From Crisis to Suspicions – by Ángel Viveros .La Crónica de hoy. 30th of April 2009From a health crisis we've moved onto being swine suspicious. The messy reporting of the number of suspected, probable, or accurate cases of swine flu has generated distrust amongst the population. Although WHO raised the alert level to 5 out of 6, there seems to be no political agreement on the number of deaths that have actually occurred due to the virus. First it was 150, then the numbers that had lost their lives specifically due to the swine virus went down to 28, but then it turned out that it was really only 7 cases. There is also no agreement on where the source of the outbreak is, is it in the Perote farm or in Texas?More suspicions. The emergence of the virus is highly worrying, on one hand because of its lethal and real existence, but on the other hand because it has had the power to change the face of the national and international media. Even the films and photographs that were going to be released about the Bush administration's permission to torture Guantanamo prisoners have been forgotten. In Mexico, we have lost track of the US$47 billion granted by the International Monetary Fund to help us deal with the economic crisis. The 8% fall in economic growth in the first three months of the year announced by the Banco de Mexico seems to have gone unnoticed. Congress is passing laws on security almost by the minute. Even the polls –this however is justifiable– carried out by the Interior Ministry and other companies on the present electoral scenario have been dispersed or hushed down.The lack of trust in the government due to the inconsistent nature of the information released is being seized by some as an opportunity to speculate, sensationalise, and relive past events that other governments have tried to conceal. For example, as the north American writer William Bloom tells us in his book Matando la Esperanza (Killing hope), in 1971 the CIA infiltrated an African swine flu virus into Cuba which forced them to slaughter half a million pigs in the hope that it would induce the need to purchase from outside the country. Or, as other journalists in the US, such as the radio host Ralph Schoenman, have reported, the existence of military laboratories throughout their country that are working on biological weapons using the swine flu virus.Beyond the distrust that this health crisis has brought about, it has also revealed the poor budget set aside for the health of Mexicans. In 2009 Mexico will set aside 134 billion pesos (around US$9 billion ) for health, while in the US Obama created a US$634 billion 10 year fund. The Treasury Department has just barely released enough funds to start the investigations, through Conacyt, into this virus and the long bureaucratic process that will accompany it. First there will be a call for proposals, then the presentations of these proposals, and only after UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) scientists, the technical institutes and other organisations have agreed on how to proceed with the investigations into this virus will there be another requests for funds. But to this day they have even been denied the pathological samples. On the other hand Barack Obama will ask for US$500 million to deal with the health crisis, and his predecessor, George W.Bush, requested US$600 million from Congress to tackle the avian flu, although he only spent US$80 million of that.The way events are unfolding you would think we are living Herbert George Well's war of the worlds, or a horror story. But what really sounds like fiction is the long road Treasury has decided to take to investigate the outbreak of swine flu, or perhaps this is just the screen behind which the multinational pharmaceutical business companies, who have the drugs and vaccines, force government to replenish stocks.It would be a criminal offense to cash in, politically as well as economically, on this health crisis. However, the PAN and the PRD* are already inside the fighting ring. We already know that for the former everything goes, all strategies are equally valid in order to steal votes from their opponents, and this flu, which has affected Mexico City's population the most, is the perfect scenario to win one over the PRD, who currently governs the state. It would seem that PRI* is the only consistent party. Then again, the spokesperson for the tricolour party at the Chamber of Deputies announced a special package, for the grand total of five billion pesos (about US$360 million), to deal with the health crisis in the whole country.
- Words in italics are my own clarifications.