The situation in Palestine is grim. Unemployment levels are alarmingly high – 121,000 Palestinians lost their jobs in the wake of the first lockdown and employment figures declined by 17% in Gaza. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics issued the findings of its labor force survey for the third quarter of 2020, which show that the unemployment rate rose to 28.5% of 2020, up from 24.6% in the equivalent period of 2019. Some 40% of Palestinian households have lost more than half their income and food insecurity rates have soared.
Joe Biden won the 2020 US Presidential Election after narrowly defeating the sitting president Donald Trump. This victory comes at a tremendous cost: the defeat of an incipient counter-hegemonic movement which embryonically expressed demands for an alternative future to capitalism. Even after the collective utterance of anger against police brutality and the nascent realization of the structural violence of capitalism, the electoral mechanisms of the American bourgeoisie state have been successful in thwarting the full-blown development of a distinctively socialist campaign. Following the ideological mutilation of massive protests against an inherently exploitative system, Americans have been rewarded with Biden – a dyed-in-the-wool bourgeoisie politician who once opposed de-segregation, called on police to shoot Black Lives Matter demonstrators in the leg, rejected the smallest of concessions to the working class, vehemently supported imperialist wars and refused to commit to even the minimal reforms of the Green New Deal.
In Bolivia, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) – a major leftist political force – has returned to power following a thumping victory in the 2020 elections. The MAS presidential candidate Luis Arce obtained 55.09% of the votes, decisively ahead of the neoliberal candidate Carlos Mesa and the right-wing extremist Luis Fernando Camacho who garnered 28.83% and 14% of the votes, respectively. The triumph of MAS in Bolivia is highly significant since it follows hard on the heels of the 2019 US-backed coup which violently overthrew the MAS president Evo Morales and attempted to re-institute neoliberalism through blood and bullets. Headed by the de facto president Jeanine Áñez (a religious bigot), the fascist coup government genuflected to the American empire, joined the conservative Lima Bloc — a group of 12 Latin American nations determined to subvert the Bolivarian Revolution — exited leftist regional forums, kicked out Cuban doctors and re-established ties with Israel. With the re-election of the MAS, it has been demonstrably shown that Bolivians don’t have any liking for the barbaric blueprint of imperialism and socialism still throbs through the nation’s body.
October 15, 2020, was Thomas Sankara’s 33rd death anniversary. On this day, he was murdered by imperialist forces at the tender age of 37. A Pan-Africanist, internationalist and Marxist, he was committed to the total liberation of the oppressed masses from the clutches of imperialism. Instead of bourgeoisie nationalism, Sankara believed in radical nationalism: a combination of anti-imperialist courage and unabashed humanism that pushes for revolution instead of neo-colonial settlement. Thus, he belonged to a pantheon of African revolutionaries like Amilcar Cabral, Samora Machel and Patrice Lumumba who understood the necessity of adopting socialism for the fundamental transformation of their respective societies. Looking at the short life of Sankara, one can’t help but be moved by the way in which he emerged through the anguish and aspirations of millions of Burkinabe civilians and commanded a radical project of socialist transformation.
On 9 October, 1967, Che Guevara – one of the greatest revolutionaries ever known – was murdered in Bolivia under the orders of Washington. This death was foreseeable. In 1966, Che Guevara had left Cuba to wage an anti-imperialist struggle in the South American nation of Bolivia. The plan was to establish a mother column led by Che in Bolivia, with further guerrilla columns branching out from the main unit to enter the neighboring countries of Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru, thus creating a continent-wide revolutionary front. This anti-imperialist plan of action was based on the way Vietnam heroically resisted the full-blown onslaught of American hegemony. As Fidel Castro put it, “In the same measure in which Vietnam resists, the revolutionary liberation movement will grow in other parts of the world. Other fronts of the struggle for liberation will open throughout the world in direct proportion to Vietnam’s resistance.”
Updated: October 6, 2020
Palestine is currently facing a quadruple crisis consisting of Covid-19 pandemic, Zionism, imperialism and reactionary Arab regimes. With more than 50,000 Coronavirus cases, Palestine is finding it hard to combat the pandemic with a war-torn and fragmented healthcare system. The ruthlessness of Zionist ideology has invariably prevented the proper development of health infrastructures and what we have now is a severely under-resourced health architecture perforated by the wounds of settler colonialism. As a result of Israel’s 53-year occupation of West Bank and Gaza, the region has been converted into a donor-dependent system that has perennial shortages in equipment, medication and staff due to military raids and import restrictions. While the Palestinian Authority (PA) has tried to effectively operate within this restricted environment, the all-encompassing Israeli chokehold around the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) has greatly curtailed the administration’s ability to secure key supplies to counter the spread of infection. Not contented with the restriction of medical supplies, Israel has further hampered Palestine’s Covid-19 response by comprehensively destroying two Coronavirus testing centres.
Maj. Gen. Andrew Croft, the commander of 12th Air Force, wrote on 22 August: “I have seen an increasingly contested strategic space where Beijing and Moscow are aggressively investing time and resources in Latin America to support their authoritarian models of governance. The Air Force must reinforce the strength of our longstanding commitment to the Western Hemisphere. We lose ground when we are unable to commit to spending the time and resources to fly our aircraft south and train alongside our partners.”
In Mexico, the intensity of the Covid-19 pandemic is increasing. With more than 568,600 cases and 61,450 deaths (third largest number of Covid-19 deaths), the country is staggering under the Coronavirus pandemic. While the entire country is experiencing the impact, indigenous communities represent the hardest hit demographic. Data from Coneval, the national government’s social development agency, has shown that the Covid-19 fatality rate in Mexico’s poorest 427 municipalities is 14.1. On the other hand, the fatality rate in the country’s 54 wealthiest municipalities is 8.1, “meaning that people who live in impoverished parts of the country are almost twice as likely to die if they become sick with Covid-19 than those who live in affluent areas.”
On 1 August, 2020, a group of civilians, in complicity with the Chilean national police force or the carabineros and right-wing hoodlums, violently attacked Mapuche community members who were on a hunger strike in front of the Municipality of Victoria, in Araucania. The attack was strategic, organized and preplanned with the occupied town halls of Ercilla and Traiguén also being attacked, Mapuche women and children being beaten and vehicles being set on fire.
Latin America has surpassed more than 5 million Covid-19 cases to overtake North America, with 4.8 million Covid-19 cases, as the region worst-hit by the Coronavirus pandemic. This astronomic increase in Covid-19 cases has been accompanied by a corresponding economic catastrophe of great magnitude. According to a United Nations Policy Brief entitled “The Impact of COVID-19 on Latin America and the Caribbean”, “Parts of Latin America and the Caribbean have become hotspots of the coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic, exacerbated by weak social protection, fragmented health systems and profound inequalities. COVID-19 will result in the worst recession in the region in a century, causing a 9.1% contraction in regional GDP in 2020…This could push the number of poor up by 45 million (to a total of 230 million) and the number of extremely poor by 28 million (to 96 million in total), putting them at risk of undernutrition.” The Policy Brief further states that “The sharp drop in economic activity is expected to lift the unemployment rate from 8.1% in 2019 to 13.5% in 2020. The poverty rate is expected to rise by 7.0 percentage points in 2020, to 37.2%, while extreme poverty is expected to rise by 4.5 percentage points, from 11.0% to 15.5%, which represents an increase of 28 million people.”
On March 11, Peru declared a 90-day national sanitary emergency to deal with the emerging coronavirus crisis. Subsequently, the country announced a total lockdown beginning from March 16. But despite implementing one of the earliest and strictest COVID-19 containment regimes in Latin America, Peru has become trapped in the turmoil of rising COVID-19 cases. With more than 400,000 cases, Peru has become the third-worst hit country in Latin America. It also has one of the highest excess death rates (count of deaths relative to a normal year)—87% more than a normal year for the period from March 16 and May 31.
Amid the current Covid-19 pandemic, the Garifuna community of Honduras is experiencing state-sponsored violence and regulated repression. On July 18, 2020, heavily armed personnel of the Police Investigation Department (DPI) barged into the house of Alberth Sneider Centeno, Garifuna president of the land community of El Triunfo de la Cruz, and abducted him. Later, the same armed group kidnapped Suami Aparicio Mejía García, Gerardo Mizael Rochez Cálix and Milton Joel Martínez Álvarez, members of the OFRANEH (Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras), and a fifth person, Junior Rafael Juárez Mejía. The General Confederation of Labor (CGT) has issued a statement saying “that the kidnapping of these people is motivated by the activity of the Garifuna people in defense of their ancestral lands and the rights of Afro-indigenous and indigenous people in these territories.”
At Cerrejon (Colombia), the largest open-pit coal mine in Latin America owned equally by BHP (Australia), Anglo American PLC (United Kingdom) and Glencore (Switzerland), the situation of the indigenous people is progressively worsening. Cerrejon Limited has informed the workers that “all the existing shifts will be unified into a single 7-day work, for three days off.” With the enforcement of the new shifts, “workers would go from working 15 to 21 days and the mine would go from 4 to 3 shifts, leaving at least 25% of the current workforce unemployed.” The new shift pattern is likely to aggravate the health of workers as long working hours increase the number of work-related pathologies. Current work shift arrangements have already led to more than “700 pathologies associated with musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular and ear diseases, among others.” As the level of work becomes more stressful, these occupational diseases will start multiplying.
As Chile gets convulsed by the aggravating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the structural brutality of copper mining is being starkly outlined. At Codelco or the National Copper Corporation of Chile, approximately 3,000 workers have been infected with Coronavirus and El Teniente and Chuquicamata are the hardest hit regions with 1,044 and 636 cases, respectively. In June itself, unionized workers had reported the suspect deaths of 3 workers and had demanded a proper investigation. Codelco peacefully airbrushed these cases by saying that the workers contracted the virus from an outside area. Chile´s Federation of Copper Workers (FTC), in response to the sheer carelessness and profit-mindedness of Codelco, stated that “It is unacceptable that Codelco’s senior management tries to evade its legal responsibilities to protect … the health and safety of its workers.”
In Chile, the Covid-19 pandemic is raging with an unprecedented speed. There are more than 300,000 confirmed cases with one of the highest per capita infection rates of 13,000 cases for every 1 million people. The economy is severely experiencing the repercussions of Coronavirus-caused restrictions and the historically high national unemployment rate of 11.2% is an indicator of such damage. Chileans have took to the street to protest against the malfunctioning right-wing government of the billionaire president Sebastian Pinera and the police force has responded aggressively by shooting dead a young agitator.