Coronavirus in Times of Dictatorship

Ortega's absence, or the madness of the First Lady, can never be a mitigating factor for the commission of state crimes.


FSLN supporters march in Nicaragua. Photo from Confidencial. 
FSLN supporters march in Nicaragua. Photo from Confidencial. 

Last Thursday Confidencial revealed a coronavirus response protocol prepared by the Health Ministry (MINSA), which describes some of the internal measures adopted by the Government to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the official MINSA protocol, which until this moment had been kept a secret, the Government projects that in six months the coronavirus will infect 32,500 people in Nicaragua and will cause 813 deaths.

However, despite the seriousness of this warning, the Ministry of Health has not designed a true prevention strategy based on information campaigns towards the population and basic measures to prevent the spread of the virus, such as establishment of quarantines or restrictions on travelers from countries where the epidemic has broken out.

On the contrary, what prevails in our highest authorities is a secretive and denialist attitude, which puts the delirium of power of the rulers and their urgency for tax revenues, against the right to health and the life of citizens.

This is the only way to explain that despite the recommendations of the World Health Organization to avoid crowds, Vice President Rosario Murillo called a mass demonstration of the FSLN party and public employees on March 14 in Managua, financed with government resources.

It was a kind of protest and carnival, with music and dance included, under the euphemistic title of “Love in times of Covid-19,” in which tens of thousands of people participated. Men and women, older people and children paid tribute to Ortega, before the eloquent silence of the Pan American Health Organization special envoy who 24 hours earlier praised the preparation of our health system.

Following the repression that killed more than 300 people who protested in 2018, and after the imposition of a police state, which has violated the right of assembly, freedom of movement, freedom of the press and of expression, I thought we had already seen everything in terms of Ortega and Murillo’s contempt for citizen rights.

However, now the regime is putting everyone’s health at risk, especially the poorest, including its own supporters. We are facing an act of extreme irresponsibility, which some attribute to the mental health of the presidential couple, although madness can never be a mitigating factor for the commission of state crimes.

In reality, Nicaragua is experiencing the unpredictable effects of the terminal political crisis of a dictatorship: misrule and the absence of the ruler are only the symptom of the disease. As in 1979, during the Somoza dictatorship crisis, we are governed by an absentee, who is not only responsible for crimes against humanity, but with his indolence is conspiring against the health of the entire population.

The irrationality of the regime that refuses to declare an emergency to prevent the coronavirus has generated all kinds of conjectures about what its subsequent objectives are. One of the most plausible is that Ortega wants at all costs to avoid affecting the value added tax revenue from consumption and the supposed economic normality in the country.

The priority of this regime that proclaims itself “Christian, Socialist and Solidary” are not human beings, not even the economy, but only collecting taxes and maintaining the extorsion scheme that keeps public finances afloat to make the payroll of repression. But the truth is that under the Ortega dictatorship, long before the imminent arrival of coronavirus. Nicaragua has already experienced three consecutive years of economic recession caused by the political crisis.

The reactivation of the economy, therefore, does not happen by opening the country’s doors to the pandemic that could rather seal the collapse of the State, but rather by dislodging the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship from power.

The solution lies in exerting more civic pressure, along with international pressure and sanctions, until the police state is lifted. This is the first step to call for a political reform and free elections, to end the dictatorship, and to remove the country from the state of stagnation and economic crisis.

Meanwhile, the alternative left for Nicaraguans is to call a large citizen crusade with the support of doctors and epidemiologists, independent media, business associations, schools and universities, families and communities, the Catholic and Protestant Church, to defeat secrecy and the hateful official information manipulation. It is imperative to organize, from civil society, a national prevention strategy to face the coronavirus pandemic, in spite of Ortega and Murillo.

*This article was originally published by Confidencial. 

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