To face the dictatorship’s blackmail with coronavirus, the country needs to regain democratic freedoms
By Carlos F. Chamorro (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – In the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic, President Daniel Ortega arrived this Friday to 29 days of total absence in public activities.
While in other Latin American countries, presidents are at the forefront of their government’s response to the pandemic, Nicaragua is the only country in the world where there is an absent ruler who has not decreed an emergency.
Ortega’s absence and the policies adopted by his Government, to facilitate instead of prevent the spread of the coronavirus, has become a matter of international debate and regional concern, due to the consequences it could have for Central America.
The New York Times, asks: where is Ortega? And the truth is that Nicaraguans are not interested in knowing if Ortega is currently watching a Netflix series on his television or if he is quarantined with his family. What citizens question is the regime’s misrule in an emergency, in which an absent leader and an omnipresent Vice President are pushing the country towards a national catastrophe.
Since the massacre that began nearly two years ago on April 19, 2018, Ortega and Murillo are politically and morally unable to govern. Since then, the country demanded their resignation and free elections, and they responded with more repression and the imposition of a Police state; dictating and commanding, but no longer governing. By imposing terror, bludgeoning human rights, they lost all credibility and capacity to generate national consensus.
What the people are asking now, when they demand that Ortega appear in public, is that the presidential couple be accountable for the crimes against humanity attributed to them, and for this new state crime that represents the exposure of tens of thousands of people at risk for irresponsibly spreading the coronavirus.
This week, the director of the Pan-American Health Organization, Carissa Etienne, finally rectified her policy of complacency with the dictatorship and warned that Nicaragua is not complying with the recommendations of the World Health Organization to confront the pandemic.
PAHO expressed concern about the promotion of activities with large crowds and the lack of social distancing in Nicaragua. However, twenty-four hours later, Vice President Murillo not only ignored PAHO’s warning, but continued to promote festivals and tourism during Holy Week, and the religious processions that have been suspended by the Catholic Church.
Beyond official negligence, the Government has gone to the extreme of prohibiting citizen initiatives to prevent Covid-19, such as medical centers and the “call center” promoted by the Bishop of Matagalpa, Monsignor Rolando Alvarez.
In other words, they not only do nothing to prevent the virus and, in addition, they spread it, but they also punish the people by denying them the medical assistance promoted by a bishop, whom the official media tries to disqualify calling him a “clown” and a “coup-monger.”
In spite of the threats, the dictatorship has failed in its attempt to prevent solidarity and the self-organized citizen crusade to prevent the coronavirus. In this Holy Week, the vast majority of the population—including civilian and military public servants—have assumed their self-protection, against the demagogical calls of the Ortega leadership.
However, in order to be effective, prevention also requires the identification of outbreaks of the epidemic and to know the route of all the people who have been infested by Covid-19. The regime alleges that there are only six positive cases and one deceased, and that community transmission of the virus has not been detected. But the Pan-American Health Organization itself has said that it has doubts, and is concerned about tests and the tracing of contacts made by the Government, while the Cuban Ministry of Health confirms that it has received three cases of Covid-19 “exported” from Nicaragua.
Who is telling the truth and who is lying? The solution to this controversy lies in implementing a massive testing for the coronavirus, using the 26,000 kits that the Government received as part of a donation from the Central American Bank of Economic Integration. More national and international pressure is required so that mass tests are carried out and supervised by international and national experts, and by autonomous entities of the Ministry of Health whose “three ministers” are subjected to Rosario Murillo, the super-minister of El Carmen.
Ortega has perpetrated a serious attack on public health by keeping the people in the dark for a month, while the Government promoted the spread of the coronavirus. We are still in time to mitigate it, if massive testing is carried out and quarantine and physical distancing are promoted, with social protection measures for the population.
However, to defend itself against the blackmail represented by a dying dictatorship allied with the coronavirus, the country needs to regain its freedom, ending press censorship and without political prisoners.
If the objective that unites Nicaraguans of all political colors today is to save lives, it is imperative to restore all the democratic liberties that have been violated, to end the misrule of Ortega and Murillo. The prevention of the coronavirus and the departure of the dictatorship are inseparable: they are part of the same process to dismantle a regime, whose terminal political crisis has plunged the country for three consecutive years into recession. The tremendous challenge of national reconstruction can only begin in freedom and democracy, before and after the coronavirus.