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Every morning, Rosa Gallegos has to make a decision: stay at home with her family to protect herself from the coronavirus, or get on the streets of Mexico City to earn money so they can eat.
The 61-year-old grandmother always comes to one conclusion: “If the coronavirus does not kill me, there will be hunger.”
Recently, on Thursday, she stood on the corner of the street near the public hospital complex, sorting through small bags of nuts. “Nuts, 10 pesos. Get the nuts, 10 pesos,” she told passersby.
Prior to the pandemic, she worked several days a week, earning about 500 pesos ($ 25) a day. Combined with the daughter’s salary, the family made ends meet. But today, Gallegos is trying to survive on as much as $ 3 to $ 5 a day.
“I have one daughter who still depends on me,” Gallegos told NPR. “She has two young sons and was recently released.” There is no federal unemployment insurance in Mexico, and her daughter did not claim unemployment funds in Mexico City because she did not have a contract with the clothing store where she worked. “That’s why I have to go out and keep working, helping her, supporting her,” says Gallegos.
As the coronavirus continues to grow in Mexico, where the government has registered more than 400,000 confirmed cases and more than 45,000 deaths, families have suffered the fourth largest number of people in the world. But low wages have been doubly shocked: they account for the highest proportion of virus-related deaths, and there are not enough funds to stay afloat as the pandemic plunges Mexico deeper into the recession. There is growing pressure on the government to improve health and offer financial assistance to those in need.
The rate of rapid crises is shown in the capital of Mexico. Long lines are formed in the mobile kitchens of the city government.
James Fredrick for NPR
“We serve about 20% more food every day,” says Okejo Rojo, NPM’s Almudena, head of the Social Inclusion and Welfare Agency of Mexico City, which runs these kitchens. “Food aid is that we are seeing a demand for growth, and we will try to meet that need.”
The agency, which relies on helping the especially homeless, people with disabilities and the elderly, is trying to combat growing demand as the densely populated metropolis remains at the epicenter of Mexico’s infection. The agency moved kitchen soups to hospitals to feed hungry relatives of COVID-19 patients and expanded facilities in homeless shelters.
Not so long ago, poor and vulnerable Mexico was told that they should not worry about the coronavirus. In early March, one of the first cases of coronavirus in the country were wealthy Mexicans returning from a ski trip to Vail, Colorado. Coronavirus, according to political and media commentators, was a disease of the rich.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, elected in 2018 with broad working-class support, has repeatedly reduced the risk of an outbreak. “Pandemics will not give us anything,” he said on March 15, when Mexico reported more than 40 cases. He defended the charms of luck as protection against the virus.
That month, one of the president’s most prominent supporters, legal scientist John Ackermann, tweeted the hashtag #VailNoEsMexico, “Vail is not Mexico,” implying that the country does not need to take anticoronavirus measures.
On March 26, Puebla Governor Luis Miguel Barbosa, an ally of the president, said: “The majority [of coronavirus cases] these are people with money. If you are rich, you take a risk, but not if you are poor. We poor people are not insured. “At that time, the virus had ravaged people of all backgrounds in many countries.
More than 40,000 deaths from COVID-19 were later the opposite, according to a study by Hector Hernandez Bringas, a demographer from the National Autonomous University of Mexico known for his Spanish initials UNAM.
“As it happens in any crisis, in any catastrophe in a country like Mexico, the most vulnerable are the most vulnerable,” he says.
Hernandez tracked the demographics in the death certificates of COVID-19 victims and made some stunning discoveries.
Claudio Cruz / AFP via Getty Images
“More than 70% of the people who died from COVID had an education in primary school or less,” he said. This is a significant part of the country, where more than half of the population graduates from high school. Low education also means greater poverty and social inequality among victims.
“More than half of the people who died from COVID died in hospitals from the Ministry of Health,” says Hernandez. He explains that these are public hospitals that serve all Mexicans, especially the poor and those who do not have health insurance.
He added that 9% of deaths occurred outside the medical facility, meaning that thousands of Mexicans contracted the disease without medical care.
Rose family Gallegos, a street vendor, experienced this firsthand.
“I know how scary it is because I saw it with my nephew. He didn’t even go for eight days,” she says.
Gallegos’ nephew was a healthy 29-year-old. When he developed flu-like symptoms, the family did not know what to do – there was conflicting information about the coronavirus, and rumors circulated that it was a ruse. At the time he was in critical condition, he could not be admitted to hospital. He died in bed. The coroner’s report confirmed that he had COVID-19.
The coronavirus has severely affected Mexican residents in cities such as Mexico City, as well as in small rural communities in states such as Guerrero and Oaxaca. And illness is only part of the pain.
“Many millions of people have lost their jobs … and the government has not given any support to companies and employees at all,” said Valeria Moi, director of the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, a business think tank. Mexico.
An estimated 12.5 million Mexicans lost their jobs and left the labor market completely in April when the coronavirus restrictions took effect, according to official figures.
According to BBVA estimates, it will take Mexico a full decade to recover from the ongoing economic losses without major financial incentives.
The Lopez Obrador administration has offered 25,000 pesos ($ 1,250) in business loans, but Moi says they are not a threat. The government has also made advance pension payments to the elderly, but has so far rejected any new remittances in support of struggling Mexicans.
“[López Obrador] has a very deep aversion to debt. He hates debt. One of his main promises in the campaign was to reduce debt. He is very stubborn, saying that we will no longer borrow, “says Moi.
This is a difficult situation for a president who often uses the phrase “poor at first, “which means ‘poor first’.”
“What worries me most is that the government does not seem ready to respond to the seriousness of this crisis,” said Rolando Cordera Campos, a UN economist. “Those who earn little, who live every day, and that’s a lot of people in Mexico, are immediately and directly affected by the shutdowns.”
The government’s poverty tracking and social programs estimate that more than 10 million Mexicans could be in extreme poverty due to the economic consequences of the coronavirus. This would destroy more than a decade of poverty reduction.
“There’s no reason for people to starve in Mexico,” Cordera said. “We can afford to spend that money.”
Claudio Cruz / AFP via Getty Images
To feed the people, Corder and his university colleagues are told that the president needs to immediately send 75 billion pesos ($ 3.3 billion) in money to Mexicans who are struggling with food security.
“Millions of people have borne the economic cost of being at home, for the common good, to stop the spread of the virus,” Cordera said. “The government has not taken the right steps to avoid suffering.”
At least in Mexico City, it is too early to predict the long-term social consequences of the pandemic, says Ochio Rojo of local government. Over the next few months, the social security agency will collect data and have a clearer picture. But the concern is palpable.
“I am worried about such inequality it is exacerbated by the pandemic that people who are already vulnerable experience more difficulties and eventually become even more vulnerable because of it, ”says Okejo Rojo.
Gallegos says she has no choice but to keep working every day.
“I don’t get any support from anyone,” she said. It eliminates the lack of state aid, they say, politicians “all the same: They say they will help, but they never will.”
She does her best to avoid the virus. She says she wears a mask, keeps her distance from others and regularly disinfects or washes her hands.
“I hope the virus doesn’t find me, that I don’t catch it,” she says.
“But if that happens, well, if I can’t be cured, I think I’ll go somewhere else.”