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Earthquake in Morocco: Government and European Imperialism to Blame for Rising Death Toll

The death toll from Friday’s earthquake in Morocco continues to grow as some areas have yet to receive aid. This is a consequence of the subordination of the Moroccan regime to European imperialism and the brutal plundering of the country’s resources.

Roberto Bordón

September 13, 2023
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A woman tries to recover some of her possessions from her home which was damaged by an earthquake in the village of Tafeghaghte, near Marrakech, Morocco, Monday, Sept. 11, 2023. Rescue crews expanded their efforts on Monday as the earthquake's death toll continued to climb to more than 2,400 and displaced people worried about where to find shelter.
Image: AP/Mosa'ab Elshamy

The number of victims of the recent earthquake in Morocco has risen to more than 2,800 and thousands are injured. However, these numbers may increase in the coming days as emergency teams have reportedly withdrawn before completing their task, following orders from the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior. This catastrophe reveals the consequences of the misery and abandonment to which the Moroccan regime has subjected large rural areas of the country, where there is not even basic infrastructure by which aid can arrive. This is a direct consequence of the subordination of the Moroccan regime to European imperialism, especially Spanish and French imperialism, and the brutal plundering of the country’s resources.

According to reports on social networks, some of the most affected areas have yet to receive the help of firefighters or emergency teams. The latter are also reportedly retreating even from places such as Mulai Brahim, one of the towns most impacted by the quake. Following government instructions, these teams have reportedly left, despite the complaints of the residents who say that there are still people trapped under the rubble.

At the same time, Morocco has accepted international aid from four countries: Spain, the United Kingdom, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. For example, Spain’s Military Emergency Unit is already operating on the ground. Morocco reportedly announced that it would accept more aid after an in-depth assessment of the situation. However, this decision has revealed a certain political tension as Morocco has rejected the aid offered by France — the latest instance of diplomatic tensions between the two regimes. 

These offers and condolences sent by different countries to Morocco, however, are another example of imperialist hypocrisy. The Spanish State has sent aid, yes, but it is the very same imperialism that collaborates with the Moroccan regime to continue exploiting the resources of the country and Western Sahara for the benefit of Spanish multinational corporations. Likewise, French imperialism plunders Morocco’s natural resources and hyper-exploits the Moroccan working class who are impoverished and, in some areas, completely abandoned by the regime in the midst of the catastrophe.

While capitalist governments were sending letters of condolence and the Spanish crown was honoring its friendship with the king of Morocco, Moroccan workers were begging for blankets and tents to bear the cold nights in the Atlas area and burying their dead with their own hands. While King Felipe VI and King Mohamed VI exchange messages from their opulent palaces, the working class and poor people of Morocco suffer and pay the consequences.

The only “solidarity” that exists between these reactionary regimes is that which is based on plunder, the brutal exploitation of the working class, and the militarized control of the borders, like Melilla, which has become a lethal border that shields European interests.

In the face of this catastrophe that has stolen the lives of thousands of people, the racist ultra-right and Vox seem to rejoice like the xenophobic scum that they are. Amid the reactionary campaigns these sectors embrace, they are critical of the aid that the Spanish State’s ruling Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) party is offering, asking “What duty does PSOE have toward Morocco?”

In fact, the PSOE, the right-wing Partido Popular, and the entire Spanish imperialist regime have a duty toward the reactionary Moroccan monarchy to turn the southern European border into an armored border where thousands of people have been killed in defense of the interests of the European bourgeoisie. They have a duty toward million-dollar businesses based on the super-exploitation of the Moroccan working class and the plundering of the country’s natural resources. Meanwhile, in the face of the death of thousands of people, the Spanish Far Right is asking for more weapons and more means for state security forces to continue criminalizing migrants.

The high number of victims is not solely due to the natural disaster — a number of social factors and policymakers are responsible. The abandonment of rural areas, the lack of infrastructure, and the structural poverty in which a majority of the population lives is combined with the interest of a minority of capitalist parasites in maintaining their wealth and privileges at any cost. The earthquake was not only a natural disaster, but a social crime with perpetrators in Rabat, Madrid, and Paris.

The answer to this kind of tragedy cannot come from hypocritical charity and the help of the different imperialisms that are now looking for a photo op. In a couple of days, they will be able to murder hundreds again at the border if necessary. It must start from the solidarity of the international working class, the struggle against imperialist plunder, and against the Moroccan regime to conquer the means and freedoms necessary to reorganize society on other bases and prepare it for these types of catastrophes.

Originally published in Spanish on September 12 in La Izquierda Diario.

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