The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Multinationals Profit from Oxygen Shortage

Oct 25, 2021

When Mexico was hit by its peak of COVID infections last winter and spring, the country faced a severe shortage of medical oxygen.

Hospitals saw deliveries slow, even as they needed more oxygen than ever. Some hospitals in Northern Mexico even got letters stating that the oxygen companies needed to supply their U.S. customers first, before Mexican hospitals could get orders filled. And as many infected people stayed at home because they didn’t trust the overwhelmed medical system, families scrambled to get personal oxygen tanks. The price of oxygen more than tripled, with many scammers on the market.

There is a solution to the oxygen shortage—hospitals can build onsite oxygen plants. The World Health Organization even proposed to help hospitals in poorer countries pay for the costs. But this would cut into the profit margins of the multi-billion-dollar companies that dominate Mexico’s oxygen market, so it is not being pursued.

Most of Mexico’s medical oxygen is supplied by two companies: Praxair Mexico, a division of Linde, one of the biggest industrial gas companies in the world, or Grupo Infra, which is partially owned by Air Products, another giant, U.S.-based industrial gas company.

When one hospital in Guanajuato built its own onsite oxygen plant, Grupo Infra threatened to sue. The hospital had signed an “exclusivity clause,” meaning it could only get oxygen from that supplier. And even though the contract had expired, it had an “automatic renewal” clause. Other hospitals received similar letters. These companies also warned hospital administrators that onsite oxygen generation was unsafe—something they knew perfectly well was untrue.

Mexico has officially suffered 284,000 COVID deaths, though investigators think the real number might be triple that. Many of these people might have survived if they had access to the oxygen they needed. But in this society, the profits of multi-national corporations come before life.