This Thursday, March 26, the Nicaraguan government confirmed the death of the first citizen to die on national soil from the Coronavirus pandemic.
Previous to this fatality, Nereyda Palacios, a Nicaraguan citizen, had died from the virus in Zaragoza, Spain, leaving behind a grieving family in Jinotepe. Palacios was the pastor of a Protestant church in Zaragoza.
With another family in mourning, the country has now entered a time of great fear and uncertainty. No one knows for certain how many Coronavirus tests have been performed in Nicaragua, nor how many positive cases exist, nor what their true state of health might be, nor even to what extent the pandemic is spreading in the country, because the government is managing this public information with extreme secrecy.
Since the return to power of Ortega in 2007, a political regime of zero transparency has been installed, guided by current Vice President Rosario Murillo’s zeal for imposing her “untainted information”, meaning her official truth, without having to pass through the filters of the press and the counterweight of uncomfortable questions from independent journalists.
In that way, following the cover-up of hundreds of deaths during the massacres in 2018, and the billion-dollar robberies from corruption, we’ve arrived at an admission that the Coronavirus pandemic has arrived in Nicaragua.
However, the regime is still talking to us about “suspected” or “imported” cases, as if we Nicaraguans possessed some exceptional immunity to a world phenomenon. They have also ruled out adopting the methods implemented in other countries to prevent contagion, terming them “extremist and alarmist”, while the epidemic continues advancing, at an exponential rate of growth as in all parts of the world.
The sad death of the second Nicaraguan in this epidemic should force the regime to lift the veil of secrecy and censorship, so that Nicaraguans could face this pandemic under a transparent system with trustworthy public information. It’s the least that a government that’s turned its back on the epidemic can do, so that from here on, the people could protect themselves and make informed decisions.
More than two weeks have now passed since El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras and other Central American countries established preventive measures such as national quarantines and the closing of borders to avoid the propagation of the virus.
Meanwhile, in Nicaragua, on Saturday March 14, Vice President Murillo called for a massive concentration of public employees and party sympathizers, in defiance of the recommendations of the World Health Organization to avoid large gatherings.
A week later, the official spokeswoman continued encouraging the celebration of fairs, activities, tourist events, plus tens of thousands of house-to-house visits, thus facilitating more contacts among the population.
That means that the Nicaraguan government lost 15 valuable days in which they could have alerted and informed their citizens and adopted preventive measures against the Coronavirus. Instead, in an irresponsible way, they promoted actions that point towards the possible spread of contagion among thousands of people, among them their own party members and the public health workers.
It’s useless to try and find a rational explanation for the reasons behind the official negligence in their management of the Coronavirus. Nothing, not even the shaky state of mental health that’s attributed to the presidential couple, can justify the propagation of a pandemic, an act that could become another unforgivable crime against humanity.
What this confirms is the failure of an absent ruler and his omnipresent vice president, a formula of authoritarian family power that, since the April 2018 massacre, should be barred from continuing to govern the country. At that time, the Blue and White majority demanded their resignation and free elections, but they responded with more repression and the imposition of a police state that has provoked a deep economic recession, with even worse social consequences.
Almost two years later, Ortega and Murillo are putting at risk the health and lives of tens of thousands of people, based on their blind belief that they can control everything and keep their abuses of power secret under the mantle of impunity, no matter how many fatal victims the Coronavirus leaves. Because, they presume, we’ll never know the truth.
The Nicaraguan citizenry now stands before a final quandary. On one side is the self-protection of families and the community to avoid the spread of the pandemic, against the grain of the government. At the same time, it’s even more urgent that we promote a democratic political change to end the dictatorship.
We must save and protect lives today, but the chronic illness the country suffers will not be cured without the dislodging from power of the dictatorship that facilitates the spreading of the coronavirus.