(Credit: Rodrigo Paiva / .)
Editor’s Note: Pedro Brieger is an Argentine journalist and sociologist, author of several books on international issues and collaborator in publications from different countries. He is a professor of sociology at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). Director of NODAL, a portal dedicated exclusively to news from Latin America and the Caribbean. He is currently a TV columnist for the Argentine channel C5N and on the program “En la Frontera” on PúblicoTV (Spain) and on radio programs for the Argentine radio stations Radio10, La Red, La Tribu and LT9-Santa Fé. Throughout his career Brieger won important awards for his informative work on Argentine radio and television.
(CNN Spanish) – One of the problems caused by the pandemic is isolation and the need for millions of people to go out to work. Most of the population does not have access to so-called teleworking and, as is known, in all Latin American countries there is the informal economy, characterized by daily subsistence.
Millions of people leave their homes very early in the morning to work and depend on the income of the day, since they do not have a fixed salary or reinsurance that at the end of the month they will be able to collect a salary. Millions of people in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico or Peru populate popular open-air markets, where they sell everything from clothing to telephones, while by their side are others who cook to feed those who work on the streets or walk on them. If they don’t work, they have no income, and if they don’t have income, they don’t eat. This is a long-standing reality.
One of the arguments of those who insist on ending social isolation and quarantines as soon as possible is that the poorest people have urgent needs. Crudely pointed out by the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, when he insisted that the country’s economy had to be reopened, because if not, “whoever stays at home unemployed will starve.” Of course, as president, he has the elements to prevent this from happening.
Although it is true that today, as a result of the pandemic, there is anguish and despair among people who live “up to date”, sometimes they are treated as if their only concern was going to work at any cost. They are underestimated, as if they did not care about the coronavirus or as if they were unconscious and ignorant people, far from the terrible reality.
Poor people are also afraid. An accumulated fear and, often, ignored. They are afraid when they drink water that is not drinkable or is contaminated and they know that it will affect their health. They are afraid if the floor of their house is dirt because they know that diseases such as Chagas disease or dengue are transmitted by mosquitoes that reproduce in stagnant waters.
They are afraid and suffer when a child dies from lack of medical care. They are afraid when they walk through their neighborhood at night and without light because the poor steal from the poor. They are afraid of habitual mistreatment by the police or the army. They are afraid when they take to the streets and people of a better social condition fear them because they fear the poor. Although they do not know the neologism “aporophobia” (fear of the poor), they live it daily. It is skin deep.
The list of fears that those living in poverty have is endless. And now they are also afraid of the coronavirus, because it does not take a Harvard doctorate to know that – like all diseases – this pandemic has a greater impact on the poorest people.