Ortega didn’t offer a plan for mitigating the pandemic, because his objective consists instead of using Covid-19 concerns to blackmail the country.
By Carlos F. Chamorro (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – As in Augusto Monterroso’s very short story that goes: “When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there”, President Daniel Ortega reappeared on a national television broadast this past April 15th. Ortega had been absent from his post for the past 34 days. His appearance merely confirmed the dysfunctional government that reigns in Nicaragua amid the pandemic.
As has happened on other occasions, Ortega offered no explanation for his prolonged absence, and demonstrated that he continues to be an absent ruler, disconnected from reality and insensitive to the dangers that threaten Nicaraguans, now aggravated by the government’s negligence towards combatting the Coronavirus pandemic.
During his rambling 30-minute monologue, in which he attempted to project himself as a world leader, what he didn’t say was more important than the common ground he covered, in a repetition of his previous speeches.
For example, he preached world peace, spoke against the arms race and the atomic bomb, but he ignored the grief his government brought to his own people with the lethal arms wielded by the Police and the paramilitary. Two years ago, during the April rebellion, they left more than 300 people dead, crimes that remain in impunity.
He advocated for the African migrants that are trying to cross borders – borders that he closed to them in Nicaragua – and for the Central Americans that are trying to enter the United States, but made no reference to the more than 100,000 Nicaraguans who, since April 2018, have had to flee the repression and go into exile, taking refuge in Costa Rica, Panama, the United States, Mexico and other countries.
The president boasted of Nicaragua’s having only nine positive cases of Covid-19 and one death but said nothing about the secrecy that surrounds the applications of the tests to detect the virus, nor about his government’s lack of transparency. He didn’t reveal, for example, how many tests the Ministry of Health is conducting daily, nor why his government refuses to apply the 26,000 rapid response tests donated by the Central American Bank for Economic Integration ten days ago, in order to carry out a massive diagnostic test for the presence of the Coronavirus.
Ortega alleged that Nicaragua has only had “imported” cases of people arriving from outside the country, and that there’s no community transmission. He gave the example of a young woman who had immigrated to Costa Rica and was declared negative by the health authorities there, but didn’t respond to the concerns expressed by the Cuban government, whose Health Ministry has reported that several Cuban citizens may have contacted the virus from people they were with in Nicaragua.
The FSLN strongman defied the recommendations of the Pan-American Health Organization, endorsing the promotion of large gatherings, such as the marches and rallies his party has organized, including the massively attended inauguration of a bridge in Malacatoya. Likewise, the contacts that government activists are encouraged to employ in their house to house visits. Ortega never admitted that by promoting these things, they’re recklessly propitiating the spread of the novel Coronavirus.
Ortega justified his government’s inaction, their refusal to declare an emergency, and their failure to adopt quarantine measures. He alleged that, “if work is stopped, the country dies”, without seeming to care that, before the Coronavirus, the country entered into its third year of consecutive economic recession due to the repression and the political crisis of his authoritarian regime.
The Nicaraguan people heard an irresponsible and denial-riddled discourse from the mouth of Ortega, who, as a consolation, promised them that there are enough “respirators” in the hospitals for Covid-19.
In synthesis, Ortega offered no health, economic, or humanitarian plan to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, because his objective instead is to threaten the country with the chaos that could stem from the Coronavirus, so that the international sanctions leveled on his government for serious human rights violations be suspended. Once again, it’s a way of putting the country on the edge of a cliff in an act of calculated blackmail, with the dysfunctional government playing an instrumental role.
His reappearance confirms the fact that the regime and the virus are forming an inseparable part of same crisis, with grave consequences for the Central American region. The only solution is to use the self-organized spirit of the April Rebellion to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, but adding to this the demand for greater freedom and democracy.
The reconstruction of Nicaragua before and after Covid-19 can’t take place under a dictatorship, but only in democracy. Saving lives and staying at home today and promoting the citizen crusade to maintain a voluntary quarantine, against the tide of the Ortega government, is now an imperative act of resistance against the regime.
The next step will be to fully recover the democratic liberties, beginning with the suspension of the police state, and go forward with free elections to dismantle the regime that has allied itself with the Coronavirus.