Beluche, The attempt to transfer blame

Blame it on social inequality and the government that supports it. Photo by Grey Díaz, a family in quarantine.

The coronavirus rebound is not the people’s fault

by Olmedo Beluche – Polo Ciudadano

As the health statistics from the previous week had already announced, the outbreak of COVID-19 was reinforced with the opening of Block 2 of the economy. Daily reported cases reached 400 and 500 for almost the entire first week of June.

The 16,000 accumulated cases with 386 deaths were surpassed, placing the Social Security Fund’s Hospital Complex on the verge of collapse, with 90% occupancy of ICU beds and respirators. All of which forced MINSA to restore the quarantine in the provinces of Panama and Panama Oeste, but without closing Block 2.

Polo Ciudadano repudiates the attitude of certain officials and the media, which blames citizens for this setback. It is alleged that people do not take the health measures that have been recommended (use of masks, physical distancing, etc.). While there can be no denying the existence of some shameless people, many of them adolescent boys and young men, who insist on disregarding the measures, this is not the case for most people.

The authorities and the media at the service of the economic powers that be must ask themselves how much responsibility they have for this outbreak, which is worse than the initial one. Was there no rush to open the second block due to pressure from the business sector when the outbreak of infections had already started? Were MINSA’s own criteria not to open until the contagion rate (Rt) was less than 1?

Of course, by partially opening up economic activity, people who have been confined for more than two months without working or producing income, went out to find their daily bread. Above all, those who, while being poor, did not receive the “solidarity bond” and its $80, which is not enough to feed a family.

What it the fault of people arriving at the bus stop and not finding enough means of transportation, or having to travel crowded without “distance”? Whose fault is it that public transportation is historically inefficient, since long before the pandemic? Whose responsibility is it that important areas of the Arraijan district, one of the most affected, do not have a constant supply of drinking water?

The blame for the massive contagion in the penal centers must be sought in the National Police and the Ministries of Security and Government. The responsibility for the massive contagion of patients and health personnel in a room of the Hospital Complex belongs to the authorities of the Social Security Fund.

At this time, infections are endemic in the poorest neighborhoods of Panama City (Tocumen, 24 Diciembre, Pacora, Calidonia, Curundu, El Chorrillo), and certain areas of the San Miguelito and Arraijan districts. These are reas where the average family income is a little more than $300, which barely covers basic food staples, making it difficult for people to acquire masks, due to what’s a high price for those so poor. In addition, these are neighborhoods with awful transportation services, garbage collection and drinking water.

The responsibility for this historical social inequality, which has made Panama one of the 10 most unequal countries in the world and the third in Latin America, lies with the business elite that preys upon the economy and has been behind the corrupt governments of all the parties that have governed.

Polo Ciudadano holds the MEF minister, Héctor Alexander, and the economic team that advises President Cortizo responsible for the ruthless increase in inequality and the lack of “equal health for all,” for weakening public health systems, which will cut them further. The cuts ranged from $300 million to the Social Security Fund to more than $100 million from MINSA in 2019. That was to maintain the commitment to pay $3 billion of external debt, while taking resources from sectors such as education. They managed take out more than $5 billion in new loans without reporting it on the books. They favor banks and deny a debt moratorium on loans to citizens.

The scandal of the modular hospital is a sandwich compared to the excesses made in the Ministry of Economy and Finance by its master and his INDESA advisers, the well-known Guillermo Chapman and Nicolás Ardito Barleta. We demand that along with the ministers of the Presidency and the MOP, the current head of the MEF, who has been responsible for neoliberal policies in Panama since the time of General Manuel Noriega, resign.


Washing when the water doesn’t run. Photo by Eric Jackson.

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