a people. We must not forget, it is 34 years in which the Burkinabe people fight against impunity. And with this case, I think it’s a great victory,” Prospere Farama, attorney for the prosecution, told the press.

In 2016, the then president of the country, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, ousted by the military coup in January, alluded to Sankara’s murder when he opined that the solution to the case would be “the starting point of a true reconciliation, awaited by the entire national community”.

Details of the friction between Sankara and Compaoré surfaced in the judicial investigations that lasted six months and several witnesses underlined the existence of an international conspiracy to depose the leader for considering him problematic by challenging the world order and publicly and openly criticizing the former metropolis. , France.

“The tragedy of October 15, 1987 was the result of pressure exerted by various heads of state, including Félix Houphouët Boigny,” said Abdoul Salam Kaboré, Minister of Sports in the Sankara government, referring to the role of the former ruler of Costa de Ivory and a key ally of Paris in the plot.

Regarding the absence of the main defendant, Mariam, the widow of Thomas Sankara, said: “It is not fair, it really is not fair, that he is not here. I should be, I should have the courage to be here, but you know, not everyone is brave, they run from the truth.

Lawyers for the family of the murdered president demanded that Compaoré be extradited from the Ivory Coast – where he is in self-exile – for his guilt in the death of the anti-colonial leader.


The crime was officially given a tribal connotation to demarcate it from its political character and Compaoré himself referred to the event on more than one occasion as an “accident”, but despite trying to cover it up, the truth made its way through the bushes .

Long before the judicial process, the media insisted on the subregional dimension of the assassination and coup d’état, which was linked to guerrillas of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), as one of them, Prince Jormie Johnson, confirmed in his memoirs.

The notorious torturer and assassin of the Liberian president Samuel Kanyon Doe in 1990 pointed out that the conspiracy against the president was related to the permanence in Burkina Faso territory of a faction of the NPFL and that was only possible with the support and influence of the plotted military chiefs against Sankara.

Another explanation of the events appears in Ludo Martens’ book “Sankara, Compaoré et la révolution burkinabé”, in which former general Gilbert Dienderé stated: “We had been warned that Compaoré, Lingani and Zongo would be arrested that night (…) Our reaction was to arrest Sankara before the irreparable (…).

The former general, the only one present at the Ouagadougou hearing of the three main defendants, was referring to Major Jean Baptiste Boukary Lingani and Captain Henri Zongo, executed in 1989 by Compaoré. Some investigators affirm that he eliminated them to get rid of the other two linked to the assassination.

Dienderé, identified as the ideologue and architect of President Sankara’s death, was removed as chief of the General Staff on November 27, 2014, shortly after the overthrow of Compaoré, but in 2015 he led a failed coup attempt for which he currently serving 20 years in prison.

All this is commented on after the sentence was passed against those involved in the assassination of the revolutionary, whose example shined the dome of continental honor and inserted the country of worthy men in the trajectory of world progressive work.

At the 25th Conference of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) -predecessor of the African Union (AU)- Sankara described foreign debt as a colonial tool used to strangle and keep Third World states in poverty.

His government lasted four years and among the priorities he assumed were the fight against hunger and misery, the development of educational programs and the guarantee of an elementary health system for all the citizens of Burkina Faso, plans frustrated by the assassination, although his ideological legacy persists.

Julio Morejon Tartabull is a journalist for the Africa and Middle East newsroom of Prensa Latina.

Prensa Latina, April 16, 2022,