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Ortega uses “Covid-19 pretext” to isolate political prisoners

Despite the arbitrary handling of the pandemic in Nicaragua, it has served as a “justification” for the continuing human rights violations

The exponential growth of Covid-19 in recent months has been the “justification” for the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo to continue with human rights violations, to gain an advantage in the electoral process and request financing from international organizations.

Meanwhile, they try to convince the population that only one person per week dies due to this disease, and they call for massive crowd activities that expose them to contagion.

This doublespeak of the regime was exposed by a group of relatives of political prisoners, who denounced that at the jail known as “Nuevo Chipote,” they continue to deny the right to visit. “The pretext in many cases is the prevalence of Covid-19,” says a message published on September 14. “As family members we understand the seriousness of this pandemic; however, we know that there are biosecurity protocols that can be implemented to guarantee visits while maintaining the protection that the context warrants,” they continue.

A relative of political prisoners, who requested anonymity for security reasons, explained that after the hearings held two weeks ago in the “Nuevo Chipote,” the officers who previously “only told us that they did not know anything” now argue that “they are working on a schedule due to Covid-19.” Situation that she assessed as a “pretext,” since “we (the relatives) always wear masks” and, on the contrary, “some policemen wear masks and others do not.”

The political prisoners who remain in the “Nuevo Chipote” jail locked up for months in the context of the electoral process, the regime has only allowed one family visit and the judicial hearings against them have been held in prison. During the only visit, their relatives confirmed that they have lost considerable weight and are victims of psychological torture.

Courts step-up Covid-19 measures

In the courts, they are also “using the issue of the pandemic to delay processes and to not provide access to where they have the files,” points out a relative. “Biosecurity protocols can be established to reduce risks, but that does not necessarily imply denying a right,” he adds.

For her part, a criminal lawyer explained -on conditions of anonymity-, that the relatives of the inmates “can’t enter the hearings” as was normal in other times, and access to the judicial complex “is also restricted,” but she thinks that this is part of the prevention measures that are being implemented in that facility since mid-2020.

“They (judges) legally are not mandated to let family members enter a legal process. It can be done because the law says that the process is public, but that is limited. It has always been limited and now it is much more so due to Covid-19,” stressed the lawyer.

CSE also argues “concern”

A month earlier, the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) -controlled by the regime-, reduced the electoral campaign to 41 days. A period shorter than the 75 established in the Electoral Law, arguing that “concern has been expressed” by political parties over the “harm to health caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Although the start of the electoral campaign is scheduled for September 25 due to Covid-19, the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) has already placed its acronym on the top of the Motastepe hill, in Managua, public transportation buses are marked with the “Daniel 2021” propaganda, and even the coronavirus vaccines are promoted as a campaign promise.

The “concern” of the Police and the Electoral Power for Covid-19, contrast with the policy of the regime that, since the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020, has promoted rallies and events with large crowds and disobeyed the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) on confinement.

In the last week, the Ministry of Health (MINSA) registered 675 new infections, which means that 96 Nicaraguans test positive to SARS-CoV-2 daily. Authorities continue to acknowledge one death per week since October 2020, despite medical sources reporting a considerable increase in mortality during the current Covid-19 outbreak.

They obtained loans and donations

Nicaraguan sociologist, Cirilo Otero, assesses that the government “uses” the issue of the pandemic “when it suits it” for its political purposes, and “when it does not suit it” promotes the spread of the disease. An example of this, he points out, are the patron saint festivities organized by the regime, “pretending that everything is normal in the country,” but when requesting resources from international organizations, they then “see it is convenient to say that this (Covid-19) is tough.”

Due to this alleged concern about Covid-19, the Ortega and Murillo regime obtained loans and donations from various nations and multilateral organizations who allowed it to increase the budget for the fight against the pandemic from 702.4 million cordobas up to 4.896 billion. But, of that sum, only 481.1 million have been executed (9.8% of the accumulated total), according to the Budget Execution Report for the period January-June 2021, prepared and published by the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit.  (One USD = 35 cordobas.)

The issue of the pandemic is always present “to have access to resources, as happened with Central American Bank for Economic Integration and the World Bank,” Otero assesses. So, “they continue to use this matter according to their interests,” adds Otero.

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times

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