Don't Be Fooled By WHO Conspiracy Theories

The World Health Organization is far from perfect. But the WHO was never, as Trump and others suggest, involved in some sinister plot with China to hide the truth about COVID-19.

Why would the WHO connive with China to hide evidence on the pandemic?
Why would the WHO connive with China to hide evidence on the pandemic?
Farid Kahhat


LIMA — There are certain conspiracy theories making the rounds these days concerning the World Health Organization (WHO) and the current pandemic. Don't believe them. There's no credible evidence for these kinds of accusations and dark theories. And besides, even if the people who run the WHO did hatch some kind of master plot, they don't have the resources to actually implement it.

First, the WHO is not an independent entity. It's an intergovernmental organization, meaning it was created and is run by the 193 states that founded it and remain members through the World Health Assembly. That body determines WHO's guiding policies, names its director-general and approves and oversees its budgeted activities.

WHO officials are therefore a body of civil servants. Admittedly, if governments sometimes find it difficult to control their bureaucrats, this difficulty is multiplied when the bureaucracy in question is supervised by 193 governments. But essentially that does not alter the fact that governments, not WHO directors, made the organization's decisions.

WHO does not have enough resources to hatch international plots.

Second, WHO does not have enough resources to hatch international plots. The World Economic Forum put its two-year budget for 2018 and 2019 at $4.4 billion. To put that in perspective, Peru's national health care budget for 2019 was $5.4 billion, and even with those resources the country is struggling to manage the pandemic. Imagine then the hypothetical cost of making sinister plans on a global scale.

Under international law, furthermore, WHO decisions are not binding. No state is obligated to implement them.

One of the conspiracy theories is that WHO connived early on with China to hide evidence on the pandemic, if not actually spread false information. And one of the people pushing this idea is none other than U.S. President Donald Trump.

But here's the question: Why would the WHO do such a thing? What is their incentive for collaborating with China in this way?

Under international law WHO decisions are not binding —Photo: Cadu Rolim/Fotoarena/ZUMA

Revising the body's budget history in recent years, China was never among its top 10 sources of money. And while it's true that the WHO was particularly credulous with the information China initially provided, this has everything to do with its relative lack of power. When the Chinese government impeded WHO inspectors from checking developments in situ, the body had no choice but to oblige. It couldn't force China to act otherwise, and was left, therefore, with only the information China provided.

Critics are fair to challenge the WHO for accepting the Chinese numbers at face-value, for lending them credibility. But did it really, as Trump claimed, help hide the truth to favor China? Available evidence suggests otherwise. And don't forget: Trump himself believed the information, as evidenced by a quick visit to the Politico news site, which documents the multiple times Trump praised China as the pandemic was spreading.

What is true is that part of the information WHO initially gave on the virus turned out to be mistaken. But let's not forget that this is a pandemic without precedent in the last 100 years, and that until just a few months ago, the virus itself was completely unknown. Given all that, can we really be surprised that people got it wrong? Mistakes are to be expected in this context, because at least initially, nobody can know all the facts.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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