Left to Their Fate in Times of the Virus

A Spanish NGO worker tells her experience on how the Nicaraguan government actually promotes citizen contact during the pandemic.

Image: diariosur.es

Por Berta Pontes  (from diariosur.es)

HAVANA TIMES – “It’s seven-thirty in the morning in Managua, Nicaragua.” That’s how a Spanish aid worker begins her story for this newspaper about the situation that the small Central American country is living through, where the official figures note only five cases of corona virus and one death.

Daniel Ortega’s government has been called “irresponsible” by other countries and NGOs for its management of the crisis in which, far from isolation, it has promoted meetings, marches and rallies with the slogan, “Love in times of Covid-19.” That’s how this volunteer and first-hand witness tells it before her repatriation.

“I’m a twenty-five-year old from Valladolid, and I’ve been in Nicaragua barely two months. I was sent by an NGO, trying to contribute my grain of sand to a country plagued by inequalities. Let’s say my name is Rebecca and my organization in Blue Sky. And, I write “let’s say” because I have to use an alias. If I reveal the real identities of myself and the NGO, I would put many people there in danger.

In the neighborhood where I live it’s very peaceful. But there’s something that disturbs me: it seems like the global worry about the spread of coronavirus hasn’t gotten here. Like so many other things that don’t get the necessary consideration.

Far from closing borders, Nicaragua has received cruise ships with open arms. Instead of limiting events and crowds, they organize marches of multitudes to “combat Covid-19,” explains the regimen of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, his wife and vice president. Schools must stay open “so we won’t sew panic, we’re in the prevention phase.” But the Spanish Embassy is recommending that people leave.

Most people are resigned because their conditions don’t allow them to be quarantined

On March 18, Murillo interrupted the afternoon television broadcast to confirm the first case of corona virus, although “everything’s under control.” That Thursday, people began to panic and to take their own security measures with the little they had. I admit that I’m somewhat scared. I’m worried about the situation and aware that there’s not just one case, but the government continues without taking any steps.

For weeks, I’ve seen how many countries have decreed a state of alarm and quarantined the people. But in Nicaragua it’s different, because according to the government it hasn’t arrived here. The regime does exactly the opposite of what they should: they tell the citizens to enjoy Easter week and put up posters with offers for the vacation. They even inaugurated a water park. They insist that the nation is prepared to receive tourists.

While the vice president broadcasts daily prayers for those affected, always those from other countries, and that it won’t reach here. On March 14, Rosario Murillo promoted various marches and gatherings in the principal cities and towns. With the slogan “Love in times of Covid-19,” as if dealing with the second part of Gabriel García Marquez’s novel, government workers and supporters of the regime were brought together.

They were conceived as “marches of solidarity with the people affected by the virus,” according to Gioconda Belli, “nica” poet and novelist. Thousands of people marched, accompanied by floats decorated for the occasion. There were people costumed as nurses and others lying on stretchers, as if they had the virus, dancers dressed as nurses, and colored balloons everywhere.

Scared and worried

It’s true that there’s a certain part of the population aware of the problem and what such a contagious disease could do to the country. People like me: scared and worried without the protection one expects from a government. They’re scared for their health because the health care system isn’t capable of confronting a pandemic, and they have to carry on with life as usual. They cannot afford to lose their jobs, and if they decide to stay at home to protect themselves they won’t have anything to put in their mouths.

Many NGOs and private schools have to choose between two options: continuing with their daily activities and putting their students and workers at risk, or closing and risking severe penalties that could lead to permanent closure by the authorities. For now, those that don’t depend on the government ask parents not to bring their children to school. What’s important is their health.

However, not everyone lives the same. There’s another part of the population that waits for instructions from above, from this nearly omnipotent government. People who don’t protect themselves, or feel the danger, or confront it in a different way. Because they’re used to dealing with what comes, they assume no one will help them. Many leave their fates in the hands of God in a country where nearly 80% of the population belongs to Christian groups. Others are resigned, knowing they are not in a situation to quarantine themselves.

To this is added the history, and the culture of “nicas”, and how they act. A good friend, who’s my trusted taxi driver told me, “Nicaraguans are not prepared for prevention, we just let things happen.”

Sunday, April 5, 2020

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