Covid-19 Spreads to Over 500 Police Officers in Nicaragua

Más de 500 policías contagiados por pandemia de covid-19

Rank and file police officers are sent home with medicines by MINSA, while chiefs have special care at the Roberto Huembes Hospital

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – “Middle-ranking officers within the Nicaraguan Police are expressing deep concern for the differential treatment given to those infected with Covid-19 depending on their rank,” a source linked to the institution told Confidencial.

“While rank and file officers, inspectors and general troops who are patrolling the streets are sent home when they get sick with Covid-19, only with the treatment indicated by the Ministry of Health (Minsa) protocol, and are seen in health units in order not to overcrowd the hospitals, those of the highest rank have all the necessary care at the Roberto Huembes Hospital, of the National Police,” added the source, who asked to keep his name anonymous.

After first positive Covid-19 cases were detected in the country, denial became the official policy of the Ortega-Murillo government. The expansion of the pandemic force it to some adopt protection measures, to the extent that the use of face masks among policemen who go out to patrol the streets is now widespread.

The decision seems to have come a little late, because according to the source linked to the Police, the number of those in uniform who have been infected throughout the country exceeds 540, 70% of them in Managua, although the information provided by two other sources, suggests that this calculation is highly underestimated.

Among the police chiefs who became ill with Covid-19—and recovered—are former commissioner Xavier Carrillo; commissioner general Cairo Guevara, director of the Walter Mendoza Academy; as well as the commissioners Victor Tijerino, Fernando Borge and Vladimir Cerda.

Among policemen (retired and active), the deaths were revealed of commissioner general Ovidio Hernandez Salguera, head of Public Security: Senior commissioners Martin Narvaez and Elman Valle (retired), representative of retirees at the Institute of Social Security and Human Development (ISSDHU); as well as of (retired) commissioner Carlos Malespin, from Tipitapa.

A female police officer assigned to a substation in the eastern part of the country, where she exercises an intermediate command post, said that “sometimes I have so many sick people, that I only have 40% of the staff available to fill all the positions.”

Another source with contacts within a police unit in the west of the country, commented that more than half of the team assigned to that municipality “has had Covid, but in a phased manner. Some have been in a more serious situation than others,” he said.

Treatment of Police Chiefs

A female police officer also assigned to the eastern part of the country, relates that, “when the chief of the unit fell ill, they sent him to his home with sick pay, and when his recovery time ended, he took more time, because he felt like it. The order that we were given was not to disturb him because “he was sick,” which put the burden on others, and delayed decision making,” she explained.

“On the contrary, when a lower rank agent gets sick, he is only treated in the primary health system, and then he or she is sent home for fourteen days. They avoid going to hospitals, including the one of the National Police, for fear that their decision will be interpreted as an attempt to obtain more sick leave, which could have consequences if the bosses get upset with them,” she added.

The source from western Nicaragua said that those in uniform who became ill with Covid-19 (including the chief of the police unit of the area), were treated locally by a doctor who specialized in the Roberto Huembes Hospital, who indicated the measures to follow, including resting time at home.

Although they could travel to Managua to seek better medical care conditions, “the affected police officers prefer to stay in their region, since they are afraid to travel to the capital, because they fear increasing the risk of contagion,” said the source.

Confidencial also consulted a lieutenant who works as head of section in a municipality near Managua, who refrained from giving statements in this regard, because “they don’t let us talk about this issue. It is absolutely prohibited.”

They press for police officers to return to the streets

The agents who became ill are being pressured to return to their jobs as soon as possible, “which makes sense because the Police act as a deterrent to possible actions by the opposition,” said one of the police sources.

“It is necessary to maintain patrols and police presence on the streets, so that people see that there is permanent surveillance. It is an order from the presidency. It is a political decision, but that has exhausted the staff, who have to patrol the streets, buildings and key places, such as the roundabouts,” he added.

It is estimated that the regime’s police forces are made up of more than 16,800 police officers throughout the country; noting that the bulk of new recruits occurred after the civic rebellion of April 2018. Most of them are assigned to the Directorate of Special Operations of the Police (DOEP), to work as riot-police and shock troops, although the office staff was also expanded, as well as the district precincts of Managua and the departments.