The weekly newsletter of the México Solidarity Project


April 14, 2021/ This week's issue/ Meizhu Lui, for the editorial team


Disasters Waiting to Happen, Happen

In the 1980s, I worked at Boston City Hospital, the city’s only public hospital. I remember the time an elderly uninsured gentleman arrived at our emergency room in a taxi. A private hospital less than a mile away had sent him over, with a note pinned to his chest: “Pneumonia; multiple diagnoses.”


For this man, giving him taxi and not just bus fare would be the most the private hospital would do for him. Boston City Hospital, by contrast, would help whether he had money or not. But BCH itself was running on life support and finally closed in the 1990s, as did almost every other US public hospital, victims of neoliberal policies based on the idea that “markets always do better than the government.” The result? Poor and rural people, the uninsured, and the chronically ill found themselves with no place to go for medical help.


That outcome should have surprised no one. Neoliberals, as their champion Grover Norquist once put it, were consciously aiming to shrink government down to a size small enough to “drown in a bathtub.” That meant starving public health budgets, paving the way for disasters to happen. Public health initiatives, after all, have always been the key to population health advances, on everything from clean water to eradicating polio.  


Neoliberalism has, over the last 40 years, been the biggest US export to México and plenty of other nations. This has left México, like the US, ill-equipped to handle Covid. Commentators have been quick to blame México’s death toll on AMLO, but let’s remember, as Jésus Hermosillo reminds us in this week’s issue, that our corporate-dominated media would rather we ignore the health disaster neoliberals left just waiting to happen.


AMLO and Morena, adds our interview this week with Dr. Irma de la Cruz, understand that an impersonal “market” cannot provide adequate “care.” They’re working to pull government out of the bathtub. In the US, we have much to emulate from México’s response to health care privatization. May we all be ready before the next disaster strikes.


Dr. Irma De La Cruz practices medicine at the Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social in México City and teaches public health at UNAM, the National Autonomous University. Her concern for the health of the poor, rural and urban, has helped drive her years of political activism, from deep inside Chiapas to the heart of México City.


You grew up in a poor working-class family in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, and against the odds became a doctor. What path did you take?


From growing up in poor conditions, I knew that people needed public health more than anything else. They needed measures to prevent illness more than treatments for people already sick. Treatment remains essential as well, of course, especially for those who suffer from the disease of poverty. But my family sacrificed to help me become a doctor, and I didnt want to be a capitalist doctor out to make a profit from other people’s misfortunes.


What has made handling the Covid health crisis so difficult?


Neoliberal polices enacted by former PRI presidents made a mess. Medicine became a business, not a human right. Everything was privatized. For example, before the 1980s, México produced its own vaccines. But the privatization of our labs — giveaways of public resources, often to foreign interests — has meant that now, with Covid, we must pay for what we used to make ourselves. Its scandalous! Families of hospitalized people used to be provided free places to stay nearby. Now families don’t just have to pay for lodging. They even have to pay a fee to take a bath!


Those new hospitals the government was supposedly building? Those projects turned out to be more about helping contractors make money off government funds. Most of the hospitals went unfinished. And public medical schools were closed, driving up the cost of medical care. You need public resources to handle a crisis that affects the entire public.


You worked for years in the autonomous Zapatista territory, where people wanted nothing to do with neoliberal “reforms.” What kind of health care takes place there?


I mentioned the importance of public health. In Chiapas, some of us health providers formed volunteer collectives to carry out public health campaigns. We did vaccinations, health education, and ensured the well-being of pregnant women and mothers. I’m still in constant touch with that collective continuing to work in the autonomous Zapatista region. The Zapatistas also have their own autonomous hospital.


The Zapatistas dont want and dont get services from officials in México. Are they getting the Covid vaccine? No, but because they have closed off their area, they have stayed practically Covid-free.


AMLO has received lots of criticism for his response to the pandemic. What has he done with health care?


In a few short years, AMLO has reversed the privatization trend. Those unfinished hospitals? He has completed them. Medical schools now emphasize prevention, and tuition is subsidized. New specialty clinics have opened. The government has not used repression or force on mask wearing and distancing. In general, people are cooperating.


You remain dedicated to the Zapatistas, but you also support AMLO and are running on the Morena ticket for a seat on the Cuahutemóc municipality council in the center of México City. Why?


Under PRI/PAN, we had chaos. Health care became a disaster area. Morena policies are now improving the health of the public by providing more economic support, restoring public services, and expanding access to health services. As someone concerned with health my entire life, I want to be part of this movement for transformational change.


Late last month, at the Olímpico Universitario Stadium in México City, an older woman registers to receive her first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.


México: Land of Pandemics and Hope, Perhaps

Few commentators on the contemporary Mexican scene have placed the coronavirus pandemic in a more complete context than Jesús Hermosillo. We’ve condensed here passages from an important new analysis he published last month in the journal Current Events.


December 1, 2020 marked the second anniversary of México’s new era under Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the left-leaning populist of upper-class nightmares. His call for a universalist welfare state raised hopes among his impoverished compatriots and intensified the oligarchy’s media war to hasten his downfall.


In the Covid-19 media battlefield, right-wingers have depicted inept federal officials as culpable for a colossal death toll. In reality, the calamity has less to do with the current president than with the 36 years of neoliberalism his election upended.


Confirmed coronavirus deaths in Mexico now total the third highest worldwide after the United States and Brazil. Yet both the World Health Organization and the Pan-American Health Organization have praised the government of López Obrador for its crisis response. In early January 2020 health officials started activating the country’s epidemiological monitoring system, including airport screeners for coronavirus. AMLO’s health department closed schools and non-essential activities much sooner than Italy, Spain, or the US.


The main catalyst for AMLO’s epic landslide in the July 2018 election was mass economic desperation, compounded by illness. He promised to end the nation’s pauperization that had been accelerating since the 1982 debt crisis. That year, eager young technocrats gained new sway over Mexico’s fiscal policies, quickly secured elite support, and then seized control of the ruling PRI. They proclaimed the nation a free market paradise. What they actually created: an unfettered kleptocracy, scrapping whatever remained of the PRI’s social principles and hastening the overconcentration of wealth and power.


Since the start of his single, sexennial term in December 2018, AMLO has grown social spending’s share of the federal budget to 24 percent. His administration’s biggest may be in healthcare. These include the hiring last year of 70,000 health personnel, a step toward solving a massive shortage. By last November, the government had also built out 130 hospitals out of 326 incomplete projects left over by past administrations.


The most promising change in health policy: the federalization of health services for the uninsured, the majority in Mexico. The overhaul has created a new Institute for Health and Wellness, an agency that will provide free, universal healthcare to anyone with a government-issued ID.


Previous administrations promoted Coca-Cola and processed foods, served junk food in schools, and loosened tobacco regulations. These policies effectively made their officials, notes consumer activist Alejandro Calvillo, the cooks and waiters” that served up Mexicos obesity and diabetes epidemic” just in time for la Pandemia.” Corporate media ignore this past in order to undermine the progressive administration in the present.


Recent news reports and commentaries, from progressive and mainstream media,
on life and struggles on both sides of the US-México border


Lois Beckett, ‘A system of global apartheid’: author Harsha Walia on why the border crisis is a myth, Guardian. A Canadian organizer explains how the crises of capitalism, war, and climate emergency are driving mass migration.


Peter Costantini, Was Trump’s Family-Separation Policy Torture? Inter Press Service. A new report from Physicians for Human Rights raises questions of criminal liability and accountability.


Isaac Enríquez Pérez, México: sin una nueva Constitución Política persistirá el mismo modelo económico, América Latina en Movimento. Así como el neoliberalismo precisó de reformas sustanciales a la Constitución Política mexicana, salir de su “larga noche” amerita una nueva Carta Magna que sea el fundamento de un nuevo Estado.


AMLO party heads into Mexico midterms with strong voter support, Bnamericas. Morena is running 30 percentage points ahead of its closest party contender, with 27 percent of voters still undecided.


Jorge Gómez Naredo, La importancia de un triunfo de Morena en la Cámara de Diputados, Polemón. Según la última medición de Oraculus, que hace promedio de todas las encuestas, Morena ganaría la Cámara de Diputados. Para la gente, los partidos de oposición son los mismos corruptos de antes.


Kendal Blust, Mexican Leaders Say Human Trafficking Driving Disappearances Of Women And Girls, Fronteras. Across Mexico, more than 85,000 people have gone missing and unfound since 2006.


El drama migrante que no da tregua en la frontera, La Jornada. En el fondo del problema está la desigualdad social y la inaceptable redistribución de la riqueza de un sistema social que explota y está provocando un éxodo jamás imaginado.


The Mexico Solidarity Project brings together activists from various socialist and left organizations and individuals committed to worker and global justice who see the 2018 election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador as president of México as a watershed moment. AMLO and his progressive Morena party aim to end generations of corruption, impoverishment, and subservience to US interests. Our Project supports not just Morena, but all Mexicans struggling for basic rights, and opposes US efforts to undermine organizing and México’s national sovereignty. 


Editorial committee: Meizhu Lui, Bruce Hobson, Bill Gallegos, Sam Pizzigati. We welcome your suggestions and feedback. Interested in getting involved? Drop us an email!


Web page and application support for the México Solidarity Project from NOVA Web Development, a democratically run, worker-owned and operated cooperative focused on developing free software tools for progressive organizations.