Virgínia Fontes: Active Social Solidarity and the Coronavirus in Brazil

Prof. Virgínia Fontes teaches at the Federal University of Ferminense (UFF) in the Post Graduate Program, the Joaquim Venâncio Polytechnic Health School at Fiocruz, and at the Florestan Fernandes National School of the Landless Workers Movement (MST). This article was originally published by Esquerda Onlinein Brazil, translated and republished here by No Borders News with permission.

This is the time for active social solidarity, not for falling into a state of shock, let alone panic. We must be clear that we can only protect our health by protecting the health of everyone, starting with those most vulnerable to the virus (the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions), the mass of attending health workers who are especially exposed, and by the vast majority of our cities’ populations, where growing social inequality leaves most without resources. We know that we have a chance to get out of this epidemic relatively unscathed because the government has not yet managed to destroy the Unified Public Health System (SUS), despite the fact that powerful people have been trying to do so since its inclusion in the Constitution.

Active solidarity means not forgetting that:

*Public money must go entirely to public health!

*People’s lives are more important than paying the interest on debts that only benefits millionaires. We must repeal constitutional amendment 95 (EC 95), this 2016 provision allocates public funds to pay interest on national debt (we don’t even know what the original loans were spent on) and effectively freezes federal spending for twenty years. We must overturn this “End of the World” amendment so we can secure more public resources for the public sector!

Active social solidarity means demanding that:

*Teams of Community Health Agents should be reorganized. They were dismantled by Marcelo Crivella, the evangelical mayor of Rio de Janeiro, and they have been underfunded in the country as a whole. These teams work in communities and slums and contribute to the monitoring family health.

*There be immediate provision guaranteeing special attention for low-income families to prevent domestic isolation, many of which will need food and psychological and social care.

Active social solidarity means remembering that:

*We put life before profit, freezing economic activity must not result in loss of wages. In countries like Brazil that suffer from aggravated social inequality, and where a large part of the population each day earns only enough to pay for what they will eat that night, such measures are necessary to fight the pandemic. Only a very small portion of the population has the economic reserves to face a situation like this, and many of these people will have to contribute to the survival of friends and relatives.

*The virus shows that all human beings are equal and that inequality results from the organization of social life. No discrimination can be tolerated against targeted neighborhoods, or against the poor, Afro-Brazilians, women, or LGBT people!

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