Convened by the International Workers’ Unity – Fourth International on 12 September, we held a meeting open to health workers who, in their countries, fight for the health of the people, for their working conditions and for their own lives.
With the presence of delegations of activists and leaders from almost a dozen countries in Latin America, this first international meeting was an intense, enriching and heartbreaking exchange that lasted for over three hours. Through almost twenty interventions, the participants discussed both the terrible experiences on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and the very hard fights in each country to improve the conditions in which thousands of health workers face the harsh reality of health systems devastated by decades of austerity policies dictated by imperialism and applied by governments of different political colours throughout the continent. But the meeting also discussed an in-depth solution to the terrible situation of health systems exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reynaldo Saccone, former president of the CICOP and leader of the Argentinean group Salud en Marcha briefly opened the meeting. The meeting included an initial overview of the general situation of the deterioration of the health systems and a proposal to promote different actions within the framework of a campaign for free state health systems for all financed by the non-payment of foreign debts and taxes on large fortunes.
For Brazil, Zila Camarão, a colleague from CST, a nursing technician from the João Barros Barreto University Hospital in Belem (Para). From Panama, the leader of Propuesta Socialista, Priscilla Vazquez, President of the Association of Employees of the Social Security Fund. From Bolivia Amado Quispe, public health worker from Sucre, former leader of the Federation of Health Workers of Chuquisaca. From Peru, UNIOS partner Liliana Mayhuasca, leader of the San Juan de Lurigancho Union of Care Technicians. From Mexico Francisco Retama, coordinator of the Network of Workers in Defence of Rights and Health. From Venezuela and comrade Thony Navas from Sirtrasalud, Caracas. And for our country Monica Mendez – CICOP Secretary for Organisation and Finance.
The exchange that followed highlighted in stark terms the situation to which thousands of health workers throughout the continent are exposed. In the first person, we heard shocking accounts of the conditions in which the health system is in Latin America and the multiple vicissitudes faced by its workers, often exposing their physical and mental health and even their own lives. Among dozens of interventions, the one by Patricia Llivisaca, General Secretary of the Nurses’ Union of the Vicente Corral Moscoso Regional Hospital in Cuenca, stood out.
To close the meeting, Priscila Vazquez, who led a large delegation from Panama, valued the meeting as a great step in the unity of health workers and of the working class. Taking into account the proposals that appeared in the debate, she highlighted the need to continue with a new meeting but also with common actions in defence of health and in particular a campaign in defence of the comrades who are persecuted in each country for defending their working conditions. Reynaldo Saccone stressed the need to give continuity to this space with new meetings and a declaration about the will of struggle expressed in the meeting. He supported each of the struggles.On behalf of the Socialist Left and the IWU-FI, comrade Saccone stressed the enthusiasm for having taken this first step and proposed as an aim to continue contributing to the international nucleus of health activists and fighters in the perspective of a fundamental solution.