Trump invokes “America First” mantra in attack on WHO

By Beatriz Pascual Macias

Washington, Apr 15 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump returned Wednesday to one his favorite refrains, “America First,” to justify his decision to put on hold the more $400 million the United States annually provides the World Health Organization (WHO), which he accuses of having colluded with China to minimize the threat posed by the coronavirus.

“I will never hesitate to take any necessary steps to protect the lives, health, and safety of the American people. I will always put the well-being of America first,” he said in a statement a day after announcing that he was freezing the contribution to the WHO.

The money will be delayed for up to 90 days pending an investigation of WHO’s handling of Covid-19, Trump said Tuesday.

Amid harsh criticism of the move, both at home and abroad, the White House remained on the offensive Wednesday. The presidential statement was followed by a series of tweets from Trump’s press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany.

“The WHO repeatedly covered up for China and parroted the Chinese government’s claims that there was no human-to-human transmission,” the former CNN commentator wrote. “Even on February 29th, when the coronavirus was spreading around the world, the WHO continued to put political correctness first by opposing life-saving travel restrictions.”

WHO officials said at the time that travel restrictions would do more harm than good by effectively isolating countries that needed help coping with the disease.

The Trump administration appeared to leave the door open to resuming contributions to the WHO if the Geneva-based United Nations agency agreed to make certain changes.

Under Trump, Washington has formally withdrawn from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) and from the Human Rights Council. On this occasion, the US remains a WHO member-state, at least for now.

Democrats in Congress blasted the president’s decision, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described as “illegal,” vowing to mount a challenge to the policy.

Other critics, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, used the word “dangerous” to characterize the funding halt.

“Fighting a global pandemic requires international cooperation and reliance on science and data. Cutting funding to the WHO – rather than focusing on solutions – is a dangerous move at a precarious moment for the world,” the AMA president, Dr. Patrice Harris, said in a statement.

Gates, the world’s second-wealthiest person, took to Twitter to express his unhappiness with the move by the White House.

“Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of Covid-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever,” he wrote.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, run by the billionaire and his wife, is second only to the US government in funding the WHO, providing nearly $368 million a year, or 10 percent of the agency’s budget.

Though the novel coronavirus outbreak began in China, the US now leads the world in both infections, with 632,878, and fatalities, 27,850, according to the latest tally from Johns Hopkins University.

The total number of cases has surpassed 2 million and the global death toll stands at 129,045.



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