By Marea Socialista
In Venezuela, contagions and deaths due to Covid-19 are increasing exponentially while the few vaccines that have entered the country are administered with the government criteria in a discretionary manner.
In February of this year, President Nicolás Maduro announced that we would enter a massive vaccination stage, propagandizing to the rest of the world through his communication machinery that a massive vaccination plan has begun in the country, however, reality states otherwise.
Venezuela has approximately 30 million inhabitants. To date, only 750 thousand doses of vaccines have been received, which would amount to 350 thousand immunizations. Pyrrhic number if we take into account the entire population.
Who did the government prioritize for this first stage?
First of all, the governmental leadership. The first to be vaccinated were the nomenklatura, Maduro unabashedly and shamelessly announced his vaccination and that of Cilia Flores. Ministers, governors, mayors, deputies and councilmen were vaccinated. Then they prioritized the repressive agencies of the State, which shows the priorities of the government to repress. Police, bodyguards and escorts, para-police and military organizations. Finally, doctors and health personnel, who have had to make claims to access to vaccination and many sectors of the union were left out. Such are the priorities of the government… and a very small group of teachers, many linked to the union bureaucracy.
Being in the midst of a health emergency, the country is facing the lack of a real vaccination plan. The “massive vaccinations for the first trimester” announced by the government have not been carried out. The destination of the “10 million vaccines purchased from Russia”, paid at very high prices, is not known either. Now a plan is announced for the month of April, May or July. The truth is that there is no vaccination plan.
Maduro and Guaidó turn their backs to the health and life of the population
The sanctions imposed by the U.S. government through the mechanism of imposing a parallel president, a role exercised by Juan Guaidó as a puppet of this imperialist policy, has been disastrous for the Venezuelan population, especially for the working class, in short, for ordinary Venezuelans. The acquisition of vaccines is one of the most infamous expressions of this graft policy carried out by Guaidó and the G-4.
The capitalist business is also evident. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) refuses to give Venezuela the opportunity to buy 6 million vaccines because of “debts owed by the Venezuelan State to the organization”. Guaidó requests permission to the US to “release” part of the Venezuelan resources they have confiscated and an “agreement” is announced with the Maduro government to buy 6 million doses of Astrazeneca through the Covax system for a cost of 30 million dollars. But then the pact is not carried out for reasons of the political struggle that is behind all the actions of these two reactionary expressions: the government of Maduro and Juan Guaidó and the G4.
It must be said loudly: the “sanctions” and the “blockade” are confiscations of the country’s offshore assets and liquid accounts. That is why it is a fallacy that the sanctions only harm “high government officials” because they make it impossible for resources that could be used for the acquisition of vaccines, for example, to further subject the Venezuelan population to an unprecedented state of vulnerability. Part of the nation’s resources are absolutely controlled by the U.S. government; a blatant theft that, together with the central policy of Maduro’s government, is leading us to misery and death.
It appears before our eyes in the key of a pandemic
Juan Guaidó’s declaration of “health emergency” is a hypocrisy of high proportions because while our suffering increases, sanctions continue to be promoted and the confiscations of our assets continue. While contagions and deaths increase, Citgo, our gold and our resources are blocked and subjected to the disputes between the two reactionary leaders who act behind the backs of the people.
Maduro, on his part, announces that AstraZeneca doses will not be used in the vaccination plan in the country, which are those available through the Covax mechanism, arguing the different situations and complications that have arisen in other countries when using it. We are not fools, in Venezuela we know very well that the acquisition of vaccines has been the object of dispute and political struggles.
The sanctions make the United States and its government, through the undemocratic and imposed figure of Juan Guaidó as supposed interim president, decide if we use the resources to save lives or if, on the contrary, we are condemned to death. Maduro’s government puts this fact before a real emergency, a fact of life or death. That is why we say that even an anti-worker and authoritarian government like Maduro’s has the right to claim control of the nation’s resources, but to continue to do so while prioritizing the entry of vaccines for the population.
The United States, England and their allies have perpetrated a robbery of our material and liquid assets. It is an unacceptable theft and interference. This can continue to be demanded, but at this time, priority must be given to the acquisition of vaccines. Vice President Delcy Rodriguez has expressed that Venezuela has the assets to attend to the emergency, but Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza declares that it has not been possible to buy vaccines because of the blockade. These contradictions are expressed while the impoverished people continue to be infected and the number of deaths continues to rise. It is imperative and necessary to demand vaccines for everyone urgently, since the State must acquire the necessary vaccines for the entire population.
No to patents
From Marea Socialista we are part of the international campaign carried out by the International Socialist League (ISL) for the elimination of patents. This issue is fundamental and should be put at the center of the debate since with patents in the hands of large laboratories and the complicity of world governance prioritizing their profits, people are being led to the slaughterhouse.
We are talking about more than 100 million infected people worldwide and more than 2 million dead. In the face of this barbarity, the capitalist system and, in this case, its laboratories, privilege their private interests above all else.
That is why our position is clear and is shared and supported by all the organizations that work within the LIS and in which we state: (https://lis-isl.org/2021/02/22/declar/)
1. For months now there have been over ten vaccines developed around the world with strong chances of success, and 4 or 5 of them already have passed clinical studies that prove their efficacy. However, the new year did not come with news of massive and speedy vaccinations, but of new strains, more lockdowns and problems, inequalities and unforeseen delays in the production, distribution and application of the vaccine.
2. In the first place, the richest countries have hoarded a significant share of the vaccines. The United States and the United Kingdom have bought enough doses for double or triple their population, and Canada leads the ranking with enough doses to vaccinate their population five times over. According to Oxfam, “all doses of Moderna and 96 percent of those of Pfizer/BioNTech have been purchased by rich countries,” and although Oxford/AstraZenca has committed to directing 64 percent of its doses to “developing” countries, most of its agreements are being signed with large “developing” countries like China and India. Except for a few countries that were able to buy small quantities of the Russian Sputnik V or others, the rest of the world is waiting to share the pool of vaccines from the WHO COVAX program, which could take years to reach the poorest countries.
3. Beyond these inequalities, overall vaccine production will only reach a small proportion of the world’s population in 2021. According to the Wall Street Journal, only 10% of humanity will be vaccinated by the end of the year. What is unusual is that there is more than sufficient installed capacity to mass produce vaccines for rapid distribution and application. But the pharmaceutical companies that own their patents reserve their exclusive “right” to produce and distribute their product to ensure the highest possible profit, despite lacking the capacity to provide the necessary vaccines in a timely manner.
4. Several of the richest countries in the world are also encountering significant difficulties. In recent weeks, the sluggish pace of vaccine production and therefore the impossibility of mass vaccination according to the expectations that had been generated, has generated a very important crisis, especially in the European Union where Germany, the leading and richest country in the region, cannot explain to its people how slowly they are getting vaccinated, compared to Brexit England with almost 15% of its population vaccinated. The crisis reached such an extent that an urgent summit was called to address this issue, where they even talked about the possibility of expropriation of patents or the compulsory granting of licenses for vaccines.
5. The International Socialist League has always maintained that health is an inalienable right, superior to any private profit. Therefore, for us, medical knowledge, its advances, its achievements in therapeutic, prevention or diagnostic methods, must be the intellectual property of humanity and cannot be protected by any patent or any other mechanism that assures any sector extraordinary profits and exclusive production. And we extend this to all kinds of diseases from cancer to AIDS, from Malaria to cardiovascular disease and now COVID. We are against the exploitation of health and disease as a capitalist business.
6. In the case of the Coronavirus pandemic, the elimination of all kinds of patents and profit is more than justified. First, because of the magnitude and scope of this pandemic that puts the health, lives and economic subsistence of billions of people worldwide at risk. Second, because it is false that companies have risked capital and invested years of research, as they claim, to ensure exclusivity. It is known to all that it was the States that contributed the money for its development in advance, and the public universities that contributed the knowledge.
7. The coveting of vaccine patents amid a global pandemic that is killing millions of people, to the point that a vaccination process that could be solved in months may stretch out over years, reveals the worst face of the capitalist system. That is why we are not only in favor of the annulment of patents, but we go further and say that we must immediately lift all restrictions on access to medical knowledge regarding prevention (vaccines), and treatment (whether curative or of support) forming a large worldwide collaborative database of advances, knowledge and experience to accelerate the cure of Covid-19.
8. Along with this, we demand a global productive reconversion that guarantees the production and distribution to all countries around the world of the necessary protection equipment for patient care. We maintain that the unification and nationalization under the control of workers and users of all existing health subsystems is necessary to guarantee equal care for the sick. Only with measures of this type can this pandemic be controlled and ended. There is no justification based on capital gain that can take precedence over the right to health of the world’s population.
9. As we continue our campaign for the creation of single state public health systems, it is imperative today to launch a global campaign for the immediate annulment of Covid-19 vaccine patents and the public production, distribution and application of vaccines throughout the world.
It is precisely on this point where Maduro and Guaidó show another one of their coincidences as capitalist strands. None of them joins the demand for the liberation of patents that opens the certain possibility of a real production and access to vaccines. While sectors in the world make this claim, Maduro, Guaidó, Fedecámaras, the right wing of the parliament, the PSUV and its allies … are all silent and reluctant to join the global campaign for the elimination of patents.
From Marea Socialista as part of the International Socialist League, an organization of the working class, we propose a series of measures aimed at protecting the people from the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic can be stopped, but for this we need anti-capitalist measures of democratic participation.
1. No more business at the expense of health. The entire private sector, clinics, supplies, resources, equipment and materials must be used to address the emergency caused by the pandemic.
2. What should prevail at this time is the self-organization of the people and workers, autonomously and independently. Let the central axis be the health and treatment of Covid-19. This is the only way to stop the consequences of the indolence of the leaderships of the government of Maduro and Guaidó and his combo. To advance towards a true democratic exercise for health and life.
3. We demand the approval of a social and economic emergency budget to also address other “pandemics” that the vast majority of the population is suffering, such as the lack of a salary in accordance with the cost of living, which must be calculated according to what is established in Art. 91 of the CRBV. In Venezuela, hunger is also killing.
4. We demand that all foreign debt payments be suspended and that these resources be allocated in their entirety to address the acute situation. In the same way, taxes can be imposed on the big transnational and national companies and their gross profits at the cost of the wasted labor force that the government has put on a platter and the plundering of our natural resources.
The workers and the people have made too many sacrifices. We have had to endure sustaining life without wages and without any labor benefits. We have been pushed into informal economy and forced migration as a result of the agreements. We must demand in one voice the elimination of imperialist sanctions while calling for a workers’ and people’s campaign so that all of us are vaccinated now.