Carmen Esbrí is a human rights activist. Member of the Madrid Public Health Defence Committee MEDSAP – Marea Blanca and of the National White Tide Coordinator.

The Madrid Public Health Defence Committee MEDSAP – Marea Blanca (White Tide), is a platform created in 2012 with the main objective of defending public health and fighting against the privatisation process that has been taking place in the Community of Madrid for years. It is made up of neighbourhood associations, user groups, coordinators, social movements, trade unions, platforms, health professionals and popular assemblies of the 15M.

How was MEDSAP – White Tide born?
We were born in response to the terrible attack on Spanish public health, carried out by the approval of “Royal Decree 16/2012 on urgent measures to guarantee the sustainability of the National Health System”. This decree proposed two very serious changes

  • To eliminate the universality of the right to health care. As a result, nearly 800,000 health cards were withdrawn from unregulated immigrants, young people over the age of 26 without work and Spaniards living abroad.
    Modify the public health financing model, linking the right to care to social security contributions, even though public health is financed by taxes (largely indirect and paid by all persons, including immigrants and unemployed young people).
  • In protest of these measures, we began to call for large mobilisations and organised the platform MEDSAP – Marea Blanca, which has been working for more than 6 years on a continuous basis. In order to maintain the 6 years of mobilisations that we have completed, we have focused on defending health, and more than health, because if we want the health system to be affordable, we must maintain health and primary health care, and we must also have housing, employment, education, etc. We therefore believe that it is better to talk about the defence of health and life.

How was the monthly White Tide tactic forged?
We began to denounce the neoliberal plan that commodifies all basic needs and also health, designing a tide (mobilization) every third Sunday of the month, with the aim of avoiding the multiplication of actions and the loss of strength and with the interest of doing something together. We have not missed a single month and we are about to make the 69th tide. The strategy has been to resist and make visible what was happening. Our aim is to seek the empowerment of citizens by defending a public service.

What other actions have you done?
In recent years we have held major public events, such as the “Cultural Marathon for Public Health”, the “event at the Madrid Athenaeum”, the “event at the Faculty of Mathematics at the Complutense University”, the “event within the framework of the exhibition, a really useful piece of knowledge, of the Reina Sofia Museum, the “Round table discussion: public attention to mental health in Madrid” and the “Conference: building the public health of the future, deconstructing privatisation”.

How was the National White Tide Coordinator formed?
In 2016 it was proposed to promote the National Coordinator by contacting platforms from all over the Country and on May 6th the seventh assembly of the Coordinator was held in Segovia.

What achievements have you had so far?
Thanks to the appeal we filed, we obtained the suspension of the privatisation of the management of six hospitals in Madrid by the Madrid High Court of Justice and the resignation of Fernández-Lasquetty, Health Minister of the Community of Madrid.

Are you participating in the “European Network against Privatisation in Healthcare”?
In 2015 we contacted the “European Network against Privatisation and the Commercialisation of Health and Social Protection”. The European Network started its activity with an action on 7 April, which they declared as “day against health privatisation”, to highlight the world’s problem with health due to privatisation. The date coincides with the “World Health Day” proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO). This year the WHO proposed as its motto for 7 April: health for all’ and we decided to adopt the motto: health is everything’ as we work for the human right to health in view of the European elections in May 2019.

We decided to talk to the different political parties that are going to stand in the European elections and from the state coordinator, we presented a roadmap for restoring public health. This involves a series of actions such as: modifying and repealing laws at different levels, from European, to national, from the community of Madrid and the Madrid City Council.

What do you think is the role of independent media in social transformation?
The media must act as a kind of catalyst, an active principle that allows social transformation to take place, not suddenly, since we are in a neoliberal context that has invaded the planet and we have a very strong enemy in front of us, which is also supported by the big media, which help to hide the information. But this transformation must take place in the future.

The function of the independent media is to provide counter information to the mainstream media, to explain the reality without filters, interests or capital to direct journalists. The problem is how to organise to foster a breeding ground, which is already being generated, with all the actions of the movements.

The main objective of all media must be to get out from under the rugs all that is being hidden from us by the great powers, the great markets, that have Taken over the people and the governments. I believe that the media must facilitate these changes, because the social movements we work with, trying to break a huge spider’s web that has been woven by the great powers, need spokespersons. We need amplifiers, who will spread our story and our actions in all areas and be able to inform and raise awareness of the consequences of what is happening.

The problem is the number, that is, how many media can work in this transforming direction and what capacity they can have to work. That is to say, what diffusion capacity and scope they can have to change the world.

My concern is how you can organise independent media that want to report what really happens. It is very important to create a network between the media and the movements. The movements need an increasingly widespread voice. The media must act in a coordinated manner and must be the echo of what is happening, if possible at the very moment it happens. We as a collective broadcast, in addition to the usual media that adulterate and censor our discourse, through social networks and we have a lot of network activity and monitoring.

Could the independent media contribute to generating the story of a new, more humane and less violent culture and break with the cultural hegemony of the mainstream Big Media?
Yes, that is possible, but a clear objective must be maintained. On our platform, the goal is to make health and life undeniable human rights. We must resist so as not to allow any step backwards in that right.

I would like to make a clarification regarding the comments of my colleague from Pressenza and the lack of credibility towards the independent media. We send our press releases to all media: large, small, independent, etc. Those sent to all. I wish we had a record of all the media out there, but there are many independent media that we don’t even know about. We try to go out on community radio, we would like to make a radio programme for its ease of replication and playback, so we try to explore in this direction.

I would also like to make a reply to DIEM25’s colleagues, who prejudged that the social movements do not have a political action plan. This is not the case, the movements have political action plans, in our case, we have a “Pact for Public Health” and we have proposed it to the European Union and to the Spanish political parties, of which some have joined. We believe that citizens’ rights are best defended through the independence of a social movement rather than through the commitments of a political party.

The tides have been born to keep alert and to keep the political parties under control, they don’t have to disappear. Social movements must be independent and must exercise control over political parties.


Translated from Spanish by Pressenza London