VILLAHERMOSA, TABASCO, MEXICO, Nov. 12 — A half million are homeless and there are uncounted deaths from the torrential rains that hit the state of Tabasco for several days — all because of capitalism’s utter disregard for Mexico’s workers. Eighty percent of Tabasco, a state larger than Massachusetts, was under water. Many spent days on the roofs of their houses. Roads, bridges and more than 100,000 homes have been destroyed. Potable water, food, medicine and clothes are in very short supply for tens of thousands of workers and their families who have still not found refuge.
Even worse than the horrific effects of Katrina in New Orleans, such natural phenomena are turned into racist, anti-working class tragedies by the profit system. Most of Tabasco’s victims were extremely poverty-stricken workers and indigenous people — in a country where 40% are jobless and half the population tries to survive on less than $2 a day.
Tabasco’s local bosses and Mexico’s federal rulers are responsible for these deaths, injuries and destruction. “The tragedy of Tabasco could have been avoided with relatively simple and inexpensive measures,” said Salvador Briceño, director of the UN’s International Strategy for the Reduction of Disasters (El Universal, 11/3).
Opposition mis-leader López Obrador, who ran against the current president, Felipe Calderon, cynically used the disaster to build his own base of support. He accused the Federal Commission of Electricity of being responsible for the dams overflowing. Normally the dams should be kept 40% to 50% full so there is enough room for more water in case of serious storms (La Jornada, 11/7). But because the state-owned electric company buys 31% of its electricity from private utilities it doesn’t need the water power of the main dam. Out of disregard for the lives and safety of the working class, it allows it to be underutilized and therefore remain filled to 94% of capacity. Obrador spreads the lie that nationalist state capitalism, unlike private enterprise, is committed to serving the people.
Although Obrador mobilized millions for his election campaigns, neither he nor the union leaders have organized solidarity among the same masses to demand aid for Tabasco’s victims. Nor did they expose the real cause of the tragedy, capitalism. While planning for racist exploitation and wars for profits, and aided by its politician and union leader lackeys, the capitalists are incapable of central planning for — nor do they care about — the needs of the working class.
In 1999, floods in Tabasco were an omen of more extreme disasters like the current one. But government officials, bosses and their capitalist politicians ignored these warnings. Negligence, corruption, militarization and bosses’ obscene profits have been their guiding principles, not workers’ needs. Mexican capitalist Carlos Slim, the world’s second richest man, increased his vast stolen wealth from $5 billion to $49 billion in just a few years.
President Calderon has made deals for billions of U.S. blood money. Calderon sent more than 8,000 soldiers to Tabasco, not to help the workers and their families, but to “prevent looting” of his buddies’ businesses. Calderon wants to protect the state-owned oil company, PEMEX to bring it more under U.S. control. Laura Gurza, coordinator of Civil Protection, rushed to reassure the bosses that, “National security and governability were not at risk due to the catastrophe.” Concern for protecting the bosses’ property came first, workers’ well-being last.
On the other hand, thousands of impoverished Mexican workers responded immediately, bringing food, water and clothing to the victims. International solidarity saw U.S. workers and many countries bring goods to collection centers. We should organize help for our sisters and brothers in Tabasco, in our shops and unions, our churches and community organizations, our schools and on our campuses.
However, unfortunately all this aid cannot solve the problem, which continues to be capitalism and its drive for maximum profits. Other tragedies will occur because of deforestation, the construction of dams and the poverty forcing workers into neighborhoods endangered by dikes, channels or useless walls.
The best help for victimized workers in Tabasco, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, New Orleans and worldwide is to build the fight to destroy the real root of these disasters, the system of capitalism and imperialism, a system which sacrifices workers’ lives for profits. We should dedicate our lives to building a communist world where the life and security of workers is primary, the central goal of society. That means spreading CHALLENGE and PLP’s ideas which will make bosses, profits and corrupt politicians a sad chapter in humanity’s history.