Save lives to save the economy, says Via Campesina Brazil

First published by Peoples Dispatch on April 4, 2020

The movement has criticized the approach of the Jair Bolsonaro government to the crisis and the economy. It has called for adequate funding and resources for the health system and relief measures for workers.

According to Via Campesina, the repeatedly irresponsible attitude of the government with regards to public health measures has aggravated the crisis.

Amid the rapid increase of cases of COVID-19, Via Campesina Brazil released a public statement on Monday, March 30, suggesting solutions to guarantee the protection of the Brazilian people.

For the organization, the wounds caused by capitalism, added to the pandemic, are causing a public health crisis. The crisis is worsening the damage from the accumulation of capital.

“It is possible that we are facing a crisis that will redefine the world with profound repercussions on economic, political and ideological reorganization, impacting states, territories and peoples,” the statement said.

The national management of the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the political-institutional crisis of the government of Jair Bolsonaro. The statement of Via Campesina pointed out that since taking office, Bolsonaro has waged constant war on science and culture. He has also tried to take the rights away of the working class and to erode people’s sovereignty.

“The irresponsible attitude of the government with regard to public health measures has aggravated the crisis, causing hunger and social violence at the time of the pandemic,” platform said.

Life first

Bolsonaro has said that the country cannot stop and it should only put the “at-risk groups” (elderly people and people with diseases) in isolation. The speech not only goes against the recommendation of health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, but also against the guidelines of the World Health Organization.

In the evaluation of the Via Campesina, it is necessary to preserve life to ensure the subsequent recovery the economy. For the movement, Bolsonaro and his allies are fomenting a crisis of catastrophic proportions wherein, instead of coordinating with the States and municipalities to create a sense of unity and national cooperation, they choose to carry out budget cuts in the midst of a crisis and spread fake news on social media.

The Via Campesina will support actions that promote self-care but not social gatherings. The movement will still encourage production of agro-ecological food, especially products which are good for the immune system – like ginger, saffron, propolis, lemons, and garlic – at accessible prices to supply people in urban areas.

The organization asks that everyone share truthful information to combat disinformation, and utilize the quarantine for artistic and cultural creation. It recommends exercise, study and ideological strengthening, and collaboration with actions of solidarity and support.

The state

The movement demands that the state allocate resources in order to guarantee the full operation of the United Health System (SUS), with a focus on prevention. The organization also demands an increase in the number of beds available in ICUs with appropriate equipment for the treatment of COVID-19 and the reactivation of the program, More Doctors.

Among the economic measures they propose are protection of workers and taxing the wealthy; a moratorium on public debt; suspension of energy and water bills and free distribution of gas for low-income families; suspension of rent payments; and approval, in the National Congress and by the Presidency, of a program of minimum monthly wage. They have also sought the immediate suspension of the Constitutional Amendment 95 (Constitutional Amendment of Public Spending).

Constitutional Amendment 95, adopted in December 2016, stipulates that for 20 years, any increase in primary public budget expenditure is limited to inflationary variation. This means that during this time, there will be no real increase in primary expenditure, which includes public services and investment. The Constitutional Amendment on Public Spending not only freezes but also reduces social spending in percentage per capita (per person).

Policies of growth

Via Campesina said that broadening the distribution of food through the National School Food Program is fundamental, with the utilization of schools to distribute food supplies to families of students. They highlighted the necessity to strengthen the people’s canteens and food banks in agreement with the protocols of security of the WHO. The statement points to the need to provide basic food supplies to the people who live in the peripheral areas of the city and the necessity to keep street fairs functional while adhering to health measures.

© Photo: ABr