By Abayomi Azikiwe
United States President Donald Trump has launched a verbal attack against the World Health Organization (WHO) and its Director General Dr. Tedros Ahhanom Ghebreyesus. The WHO is an international agency affiliated with the United Nations in which the U.S. was a co-founder in 1945.
At present the UN headquarters is based in New York City, the current epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic which has sickened over 1.3 million people and killed tens of thousands around the globe. The U.S. now has the largest concentration of COVID-19 cases, approaching the 400,000 mark with more than 12,000 deaths, which is overwhelming the healthcare systems throughout the country, closing schools, public institutions, private businesses and religious institutions.
As of the end of the first week in April, approximately 10 million workers have applied for unemployment benefits. A $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress and signed into law by Trump will prove to be inadequate for working families to stabilize their economic situation in the coming months and years.
In a daily White House briefing headed by Trump of the Coronavirus Task Force, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, on April 7, the president accused the WHO of not informing the international community of the pending pandemic. These remarks by Trump have been refuted by the WHO Director General who admonished the administration in Washington for attempting to politicize the COVID-19 global response.
The WHO has not been the only international institution attacked by the White House. Trump has repeatedly described the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) as the “China virus.” In addition, the president has accused the People’s Republic of China (PRC) of covering up the outbreak of the epidemic in Wuhan and not informing the international community.
During the April 7 briefing Trump threatened to place a hold on funding from Washington to the WHO. Over the last two years, the U.S. has donated $893 million, 14 percent of the WHO budget, to the international body based in Geneva, Switzerland.
In the course of his comments, Trump said that the WHO favors China and its policies to address the COVID-19 pandemic. China did take effective measures to arrest the spread of COVID-19 and is currently reopening areas within Wuhan, the center of the outbreak in China, along with other regions of the country.
An article published by the Associated Press reported that the WHO rejected the characterization of the organization as being “China-centric.” Numerous WHO spokespersons have called for unity amid the global efforts against the pandemic.
The AP story said of the situation that: “World Health Organization officials on Wednesday (April 8) denied that the body was ‘China-centric’ and said that the acute phase of a pandemic was not the time to cut funding, after U.S. President Donald Trump said he may put contributions on hold…. Dr. Bruce Aylward, senior advisor to the WHO Director-General, also defended the U.N. agency’s relationship with China, saying its work with Beijing authorities was important to understand the outbreak which began in Wuhan in December.”
Washington Attacks on WHO Reflects Imperialist Foreign Policy
These attacks on the WHO are taking place right alongside the continuing aggressive imperialist policies of the U.S. government. Independent governments throughout the world are under constant pressure by the Trump administration.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been the scene of widespread COVID-19 infections. Although Trump claimed during the April 8 White House briefing that he would not oppose medical assistance to Tehran, he has refused to lift the existing sanctions against the country.
Other efforts by Washington against Iran centers around the confiscation of assets under the guise of Tehran alleged culpability in “terrorist” attacks against the U.S. Iran has denied any involvement with the hijackings and targeted crashes on September 11, 2001 and no evidence has been presented by the State Department to remotely suggest any involvement by the Islamic Republic.
Press TV reported on a recent attempt by the White House to seize Iranian funds in Europe which failed in court. The article says of the situation that: “Governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), also known as Bank Markazi, says the country has won a legal battle in Europe to dismiss a US attempt to have Iranian funds blocked and handed over to Washington for compensating the so-called victims of terror. Abdolnasser Hemmati said on Wednesday (April 8) that courts in Luxembourg had taken Iran’s side in a dispute over $1.6 billion worth of Iranian funds held by Clearstream, a securities depository, which Washington had sought to block and confiscate.”
This same article goes on to note: “The US government has ramped up its support for claims on Iranian assets in other parts of the world since Washington withdrew from an international nuclear deal with Iran and imposed a series of harsh sanctions on the country in November 2018. Even courts in the United States have dismissed complaints meant for confiscation of Iranian assets in the country for paying for false claims related to terrorism.”
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has been in the cross-hairs of the Trump administration for some time. This socialist-oriented government of President Nicolas Maduro refuses to be intimidated by U.S. imperialism which in 2019 recognized an opposition figure as the official head-of-state over the oil rich South American nation.
In early April, the Trump administration during a White House briefing on the COVID-19 announced the deployment of U.S. warships to the Caribbean coast of Venezuela. More unsubstantiated charges of drug trafficking against the United Socialist Party of Venezuela were utilized as the rationale for the escalation in military threats.
A $5 billion loan requested by the Venezuelan government from the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) was rejected during March. The money was to be utilized for mitigation efforts against COVID-19.
It is clear that U.S. destabilization efforts against Caracas underline the denial by the IMF which has a long history of oppressive policies enacted against developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. France24 said of the refusal of the IMF to assist Venezuela in its time of need that: “In a letter to IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva, Maduro said a $5 billion loan from the IMF’s Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) ‘will contribute significantly to strengthening our detection and response systems. It was the country’s first loan request to the IMF since 2001.’Unfortunately, the Fund is not in a position to consider this request, because there is ‘no clarity’ on international recognition of the country’s government, the Washington-based institution said in a statement. As we have mentioned before, IMF engagement with member countries is predicated on official government recognition by the international community, as reflected in the IMF’s membership. There is no clarity on recognition at this time,’ the statement said.”
The Caribbean nation of the Republic of Cuba has mobilized its resources to address the COVID-19 crisis. Not only has Cuba’s medical resources been utilized domestically, they have deployed teams to assist Italy which has been devastated by the outbreak.
Nonetheless, the hostility towards Cuba is escalating and the destabilization efforts against Venezuela are geared towards weakening Havana as well. The blockade on Cuba since the early 1960s prevents normal relations and cooperation in the fields of medicine and scientific research.
Cuba’s work on treatments for the COVID-19 pandemic is never mentioned in the White House briefings on the current situation. Interferon Alpha-2B Recombinant (IFNrec), a drug jointly developed by Cuba and China, has been utilized to treat COVID-19 patients.
Even Newsweek magazine wrote in late March: “Cuba first used advanced interferon techniques to treat dengue fever in the 1980s and later found success in using it to combat HIV, human papillomavirus, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and other diseases. The use of Interferon Alpha-2B Recombinant ‘prevents aggravation and complications in patients reaching that stage that ultimately can result in death,’
Cuban biotech expert Luis Herrera Martinez said, according to a recent Yale University Press Blog feature written by the University of Glasgow’s Dr. Helen Yaffe. She called the treatment a potential ‘wonder drug’ against the new coronavirus.”
In the Southern African nation of Zimbabwe, the country is implementing programs to prevent the spread of the virus. Daily news reports and discussions with physicians appear on the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) television.
A talk show aired on April 8 and addressed by a physician said the Zimbabwe healthcare system had very few testing kits for COVID-19. These difficulties could easily be ameliorated if the western imperialist sanctions were lifted.
Anti-Imperialism Needed in Fight to Defeat COVID-19
The current situation involving the pandemic requires greater international solidarity and cooperation. This is the antithesis of the approach by Washington which is seeking to utilize its medical policy to gain advantage over other rival states.
Trump is constantly referring to U.S. healthcare professionals and scientists as being the most advanced in the world, yet he has consistently contradicted sound medical advice from trained and tested virologists and epidemiologists. Previous warnings of the looming pandemic were ignored by the White House beginning in January.
It was only when the stock market began to lose substantial sums of money that the administration took notice. The spread of COVID-19 and the pressure it is placing on the healthcare system and the economy in the U.S. and globally is triggering large-scale financial problems.
The lessons to be learned from the situation are that capitalism has failed to provide for the basic needs of population groups living under its control. With the U.S. being the leading capitalist state, it portends much for the future of a society where profits based on economic exploitation and national oppression govern national and international policies. Such a system cannot sustain itself in the face of the burgeoning challenges which are emerging domestically and across the globe.