Left on the Move Left on the Move Left on the Move

On April 30th, Daniel Ortega gave a speech that was live broadcast in several Nicaraguan media channels. It was announced as a speech on the occasion of the 8th anniversary of the death of Thomas Borge and 1 May 2020. There were many references to this speech as insignificant, since it did not address the general political situation of the country nor announced concrete measures against the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this interpretation underestimates the real message of the president dramatically. In fact, Ortega announced, through this extensive and detailed speech, that his government, in a conscious and organized manner, will not take special measures to combat the coronavirus. This is the open announcement that Nicaragua, because of this government policy, will enter an unpredictable humanitarian catastrophe in the coming weeks and months. COVID-19 will cause significantly more deaths in Nicaragua than the State and the paramilitary repression caused after 18 April 2018. The blind followers of the Ortega-Murillo regime, who, under the pretext of completely inadequate loyalty, continue to support and propagate the criminal politics of this presidential couple, heading the pandemic, are political accomplices in the tragedy that is apparently unfolding unstoppably in Nicaragua.

Ortega gave his speech, as always, in a room of his private-presidential house, in front of tables decorated with flowers, to 20 selected guests from his immediate surroundings. He spoke without manuscript, having only a few pages with keywords and statistical data in hand. What was surprising, however, was that he spoke even more slowly, and with even longer pauses than in the past. His speech lasted an hour and a half, and about half of that time was his pauses in speech. However, his sentences were complete and clearly understandable. At the beginning of his speech, he greeted the workers of the world with a construction that does not even exist in Spanish (“Salud a todos los trabajadores del mundo y trabajadoras del mundo”). This part of the speech was later manipulated, so this grammatical nonsense can no longer be heard. It was also remarkable that he mentioned April 30, 2019 as the date of the supposed “coup attempt” against his government, when in reality it was on April 18, 2018 that mass protests began, which he called “coup attempt”, and which he later brutally crushed. Finally, it was impressive that the 20 participants chosen to be around him were sitting in their chairs all the time, like petrified pillars of salt, while Vice President Murillo was constantly giving her comments or key words to her husband.

Ortega began by devoting more than half an hour to the evils of capitalism and the dark role of the United States in the world. In earlier times, people said about Ortega’ spechees: “The more anti-imperialist his speech, more mess he is invisibly preparing in the background.” At that time, it was usually a matter of secret pacts with the right wing on issues of corruption or power. Today, however, it is about the health and life of all the people of Nicaragua.

According to Ortega, from the first officially recognized case of coronavirus infection, on March 18th, until the day of his speech, 14 people were infected with the virus, and 4 of them died. However, from March 11, the day the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic, until April 30th, there were more than 2,829 deaths, but “nobody is counting deaths from other diseases.” 120 deaths from trafficking, 85 victims of violence, 40 suicides, 37 drownings, deaths from heart failure, high blood pressure, liver failure, cancer and much more. Currently, only those killed by the coronavirus are mentioned, but “we cannot be insensitive to the pain that all these families are suffering.” By comparing “only” 4 deaths from the coronavirus with 2,829 deaths from other reasons, the problem of the COVID-19 pandemic is being minimized in a completely unacceptable way. The message of this dubious juxtaposition is that Nicaragua has so many other problems that the importance of the coronavirus should not be exaggerated. In this extremely tendentious comparison, to which Ortega devoted 13 minutes, he ignores that, unlike most other deaths, the government has a significant and immediate influence on the spread of the pandemic. He also hides the fact that the pandemic in Nicaragua is still in its early stages, and will expand exponentially – that is, increasingly rapidly – in the coming weeks and months, while the other deaths are more or less a constant part of Nicaragua’s social reality.

Ortega notes that 162 people have been treated since the first official coronavirus case, and that 971,433 families across the country have been visited, house to house, to provide a total of 3,336,096 people with the necessary hygiene measures. Although it seems exaggerated, these figures are intended to give the impression that the government and the FSLN are preparing the population with great power to face the pandemic. Here too, the opposite is true. These visits were made by groups that did not wear masks and did not keep a safe distance from each other and the people they were visiting. Exactly on the days when they made these visits, several government institutions called for big celebrations and meetings, on the occasion of the Easter holidays, which are traditionally celebrated intensely and exuberantly in Nicaragua. Instead of devoting maximum energy to drawing attention to the peculiarity of the current danger and taking extraordinary protective measures, the government is spreading the illusion that it has everything under control.

In addition, Ortega often mentioned that health workers did not go home, that firemen did not stay at home… as if someone was calling the doctors and nurses to stay at home. This statement is a demagogic attempt to ridicule all measures to reduce social contacts between people. In one way or another, social contacts between people are regulated and reduced in almost every country in the world, because this is an essential measure to stop the spread of the virus and, if possible, stop it.

In the end, however, Ortega wants to give positive news: more children are born than people die of old age. According to him, 14,571 babies were born in the period mentioned here, a number approximately seven times greater than the number of people who died. He exclaims, “Blessed be God,” and smiles, the only time on camera, satisfied that he has found a positive solution to all the problems he spoke of. If the government cannot do much and does not want to do what it, could, then, in the Age of COVID-19, there is at least this: many new children and trust in God.

Ortega’s speech was prepared by his advisors, certainly under the leadership of his wife and vice-president Rosario Murillo, according to the following guidelines:

– Anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist speech;

– Neglect of all scientific knowledge about the peculiarities of the COVID-19 pandemic;

– Not to restrict human concentrations, to prove that everything is fine under th e Ortega-Murillo government;

– Rejection of the campaign to stay at home;

– Relativization of the particular danger of the coronavirus, by indicating many more deaths from other diseases and problems;

– Listing health services, to distract from the fact that the health system is not prepared to deal with the pandemic;

– Congratulating health workers, to hide the fact that the government is not taking seriously the implementation of any of the internationally recommended measures;

– No detailed public information on the status of infections, patient treatment, or government measures to combat the pandemic;

– Deliver the good news that there are many more babies born than deaths;

– Instead of belligerent government action to combat the pandemic, it gives the Christian approach of “love of neighbor” as the only hope left to the people.

The heads of government, Bolsonaro (Brazil), Johnson (United Kingdom) and, above all, Trump (USA), systematically minimized the dangers of the pandemic, when they still had the opportunity to significantly stop it. In these countries, COVID-19 continues to spread almost uncontrollably to this day. The Ortega-Murillo government decided to act even worse and expressly convoke numerous mass public meetings.

In his speech, Ortega made it clear to the people that his government will not take “extreme” measures and carry out “normal” activities, as usual. The uncontrolled spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nicaragua is now an established fact. It will lead to thousands of deaths, much more than the victims of the government and paramilitary repression it ordered in 2018. Ortega announced to the people a number of deaths, the scale of which will largely be the result of his government’s irresponsible politics.

Anyone who calls for an end to political opposition to the Ortega-Murillo regime because of the pandemic is in fact proposing to let the government, which is pursuing the world’s worst health care plan in the fight against the coronavirus, continue to rule peacefully.

As a final remark, it should be noted that the government’s politics have not officially changed, but in the last few days there have been small changes. For example, some civil workers are now sent to work in the home office, others have to take vacations, class schedules at schools and universities have been reduced, and in some cases even a minimum distance of 1.5 meters between people is being promoted. However, these measures come too late and are, by no means, sufficient to avoid disaster.

I sincerely hope that everything I have documented and commented on here will be exaggerated, and therefore not happen. But given the global experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have the most terrible fear that this hope will not come true.

A new page to support and build new alternatives in Latin America and the world, defending the power of the workers and people against the 1% of the rich and privileged, and a society without exploitation.

Writing office

  • Pedro Fuentes
  • Bernardo Corrêa
  • Charles Rosa
  • Clara Baeder