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Name the Dead!

Mexico's Plague-Bringers



Mexico City.

Above all, the flu that has changed the life (and death) of our country is a cry to the world to denounce the systematic and merciless pillage that we, millions of Mexicans, have suffered over the last 27 years – years that today have turned us into the source of infection for all of humanity. What happened was the logical, catastrophic consequence of the irresponsible policies that day-by-day pushed into poverty one hundred million of us, leaving the hungry majority with no other option than migration or narco-trafficking.

During the regime of Vicente Fox, Mexico earned the largest windfall from oil revenues in its history but nothing was left to us from that bounty. Most of the money was used to give back tax contributions to the richest of the rich, and the rest –barely a tip- lies today in the fences and the manure piles of a ranch in Guanajuato [Fox’s presidential retreat in Rancho San Cristóbal, a sprawling complex; Fox’s consort is reputed to have used her power to create and enrich multiple businesses through her sons], in the companies of Marta Sahagún’s children and in the bank accounts of men and women of the regime.

In contrast there is not a single laboratory, not even in the highest house of learning at our national university, UNAM, able to detect the mutation of a virus lately called A/H1N1 to avoid any possible form of implication of the pig industry. As Enrique Galván Ochoa and Luis Linares Zapata have documented well in the pages of La Jornada throughout this exceptional week, in Mexico we used to have a state-run company called Birmex which used to be able to “provide vaccines, serums, immunoglobulins and diagnostic reagents for public health institutions across the states of the Mexican Republic”. Fox dismantled Birmex.

Before Fox, former president Ernesto Zedillo [now at Yale] finished off both the National Institute of Hygiene and the National Institute of Virology, which were dedicated to the study of viruses and the development of vaccines to combat them. None of that is left today. The first cases of the current flu in Mexico City were not detected, among other reasons, because the Ministry of Health did not have the tools to identify them. It was not until days later when the multiple contagion and few death cases pushed the Regime’s physician –- the always limited, always hesitant José Angel Córdova Villalobos — to send clinical samples to Canadian laboratories asking if they could pretty please tell us what was causing this unfamiliar flu.

The planet is astonished because, even 10 days after the midnight terrorist message of Córdova Villalobos on Thursday last week, the “government” (or whatever it may be) of Felipe Calderón has yet to reveal the names of any of the fatal victims of this virus, the virus which will sooner or later be recorded in History as the Mexican Flu Virus. After air accidents, road crashes, earthquakes, floods and fires authorities usually publicize the names of the dead. But not this time, and nobody can tell why.

You do not need to be very clever to understand that if Calderón and his physician refuse to give us a list of the deceased it must be because they hide key data that could bring down the rationale for the management of the situation with the tools of social panic. It is therefore fundamental that we know: Who were the dead? How old were they? Where did they live? What was their socioeconomic status? What was their occupation? In other words: Were their homes endowed with running water, toilet, shower, a cement floor, electricity? How many members made up their families, how many of them slept in the same room, how often did they take a shower? Were they obese? Undernourished? How often did they eat and what did they eat? When they moved around in their barrio or village, did they travel near pig farms? Was the environment in their daily lives saturated with pig or bird manure? Did they have contact with animal innards?

Many in Mexico suspect that the dead in this epidemic outburst belong to the most unprotected layers of our society, that we witness one more of the diseases of misery and that the real purpose of the measures applied up to now in a country with more than 50 million people below the level of extreme poverty is to isolate the poorest from those of us who are less poor, and certainly from the rich. Thus could we explain the total closure of schools, restaurants, bars, public offices, cinemas and theaters, gyms and pools, etc. Sooner or later this will become clear.

In one more act of totalitarian impulse Calderón has imposed of his own accord a funerary secret. This is a violation of the right to information not only of Mexicans, but of humanity as a whole. As long as he hides key data such as the names of the deceased, the apparatus of electronic terror will be enabled to continue to manipulate us at will.

Is it not time to ask our friends everywhere to raise a wave of international solidarity against this form of censorship? Let’s demand an autopsy of that layer of Mexican society which is dying from this flu. Will we have to come out again to the Zócalo, go on hunger strikes, block freeways once again before they can finally tell us the name of the dead?

Mexico is one of the richest and largest countries in the American Continent but a voracious pest, one more destructive and deadly than the swine influenza, has transformed us into a country that is weaker, hungrier and more hopeless than Haiti or even the poor Honduras, the banana-less Banana Republic. This pest is the scourge of neoliberal politicians from PRI and PAN, the plague of the Salinas and the Zedillos and the de-la-Madrids and the Foxes, all at the service of a handful of insatiable millionaires. Why have we allowed this to happen? Why have we tolerated being pushed so low? Were we perhaps mistaken when we came out on the streets with white flags to put a brake on the Indian rebellion from Chiapas?

Why is it that others who live under better hygiene can get better? Why do we live under the spell of a psychosis about A/H1N1 supposedly preferring young people between the ages of 20 and 45? Why have we allowed ourselves to be convinced of all this when we don’t even know the ages of the dead?

In Mexico we have witnessed a naked campaign against López Obrador in the last elections when he was called “a danger for Mexico”; we have seen Calderón claim power after a massively contested election claiming he would grab it “by any means”; we have then seen him back-track on all his promises, starting with that of employment, and embark on an artificial war “against” the narcos [drug industry] which succeeded only in militarizing the country and retrench his otherwise weak grab on power; we have seen him risk through these actions the national security of our country and that of the United States. So we Mexicans have clarity and maturity enough to know that Calderón is not below anything: if one day he dressed up as a soldier to launch the armed forces onto a tragic adventure, he now dons a white coat to succeed in keeping us under house arrest, sweating in panic.

There are two new objectives that arise from this flu on our citizen’s agenda: to demand from the “government” (or whatever it is) that they give us the names of the dead and to mobilize for a radical change in the agenda of scientific research. In the same way that we forced this spurious president to build a new, nationalized refinery to increase our control of the nation’s oil wealth, we must now fight for new laboratories and for the restoration of philosophy, ethics and aesthetics on the educational syllabi [a reference to a current legislative effort to remove these subjects from young people’s compulsory education programs].

Basta! Enough already, once and for all! Let’s not suffer one more day under the tyranny of this regime’s ignorance!

Jaime Avilés is a columnist for the Mexican daily, La Jornada, where this first appeared. He can be reached at Jaime Avilés

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