More than 300 Groups in Abya Yala Demand Structural Changes Due to COVID

A coalition of more than 300 social, indigenous, peasant, union, and community organizations from multiple Latin American countries have launched a “Call of the Original Peoples, Afro-descendants and Popular Organizations of Latin America”, to make demands for immediate structural changes in the face of the global pandemic crisis.

Indigenous, ethnic and social movement organizations recognize the urgency of correcting the economic course of our countries. The economic inertia of the neoliberal regimes that for more than 30 years have defined the path of our countries, has definitely entered a crisis. The dismantling of the public health system, without the installation of adequate services to respond to the current COVID-19 pandemic, has shown that the course followed places life on this planet at risk.

Some governments in the region, instead of protective measures, have opted for authoritarian measures, militarization, economic cuts, and massive layoffs. They highlight how this crisis has exposed the brutality of patriarchal violence against women and sexual diversities, further increasing the exclusion of “indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples exposed to facing the pandemic in conditions of extreme vulnerability.”

This movement of more than 300 groups highlights how community initiatives are literally saving lives, as it demands structural changes that rescue, all of us, from the current xenophobic, patriarchal extractive-capitalist paradigm:

As is the best tradition of our people, we are the organizations of the people, workers, peasants, of native peoples, feminists, Afro-descendants, piqueteras, of residents, of the barrios, who are placing our bodies, heads and hearts in developing immediate responses, but also to project a way out of this crisis that is not a return to the savage capitalist normality, but a path towards a different society. This will be possible if we take the best of ourselves as peoples, community ties, and popular, territorial and regional unity, so that in this struggle we nurture the fabric that builds a new horizon of transformation in Abya Yala.

We reproduce below the full list of proposals by this coalition (a PDF with the full letter is presented below):

  1. Prioritize life over debt. We reject the external debt payment, demand an exhaustive investigation and its cancellation. It is criminal that funds are spared from health and rights, to pay obligations with the IMF and other creditors. Health and social protection systems that deal with the pandemic must be the priority. We need to recover our strategic wealth and the management of banks and foreign trade, a permanent source of economic bleeding from Latin American countries. Only a policy of economic sovereignty, from popular power, can alleviate the economic and world crisis that we are beginning to experience.
  2. Fight against inequalities. We demand an extraordinary tax on the wealthy, on the profits of banks and large companies, on those who fled capital. That the governments assume the role of eliminating the inequalities promoted by the market, that the necessary investments in emergency policies are financed by disclosing the concentration of wealth, not by lowering workers’ wages. Reorient the production lines of large companies for the generation of supplies destined to combat coronavirus, as well as the diseases that we bear without State attention such as malnutrition, dengue, chagas, and tuberculosis.
  3. Urgent strengthening of public health systems. We call for urgent and priority investments in the public health system, the nationalization of private health, and the strengthening of pandemic containment measures by the states. The pandemic reaffirms the need for everyone to receive universal health care, strengthening the public promotion of these services. That the States take control of the production and administration of all necessary inputs to face the crisis with the participation and control of the workers. We demand an elimination of the patent system on medicines to fully develop scientific research and application to solve human problems, and the recognition of original and ancestral medicine.
  4. For dignified work with guaranteed rights. Guaranteed universal income for all, prohibition of layoffs and suspensions. It is essential to recognize the rights of workers to live a dignified quarantine. That this emergency does not become an excuse to continue advancing in the precariousness of work. No to the closure of companies, yes to state support for their workers labor and for recovery by the workers.
  5. Housing and decent living conditions as a social right. Quarantine can only be done under one roof, with guaranteed basic services and in a healthy neighborhood. It is necessary to suspend evictions, rent and service payments; housing policies should be directed towards a comprehensive urban reform that guarantees access to housing in decent neighborhoods for all working families. Universal access to water, electricity, and gas and urbanization of popular neighborhoods: there is no fight against the pandemic without everyone having access to clean water, gas, and access to electricity in their home, neighborhood or community. We reject houses without people, and people without houses. We demand the take over of empty properties for the homeless population and popular shelters.
  6. Facing hunger and guaranteeing universal access to food. Prioritize financing and the role of cooperative, community, and agroecological family agriculture in providing food for the people, dining rooms, picnic areas, and community kitchens: it is necessary to advance in promoting access to food, as a way to boost the economy instead of creating a supply crisis. We must guarantee a basic family food supply with regulated prices and that is tax exempt. We demand sanctions against speculative prices, the hoarding of supermarkets, and intermediaries. We demand forgiveness of peasant debts, the redistribution of productive land, and implementation of protection systems and agroecological colonies with State financing.
  7. Against the commodification of nature. We need to recover sovereignty over our common goods such as water, gas, oil, land, strategic wealth that has been usurped by economic octopuses with the complicity of governments and the local bourgeoisie. We demand full respect for the territories of the people and rethinking the current economic and extractive model. The exploitation of natural resources must respect mother earth as well as the peoples that inhabit it.
  8. Strengthening of sanitary and humanitarian assistance with guarantees on the sovereignty of the territories of original peoples, indigenous and Afro nationalities. Especially to all those whose habitat is in vital ecosystems such as the Amazon, for whom the epidemiological threat may mean ethnocide. We demand strengthening self-government and its systems for the territorial and cultural survival of the lives of indigenous and Afro peoples. We demand prohibiting evictions and actions that violate with the sovereignty of indigenous peoples.
  9. Real policies to confront patriarchal violence. With social isolation measures, there will be possibly increased domestic violence and other forms of violence against women. We demand an expansion of technological platforms for women, cis and trans communities, to guarantee their use when violence against women occurs, not only to prevent and eradicate it. We demand a budget to prevent femicides and transfemicides. Shelters for people in situations of violence, delivery of a special economic subsidy to survivors. Employment and education plans geared towards women and dissenting voices.
  10. More prevention, not repression. Many governments have used the coronavirus to intensify repressive and vigilant tactics, and to increase the imprisonment of the poorest, of community leaders, human rights defenders. It is time to reduce the prison population as a public health problem. It is also necessary to renew value to locally appointed authorities and the community, indigenous and popular guards who take care of our ancestral territories and are an effective community body to take care of life in the countryside and in the city.
  11. No to the imperialist political, economic, and military intervention. We categorically reject the use of the crisis as an excuse for a military interference in Venezuela by Yankee imperialism and its partners, the permanent assassination of indigenous and popular leaders in Colombia, the fierce repression of the coup regimes in Bolivia and Honduras, Piñera’s anti-popular government in Chile, as well as the expansion of extractive projects in indigenous and peasant territories. We demand that the blockades against Cuba and Venezuela be lifted.
  12. Internationalist Humanitarian Aid. We demand that governments request humanitarian aid from Cuba and other countries that have developed technical expertise to deal with the pandemic and that can help contain the COVID-19 outbreak in cities where the pandemic has spread most harshly, such as Guayaquil and San Pablo.