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  Number 466 | Mayo 2020
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Nicaragua briefs


The Multidisciplinary Scientific Committee, created to respond to the pandemic, issued a statement on March 7 in which it proposed “economic relief measures for the vulnerable population, such as that the basic services (water, electricity, garbage collection, communication and Internet) must continue being provided to the population, implementing mechanisms to facilitate their payment and establishing grace periods for those in debt…” It called for “a transparent and truthful communication channel providing daily information about the resources the country has for dealing with the epidemic…” and also warned that “incomplete information or its absence helps generate anger, distrust, insecurity and confusion.”


Then on March 30, Nicaragua’s Academy of Sciences released its own Message to th Nation about the pandemic. It included the following text: “We propose that professionals and experts from diverse disciplines be called on to ensure that decisions are based on scientific knowledge so that practical solutions are adopted that are adapted to Nicaragua’s reality. For more than 40 years, Nicaragua’s universities have trained highly skilled personnel and modern equipment that represent an exceptional resource for effectively combatting COVID-19. We have medical science, virology, microbiology and molecular biology professionals who have had valuable careers in the study and treatment of infectious diseases, as well as early diagnosis…. Alongside urging a focus on taking strategic scientific measures to mitigate the rapid propagation of the coronavirus, it is also pressing to resolve the overwhelming sociopolitical crisis the country is going through; otherwise
the future of various generations of Nicaraguans will remain uncertain.”


On April 22, only a week after Ortega lauded Nicaragua’s highly trained medical specialists in his April 15 speech, the Nicaraguan National Autonomous University in Managua fired the directive council of its Health Studies Research Center (CIES), including its director, Dr. Miguel Ángel Orozco, who had given interviews to independent media about
the regime’s poor management of the coronavirus pandemic. CIES has prepared public health professionals and developed research on health issues for the past 35 years. His deputy director, Marcia Ibarra, was also fired along with educator Rosario Hernández and Lissette Linares of the administration area. Orozco declared that they had given him no reason for his dismissal: “I have provided my declarations at the request of the media and they were based on scientific evidence and guidelines from the world authority on health, the WHO.” A statement released by the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH), which condemned the firings as “perverse,” reminded the population that “the health system is not a particular office of the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship; it is an instrument of Nicaraguans’ struggle to defend their right to health.”


Worried about the risk of coronavirus contagion for the more than 60 political prisoners still incarcerated given the unsanitary conditions and overcrowding in the country’s jails, international bodies and all of Nicaragua’s national social organizations have ceaselessly demanded their release. On April 15, the Permanent Human Rights Commission (CPDH)
issued a special request for eight political prisoners with very serious health problems to be moved to house arrest. The CPDH officials were not even able to deliver their petition and its justification as penitentiary system officials refused to receive it. Lawyer Evert Acevedo said “we are particularly worried about Kevin Zamora because he is a chronic asthma patient, while Jaime Navarrete was tortured in prison and had his nasal septum destroyed by the beatings; Legal Medicine says he has a nasal obstruction and can only breathe through his mouth. We are worried about Santos Sánchez, also tortured, who can barely breathe, suffers hypertension and has chest pains.”


Over the course of April five people infected with the coronavirus flew from Nicaragua to Cuba. They were very likely Cubans who come in large numbers to buy cheap products in Managua’s Eastern Market to then resell them on the island. When the first case “exported” from Nicaragua was announced in Cuba, Nicaraguan Health Minister Martha Reyes insisted that Cuba rectify its definition “because Nicaragua has no cases of community transmission.” She said noting further when Cuba’s Ministry of Health announced the further four cases in its detailed daily reports. In his April 15 speech, President Ortega boasted that Nicaragua only had one case, and it was “imported,” but made no reference to the Cuban cases. If he had, said Dora María Téllez, Nicaragua’s health minister during the revolutionary years, “he would have had to admit that there’s community spread and has been for a while and that they’ve been hiding information.” Alternatively,
he would have had to acknowledge that infected travelers are being allowed in through the airport with no effective detection mechanisms. On April 8, Cuban President Miguel Díaz Canel, while not alluding explicitly to Nicaragua, said in a press conference that “hiding information useful for health in the current circumstances could be regrettably fatal.”


On the second anniversary of Nicaragua’s April 2018 uprising, Josep Borrell, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, sent a message to our country stating that “Two years after the social protests and mobilizations initiated in Nicaragua in April 2018 there is no tangible progress. We reiterate our support for the Nicaraguan people to see their aspirations and pressing needs fulfilled.” For his part, Luis Almagro, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, said in his message marking the same anniversary that “Two years after the Ortega-Murillo regime’s brutal repression of peaceful and democratic protests, we continue arguing for truth and justice, the release of the political prisoners and an end to terror and totalitarianism. We are with the Mothers of April and with the Nicaraguan people.”

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