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COVID-19 bulletin 5: China, Cuba, Russia and America respond

Teams of Chinese medics have arrived in Britain and other countries to help to treat the coronavirus.

Unreserved praise has come from the World Health Organization Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has hailed China for the “speed with which [it] detected the outbreak” and its “commitment to transparency”.

UK media allegations

China’s dispatch of specialists has, however, been met with some UK media allegations that this humanitarian aid is an attempt to build “soft power” and accusations of a virus cover-up.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte appealed to President Vladimir Putin for support after the European Union failed to answer Rome’s pleas for help to contain the coronavirus. Reuters reports that Moscow responded by sending nine military transport planes carrying eight medical brigades plus around 100 other personnel, including epidemiological and virus experts, teams of doctors, protective gear and medical equipment, including 600 much-needed ventilators

FT journalists described this assistance as an attempt to exploit EU tensions

Brigades of Cuban health professionals volunteered to travel to the West Indies, Palestine and many other countries in addition to more than 28,000 Cuban health professionals already working abroad as part of bilateral agreements with more than 60 countries.

Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashwari thanked countries, including China and Cuba, for their support and role in leading the global efforts against the Covid-19 outbreak: “We know what all these things meant to us in times of adversity in an ongoing tragedy, and we know that this is the only way we can all join together in order to defeat this horrible affliction, the coronavirus pandemic, that has caught us all unaware.” 

American allegations said to have been discredited

Writers for the Atlantic Council quoted from a widely discredited article La Stampa, which reported that an anonymous source had claimed “80% of the Covid19 supplies Russia has sent to Italy are useless.”

This claim was dismissed by Lombardy regional President Attilio Fontana, who thanked the Russians for sending doctors and other people who can help with disinfection, saying: “We know that so long as we maintain this sense of empathy and compassion that humanity will prevail, no matter how difficult the times are right now. We will prevail if we stay human and we will stay safe. Thank you”.

Reuters: Russian military transport plane carrying medical equipment, masks and supplies lands at JFK International Airport April 1, 2020

President Trump has no such misgivings, however, saying: “Russia sent us a very, very large planeload of things, medical equipment, which was very nice.” The State Department in February pledged up to $100 million to support global efforts to combat COVID-19.

George Monbiot agrees that the Russian and Chinese governments compete with Western governments for spheres of influence and resources, but adds: “In confronting genuine threats to humanity and the rest of life on earth, there should be more that brings us together than sets us apart”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday “In the fight against coronavirus, international interaction is very important. No country can actually defeat such a pandemic and deal with it alone . . . we are all in the same boat, and everyone must answer this challenge together.”

 

 

 

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Media 103: #No More Trump campaign denied the oxygen of publicity by mainstream press

Richard House draws attention to the global campaign, World Protest Day, #No More Trump, launched on August 10th by President Nicolas Maduro.

It appeals to the peoples of the world to stand with the people of Venezuela against the economic, financial and commercial blockade imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of Caracas held signs that read, ‘No Mas Trump’ to protest against the U.S. president and his administration which has prevented the Venezuelan government from accessing billions of its own dollars and blocked food and medicine from entering the country.

Demonstrators in Australia, U.S., France, Aruba, South Korea, Haiti, Turkey Italy, Germany, Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Mozambique, among other nations, took part in World Protest Day

Under the hashtags, #NoMoreTrump, #NoMasTrump and #HandsOffVenezuela in support of Venezuela and the Maduro administration, they also demanded the halting of the U.S. administration’s efforts to try and install the self-declared interim president, Juan Guaido.

Their petition will be circulated globally until the end of August, and then presented to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, in early September. It begins with the words: We, the undersigned, the peoples of the world… It is expected that millions will sign the petition at this link in Venezuela and across the globe, before August 31, 2019.

The Caracas rally was denied Thatcher’s oxygen of publicity: Hong Kong protests dominated the press and pages of Donald Trump’s tweets pervaded the twittersphere

On August 10th, President Maduro told the thousands of Venezuelans gathered at the rally in Caracas “Today, we Venezuelans have dignity and are spiritually united.” Gerald A. Perreira, an executive member of the Caribbean Chapter of the Network for the Defense of Humanity and the Caribbean Pan-African Network (CPAN) comments:” Revolutions cannot be limited to the material/ economic plane. In fact, if a revolution is to be successful, the spiritual and cultural dimensions must be central. Hugo Chavez constantly invoked liberation theology in his speeches, and was clear that his inspiration to liberate his nation came from his religious convictions”.

Perreira recalls that on August 5, Trump had expanded the sanctions against Venezuela, signing an executive order to freeze all Venezuelan State assets in the US. Economists Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs, in a report issued by the Washington-based Centre for Economic & Political Research published earlier this year, found that as a result of the US embargo, Venezuelans were deprived of “lifesaving medicines, medical equipment, food and other essential imports”. They estimated that the sanctions against Venezuela caused at least 40,000 deaths between 2017 and 2018, and can be considered as assault on the civilian population, contravening the Geneva and Hague international conventions, of which the US is a signatory. He points out that:

“Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua constitute an “axis of hope, dignity and defiance”

  • Unlike the US, none of these countries have ever invaded another country, or supported any form of terrorism.
  • All three have been leaders for human advancement, dignity and progress in the region and worldwide, sharing human, cultural, scientific, and any other resource that could propel the rest of us forward.
  • Cuba has been in the vanguard, making extraordinary contributions in the fields of healthcare and medical research.
  • Despite the US’s criminal 60 year old blockade, which has been rightly described as “the longest lasting genocidal attack in history”, Cuba has developed vaccines and drugs that have saved countless lives.

The 120 member non-aligned movement (NAM) has discussed measures to counter the impact of US global sanctions, with 21 countries now included on Washington’s sanctions list. A gathering of NAM countries met in Caracas last month, together with seven observer countries, ten multilateral international organisations including the United Nations (UN) and fourteen specially invited nations. Speaking at the opening ceremony, President Nicolas Maduro (above) stressed that ending US global hegemony is a realistic goal, issuing a statement that affirmed that only Venezuela can decide its fate. It warned that US sanctions were in breach of the United Nations charter.

Perreira comments that progressive forces which stand outside the materialist tradition must take the upper hand and reclaim the revolutionary messages of the Bible and the Qur’an from ‘usurpers and hijackers’. He emphasizes that the peoples of the Global South have the natural resources and power to humble the Empire: “It is a well substantiated fact that if Europe and the US were denied access to its resources for two weeks, their economies would grind to a halt” and quotes the words of Arundhati Roy:

“The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability… 

Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them…

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Broken Britain 5: Martin Wolf annotated. Plus a lesson from Delhi

Extracts with bracketed comments = original text here, may be subject to paywall

In the Financial Times, Wolf asks: “Why has the appeal of populist ideas grown in western countries? Is this a temporary phenomenon?”

He continues: “What, first of all, is a populist?” And answers:

  • The abiding characteristic of populism is its division of the world into a virtuous (powerless) people on the one hand, and corrupt elites . . . on the other.
  • Populists distrust (corrupted) institutions, especially those that constrain the “will of the people”, such as courts, independent media, the bureaucracy and fiscal or monetary rules.
  • Populists reject credentialed experts (funded to serve vested interests). They are also suspicious of free markets and free trade (misnomers – so-called free traders erect tariff barriers whenever they can).
  • Rightwing populists believe certain ethnicities are “the people” and identify foreigners as the enemy. They are economic nationalists (but keen exporters and speculators) and support traditional (discriminatory & inhumane) social values.
  • Populists (left and right) put their trust in charismatic leaders
  • Leftwing populists identify workers as “the people” and (only the uncaring) rich as the enemy. They also believe in state ownership of property (if there were ever to be an honestly run state)

Wolf asks why these sets of ideas have become more potent (because central control, corruption and deprivation is increasing alarmingly). He refers to a Harvard study which considers immigration a cultural shift but argues that it can also be reasonably viewed as an economic one (because it’s cheaper to import subservient low-cost labour than to educate one’s own citizens)

What has changed recently?

“The answer is the financial crisis and consequent economic shocks. These not only had huge costs. They also damaged confidence in — and so the legitimacy of — financial and policymaking elites.

“These emperors turned out to be naked” (Correct).

He thinks that the results of past political follies have still to unfold:

  • The divorce of the UK from the EU remains a process with unfathomable results.
  • So, too, is the election of President Trump. The end of US leadership is a potentially devastating event.
  • Some of the long-term sources of fragility, cultural and economic, including high inequality and low labour force participation of prime-aged workers in the US, are still with us today.
  • The pressures for sustained high immigration continue.
  • The fiscal pressures from ageing are also likely to increase.

Wolf’s remedy the economic anxieties can and must be addressed: we must recognise and address the anger that causes populism. He continues: “populism is an enemy of good government (the status quo) and even of democracy (which has yet to be achieved)”.

Aam Aadmi (the Common Man’s Party) originated in the India Against Corruption (‘anti-graft’) movement. It claimed that the common people of India remain unheard and unseen except when it suits the politicians. It stresses self-governance, community building and decentralisation; advocating government directly accountable to the people instead of higher officials. It was formally launched on 26 November 2012 and won 67 of the 70 seats in the Delhi state assembly elections in 2015.

IMHO, as one correspondent often opens, building a stable democracy will require:

  1. proportional representation in which the votes cast reflect the true support for all participating parties and independent candidates;
  2. the attraction of parliamentary candidates with a track record of public service, offering only the national average wage, supplemented by basic London accommodation where needed and travel/secretarial expenses.
  3. and the clear understanding that after election these MPs (and their families) should acquire no shares or non-executive directorships.

And “self-governance, community building and decentralisation; advocating government directly accountable to the people instead of higher officials”.

 

 

 

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