Argentina: FIT Unidad Declaration on the Coronavirus Crisis

1- The national government, with the support of all 24 governors, has proclaimed a nationwide quarantine from Friday, March 20 to March 31. Alberto Fernández and Minister Ginés González García went from minimizing the pandemic to taking this extreme measure. The quarantine has been announced without detailing what strategic plan to deal with the coronavirus is included, while a minimum number of tests are being carried out to check who is infected.

Prior to this measure, a paralysis of production in non-essential sectors developed, which was imposed as an elemental demand to halt the developing pandemic. These demands are still being sustained by Techint workers, Santa Cruz miners, shopping mall workers, etc. The truth is that we are in the presence of a public healthcare system that has been degraded by the policies of budget cuts and job insecurity that have been carried out by successive governments, all of them serial payers of a usurious and fraudulent debt, including the current government. Meanwhile no measures are being taken for the healthcare sector, since there was no announcement about it. That is why we affirm, first of all, that the economic and financial crisis unleashed by the coronavirus must be paid for by the capitalists, the big businessmen, the multinationals and the banks, not the workers and the people. And that the time has come to stop paying the fraudulent debt in order to allocate national resources to fighting the pandemic and establish a productive plan based of the interests of workers and the people.

2- We share with millions of working people the enormous concern over the tremendous consequences of the crisis that continue to be unloaded on their backs. Why are all the necessary funds not being invested in hospitals and their staff, instead of continuing to pay the external debt? Why are the necessary resources not allocated to the healthcare system and speculators and employers being privileged? Why are the necessary tests to know what the situation is and act accordingly not available?

Why are layoffs and suspensions not prohibited? Why were there no substantive measures taken to guarantee the livelihood of those who depend on irregular work and the most vulnerable sectors of society? Why are the most affected sectors going to have to pay for electricity, gas and rent? Why is the government not forcing companies to guarantee wages to contracted and unregistered workers? Why are they not allocating subsidies for the self-employed? Given this desperate situation, the Alberto Fernández government continues to govern with Macri´s 2019 Budget, since it has made the preparation of a new Budget conditional on the negotiation of the debt. There is no information about the number of intensive care beds or their expansion, new hospitals for non-seriously ill patients in isolation, the acquisition of respirators, when the 35 laboratories that will depend on the Malbrán be in operation and other essential details of the health plan.

We denounce that the social plans (welfare) have not been reinforced, we are already experiencing suspensions with low or no salary and layoffs, and there were 42,000 new job losses in January.

The quarantine was also announced with a limitation on the right to assembly and provides for the widespread deployment of the repressive forces, affecting workers´ right to demand in defense of their living conditions, jobs and measures of protection for those who work in so-called “essential services”. And the rights of the poor to demand elementary resources, particularly of those living on the streets in overcrowded conditions, that is, between 5% and 10% of the population in various suburbs. Workers in dozens of factories and workplaces are demanding compliance with the quarantine against the negligence of their employers.

3- The coronavirus pandemic has been a trigger for the world capitalist crisis. This is generating a depression that, according to the ILO, will create at least 25 million new unemployed. The world will no longer be as before. But imperialism and the IMF, as always, recommend million-dollar bailouts for big businesses and multinationals, continuing to unload the capitalist crisis on the peoples of the world. The pandemic has exposed the criminal consequences of cuts in healthcare systems. In the last ten years, 37 billion Euros have been cut from hospitals in Italy. In Great Britain and Italy the number of beds available fell by 30%. In the United States, a third of the population does not have access to any healthcare coverage. And in our country, during Macri´s four years, the national health budget fell by 25% in real terms. In the Province of Buenos Aires, from 2003 to date, Peronism and Juntos por el Cambio have lowered it to just over 5% of the provincial budget. The same is true in all provinces. That is why have seen and are seeing demands and protests by healthcare personnel in different hospitals and clinics, like the Malbrán, due to the lack of resources, security and time off. People´s recognition of this professional work was evidenced with the massive applause when Alberto Fernández announced the measure, as had happened in Italy, Madrid and other capitals, a recognition that must be fulfilled by satisfying the demands that medical professionals are raising.

The emergency addition to the health budget that the government announced was incredibly low: just $ 1.7 billion, less than half of what has been spent on the external debt per day since the new government took office. Kicilloff recently paid 250 million dollars in one payment, the national government arranged more than 40 billion pesos to pay interests last month and the Emergency Law voted in late 2019, allocated 4,5 billion dollars to this end. In addition, while the government cut pensions, it forgave oil and mining companies´ taxes and exempted banks from the wealth tax. These are the government’s priorities.

4- Governments are taking advantage of the situation to mount repressive measures, with declarations of states of emergency that allow them to deploy security and armed forces in the streets to contain any type of protest and to discipline social life. All power is concentrated in the executive branches and the operation of Congress and legislatures is actually shut down, as has been happening in our country by order of Fernández and the governors, the supposed “republicans”.

The government calls on people to “stay home” but it still does not solve the disaster in the public healthcare system and does not take structural measures to confront the crisis. Far from even partially denouncing workers´ prolems, the CGT and the CTA continue to support the government and employers, when they should abandon their complicity and echo workers´ demands and complaints so that the crisis is not paid for by the working people.

5- The Left and Workers´ Front Unity (FIT Unidad) raises an anti-capitalist and socialist program of comprehensive response to the pandemic and to this crisis that is an economic, social and political crisis, as well as a health crisis. We propose:

– All necessary resources for public hospitals, beds, instruments and increased wages for professionals and healthcare workers, not for the external debt and the IMF.

– Unification and centralization of the healthcare system at the national level, bringing together all the resources of the public, private, social work and university systems, under the control of workers and professionals. Implementation of central and local emergency (or crisis) committees, with the participation of workers. Implementation of testing throughout the country.

– All the necessary budget, starting with the immediate tripling of the healthcare budget at the national level, of the provinces, the municipalities and the Malbrán for the immediate purchase of supplies, tests, materials and equipment, the hiring of specialized personnel and the construction of field hospitals. Attention to the demands of healthcare workers, those most exposed to the pandemic (time off, working conditions, bio-security).

– Prohibition of layoffs and suspensions throughout the country. Distribution of available working hours among all workers. Immediate solution for the population under the informal economy. Implementation of insurance for the unemployed and independent workers who earn less than $ 30,000. Exemption from utility payments for the duration of the emergency. Elevation to $ 30.000 of the minimum wage, pension and social plans. Automatic mobility by trigger clause. Duplication of the food card without restrictions. Compliance with the promised increase in food assistance to community kitchens. Special program for the population living in the streets and overcrowded. Temporary occupation of empty buildings during the emergency while carrying out a plan for the construction of popular housing as soon as sanitary conditions allow.

– No to the speculative business with alcohol gel, specific foods and medications. Declaration of these goods as public utility, subject to expropriation to guarantee their free distribution.

– Fixing maximum prices based on the real cost of production, with popular control. Roll prices back to their values at the beginning of the year, punishment for speculators, and confiscation of their products and food to make them available to the millions in need.

– No to the payment of the external debt, to use the country´s resources to attend to the emergency. Nationalization of banks, foreign trade, hydrocarbons and strategic resources under workers control. During the emergency, implementation of a special tax on large businesses, banks, oligarchs and multinationals to face the crisis. Implementation of an economic plan at the service of workers and the people.

– Formation in all work places of hygiene and sanitation committees, with the power to implement cessation of tasks in all those activities that are not essential or that do not have the necessary safety measures. General reorganization of production according to the needs of the health emergency, under worker control.

– Unhindered right of assembly for the working class. No to the limits on holding assemblies and meetings. They should be carried out freely, taking all the necessary sanitary collections. Unrestricted defense of democratic freedoms.

Left and Workers´ Front Unity, March 21, 2020