Ortega Reappears with a Mask, Remains Silent on Covid-19 Prevention

Daniel Ortega on July 19, 2020 in Managua, Nicaragua. Photo: el19digital.com

Without directly mentioning the Coronavirus, the strong man blamed citizens for deaths from pneumonia and respiratory problems.

By Juan Carlos Bow (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – After an absence of 38 days without accountability, while Nicaragua suffers the phase of local community transmission with thousands of infected and deceased by covid-19, President Daniel Ortega finally put on the mask.

In doing so, Ortega tacitly accepted the danger of a pandemic that his administration has minimized, ordering health personnel not to protect themselves to “avoid alarming” the population.

It was the first time Ortega and his wife/VP/spokesperson Murillo were seen out of their residence/dispatch in over four months. Despite taking preventive measures for himself and his family, the Sandinista leader remained silent about preventive measures and any assistance for the population to face the health and economic crisis.

Ortega appeared in the event for the 41st anniversary of the Sandinista Popular Revolution accompanied by the main officials of his government sanctioned by the United States for corruption and human rights violations.

The last time the President had been seen was on June 10, when he participated in a virtual conference of the ALBA group on the economy after the pandemic.

In his 65-minute speech, the FSLN leader assured – without showing evidence – that his government has managed to “successfully” confront the pandemic. However, he did not offer any information about the Covid-19 tests that have been conducted, nor did he explain why they force families to carry out express burials with sealed coffins, when their relatives – officially – die of pneumonia or other respiratory diseases.

The vagueness of data on the pandemic was so great that he insisted that 91 had died from Covid-19; eight less than the official figure of the Ministry of Health (Minsa), which also records 3,147 confirmed cases.

The official numbers contrast substantially with the independent Citizens Covid-19 Observatory which reports 8,508 suspected cases and some 2,260 deaths linked to the new coronavirus in Nicaragua, since the pandemic reached the country in mid-March.

As usual in his dissertations, Ortega criticized developed countries for their handling of the health crisis and blamed the capitalist system for the pandemic. “In Europe, and in the United States, that great power that spends billions and billions for war, how many citizens died due to lack of medical care. What we have discovered is the failure of that model of savage capitalism, and the call of attention that God is making to it by the force of nature.”

Ortega went on to rattle off a long string of unintelligible figures to defend the Nicaraguan health care model.

A view of the event to celebrate the 41st anniversary of the Sandinista Popular Revolution. Photo: Taken from 19Digital

Health workers

The President acknowledged that, in recent months, health workers have done “intense” work; however, he failed to mention the number of health personnel infected or deceased from the pandemic.

In its latest report, the Citizens Observatory records 724 health workers with symptoms of covid-19, and at least 96 deaths from the virus.

Ortega assured that his government has complied with the “indications” of “the health authorities who are specialists in the matter.” However, Nicaragua has been one of the few countries in the world that —officially— has not taken pandemic prevention measures such as physical isolation, distancing, or border closures.

In addition, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has repeatedly complained that the Sandinista regime does not provide detailed information on the sex, age, and location of people infected with Covid-19. For that reason, the regional institution has not been able to determine “the level of virus spread” in Nicaragua.

The celebration of the sanctioned

For the first time, Ortega did not openly complain about international sanctions against his relatives and loyal officials, which was a recurring theme in his latest public appearances. However, he was accompanied by several of them on the main stage of the celebration.

The leader was flanked by his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo and Army chief general Julio Cesar Aviles, both sanctioned by the United States, which accuses them of violations of the human rights of Nicaraguans.

Also accompanying him at the main table were the National Police Chief Francisco Diaz, National Assembly President Gustavo Porras; Social Security Institute director Roberto Lopez; the Minister of Finance Ivan Acosta and the former Health Minister and presidential advisor Sonia Castro. All of these officials were sanctioned internationally for human rights violations and corruption.   

Hundreds of members of the Sandinista Youth in matching T-shirts formed a choreography in a circle around the stage.

Despite not mentioning the sanctions on his wife and top officials, Ortega warned against US diplomats. “Be careful with the Yankee ambassadors, the order to assassinate Sandino came from Washington,” said the president, referring to the murder of the national hero Augusto Cesar Sandino, in 1934.