In Guayaquil, Ecuador: in the face of a health crisis, capitalism inflicts pain and death

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The picture is bleak, the deaths are counted in their hundreds, the smell of acid floods several sectors of the city, entire families have perished, as have many health workers. So far, the Ecuadorian state has recognized 315 deaths from Covid-19 [1], without specifying how many of these took place in the city of Guayaquil. However, the number of deaths from Covid-19 in Guayaquil does not represent the objective number of people, doctors, journalists and foreigners who have witnessed the enormous tragedy; for its part, the state, unable to respond to the health emergency, is trying to hide the numbers of bodies scattered on the streets and avenues which, in response to the complaints of many people, are gradually being removed and stored in three hospital facilities; furthermore, the morgues are full of unidentified bodies. In the face of this situation, every day hundreds of families live through the drama of claiming the remains of their loved ones in order to proceed with a dignified burial. It is a horror show resulting from the lack of hospitals, without sufficient medical personnel, without medicines, the result of permanent budget cuts, which indicates that the bourgeoisie is not interested in solving the elementary needs of the population. The cynical and lying behaviour of the bourgeoisie is the behaviour of criminals.

For the time being, the city of Guayaquil remains immersed in hysteria and fear, the images of which are travelling around the world, provoking the indignation and solidarity of many workers. The same reaction is occurring in many places where the state cannot take care of thousands of people infected by an epidemic that the bourgeoisie has known for years was bound to occur.

How does the bourgeoisie respond to the effects of Covid-19?

The media expose the scale of the disaster; no country has really been prepared for an emergency of the magnitude that humanity is experiencing. On the contrary, we have seen the neglect and deterioration of the health systems in China, USA, Spain, Italy, and one could even predict the same effects in countries that have supposedly become models of excellence in bourgeois administration like Denmark. In all countries the behavior of the bourgeoisie has been similar. First they minimised the impact of the pandemic, then they changed to a display of concern. But either way deplorable health systems are being exposed, systems that cannot respond to the Covid-19 epidemic that has been latent for the last twenty years. The hypocritical behaviour of those in power can be summarised as: save the economy at the expense of human lives, as the U.S. Vice President put it in early March 2020.

As part of the deterioration of the global health system, the Ecuadorian state, as has happened in other countries, laid off 2,500 workers in 2019, including doctors, nurses and cleaning staff. As for the health budget for 2020, the National Assembly approved it minus $81 million compared to the previous year, when it stood at $3,097 million. If we compare the 2019 health budget with the payment of the foreign debt for the same year, which was $8.107 billion, this shows the preference of the Ecuadorian state in capital accumulation. The health of the population comes a poor second.

For this reason, the impact of Covid-19 in Guayaquil is due to a bourgeoisie that is not interested in the health of the population, in investing in infrastructure, let alone in health workers. Thus, since March 16, when the pandemic was officially declared in Ecuador, that same day the Minister of Economy Richard Martinez declared his intention to pay $325 million to the holders of State Bonds, which became effective on March 21, in the midst of a health crisis that was overflowing with deaths everywhere. This same act led to the resignation of Health Minister Catalina Andramuño, accusing the Moreno government of failing to provide her with the resources to deal with the pandemic. Meanwhile, the right-wing Mayor of Guayaquil, Cintya Viteri, transferred the responsibility for removing the bodies to Moreno's central government. For his part, since March 16, Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner appeared as a hero in the face of the pandemic, although in truth, he is waging a campaign promoting himself for the upcoming presidential elections. This panorama sums up the degree of decomposition of the bourgeoisie in Ecuador and in many countries of the world.

The tragedy that the city of Guayaquil is experiencing is probably the most crude and dramatic to date, but the responsibility does not lie with the virus nor with the population who are often blamed for being ‘undisciplined’. The responsibility lies with the capitalist system, which is incapable of satisfying human needs. As we declared in our article published on March 25, 2020 : “it will be even worse when it hits Latin America, Africa and other regions where health systems are even more fragile or don’t exist at all”. [2] A predictable announcement, precisely because of the contradictions of capitalism at the global level. 

What are the consequences of the ineffectiveness of the bourgeoisie in Guayaquil?

The bourgeoisie’s response to the pandemic in Guayaquil has a number of distinguishing features:

  • Keeping the decomposing body of a relative who has died from the pandemic indoors for some days without any response from the state will obviously have psychological consequences, but also brings the risk of an endless contamination process.
  • Faced with this situation Ecuador, like other states, has decreed mandatory quarantine at the national level. In order to comply with this provision, the state has mobilised the army and the police, who are acting in a very repressive manner towards people who cannot stay at home because they don’t have a roof over their heads; neither does the state guarantee that people will have enough food during the quarantine, so the chaos may become more dramatic than it is today.
  • The health crisis has prompted complaints from doctors and nurses about ill-treatment and the deplorable conditions in which they are forced to work, but they have gradually been silenced.   
  • The state acts in an authoritarian way to the population as a whole, but to the bourgeoisie it says nothing, as for example with regard to the thousands of redundancies that took place during the quarantine.  

The health crisis has demonstrated the bourgeoisie’s true attitude to human needs. For this reason, the workers, in addition to recognising how their enemy class behaves, must be prepared to intervene in the not too distant future to change the root of the capitalist society that promises no future. The only way out of this horrible quagmire is proletarian revolution guided by a communist perspective. In this impasse of the bourgeoisie, it is clear that:  

  1. Bourgeois society promises nothing but desolation and death as demonstrated by the worldwide pandemic,
  2. In the midst of a situation of anguish and despair of the population, the states have resorted to the use of force to silence those who protest against the inability of the capitalist state to meet basic needs of food, protection, medicine, and to enforce the confinement the scientists recommend to prevent the increase of contagion.
  3. It has been demonstrated that for the bourgeoisie and its state, its priority is not the people, much less the workers, but its own sordid interests, which is why, without morals or principles of any kind, it resorts to lies, hiding the quantity of dead without being able to give them a dignified burial, as happens in Ecuador.

A chaotic society that seeks only profit cannot envisage the satisfaction of human needs. The productive forces potentially available to humanity derive from the labour of the international working class which is exploited in the service of the bourgeoisie. Therefore, it will be the same workers who will be able to carry out the world revolution to change the destiny of humanity, so that it can live in a single world human community. 

Against the virus of decomposing capitalist society,

Proletarians of all countries unite!


Internacionalismo, Ecuador Section of the ICC, April 2020.

 [1] At the time of publication of this article, the Ecuadorian government has acknowledged 369 deaths, which is a gross underestimation. Source:

 [2] “Either the world working class puts an end to capitalism, or capitalism puts an end to humanity”


Covid-19 pandemic