By Nan McCurdy
(An earlier version of this article was published in Popular Resistance https://popularresistance.org/us-led-nicaraguan-opposition-inflates-covid19-death-lists/)
The US is still trying to overthrow the democratically elected president of Nicaragua who won with 72% of the vote – this time it is a Covid-19 related coup attempt. The US-led opposition is utilizing doctors instead of students to kill off Sandinistas by falsely claiming Sandinista doctors have died and by claiming that all deaths are from Covid-19 because they allege “the health system has collapsed.”
They learned well in the 2018 coup attempt that deaths are a necessity if you want a lot of favorable media coverage in the corporate press, as well as interest from readers. Macabre? Yes, but true.
In 2018 a brilliant young Nicaraguan, seeing what was happening, wanted to make an impact and began gathering data on the dead lists reported by so-called human rights organizations. Nicaragua, a country of 6.5 million has three human rights organizations that are fiercely opposed to the government: the Nicaraguan Pro Human Rights Association (ANPDH), the Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH), and the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH). ANPDH was created in the 80s under President Reagan to attempt to whitewash Contra atrocities and has received US funding through the National Endowment for Democracy ever since. The Permanent Commission on Human Rights was founded earlier, but has primarily received US government-related funding since the early 80s. The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, founded by Vilma Nunez, is funded by European organizations but since Ortega won the 2006 elections Núñez has met multiple times with US embassy officials to conspire on how to get rid of President Ortega.
In his investigation titled: Monopolizing death: Or how to frame a government by inflating a list of the dead, Enrique Hendrix studied the lists of violence-related dead emitted by the human rights groups, read news articles about the deaths and investigated with the family members of the dead, and more. He found that many of the deaths were fabricated by including traffic accidents, suicides, death from illness, death from neighborhood fights, murder during a robbery, and an accidental firearm death. The lists also included a number of people who were alive in the United States or Costa Rica. There is incomplete data on the dead in all the lists with the same person being recorded two or three times with slightly different names. “This is evidence of a campaign that, in the absence of a just cause, uses the death of every citizen as a motive to manipulate the emotions of the population in order to counterpose “the people” against “the people.”
The US-led coup never really ended, but calmed some until the Covid-19 Pandemic when they began to capitalize on the crisis by once again inventing deaths in order to try to create the narrative that Nicaragua’s government is incapable of dealing with the Covid-19 crisis.
They manipulate information and lie as part of a sustained campaign to promote panic among the population so that people will be terrified they are going to die.
An important part of the current coup attempt is the fabrication of false deaths as part of their national and international campaign against the government. They publish names of people they say are dead, who aren’t.
This is what happened to Dr. Guadalupe Joya and Rubén Darío Flores. Both were outraged to be killed off on social networks by the ‘Nicaraguan Medical Association’ a group invented during the 2018 attempted coup to create lies against the government.
“They have made a mess of their campaign against the government,” Dr. Flores told Radio La Primerísima. Flores has been a doctor for six years with two years of residency in orthopedics. He did have Covid-19 and was on bed rest but is back at work in the city of Jinotepe. Dr. Flores said that this defamatory campaign began May 19. In his Facebook post he wrote:
“Two days ago I died, according to groups and individuals who are dedicated to the creation, promotion and dissemination of Fake News. I was called by family, friends, acquaintances and patients (I appreciate their concern). False News doesn’t create anything good, and yet many are replicating it. The creation, promotion and dissemination of false news should be considered a crime. The ‘Nicaraguan Medical Association’ used my photos and personal data without authorization. They seek to harm the Nicaraguan Health System and boycott the heroic work of the Health Workers. I stand in solidarity with those who have lost a loved one and I demand that the memory of their loved ones be respected.” He posted his own video on Facebook to denounce the opposition lies and warned that he reserves the right to take his slanderers to court.
Dr. Guadalupe Joya condemned the criminal behavior of the “Somocistas” in spreading false rumors that she had died. Dr. Joya began years ago as a health worker in the German-Nicaraguan hospital in Managua where today serious Covid-19 cases are treated. Thanks to a scholarship from the Nicaraguan Health Federation, she studied to become a nurse. Later she got a medical scholarship and just finished her social service at the Yolanda Mayorga hospital in Tipitapa graduating in general practice.
Dr. Joya demanded that the ‘so called’ ‘Nicaraguan Medical Association’ remove her name from their social media posts and says that otherwise she will assert her legal rights. “They are playing with my image, they are making my mother sick because this false information of my death has scared the whole family, which is hurting me.”
On June 15, Doctors Ruíz and Flores entered formal complaints in the prosecutor’s office against the Nicaragua Medical Association accusing Dr. Greta Solis Vargas, head of the Association, of damaging their morale and image. Dr. Flores said that this group is working to boycott the health system and its work to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Attorney Greta Solís said the Association will be accused of psychological injury, moral damage, and other crimes for which they will have to answer before the courts in Managua.
The other tactic the US-led opposition uses is to claim all deaths are from Covid-19 to create panic among the population and have material for alarming corporate press articles alleging that the government is underreporting Covid-19 deaths.
The relatives of Rebeca González, Dr. Omar González, Teresa Méndez and Dr. Marco Enrique Zamura Amador have demand retractions of lies about their family members by manipulators on social networks.
On May 6 the relatives of Rebeca González demanded that the Somocistas who post social media lies remove them. Rebeca’s mother, Socorro del Carmen Baltodano said “I want them to print the truth, that my daughter died of colon cancer. They can’t play with the feelings my family, that’s hard, it hurts too much,” she said. She demanded they remove social media posts that say her daughter died of Covid-19.
Omar Jose Gonzalez Rocha, 27, published a letter demanding respect for the memory of his father, Dr. Omar Gonzalez, who worked for many years at the Humberto Alvarado Hospital in Masaya. In his letter he recalls that his father saved many lives within the health system, “How could they print the lie that he died of Covid.” Dr. Elmer Vega Mendez also expressed his indignation at the lies being told about the death of his mother, Teresa Mendez – that she died of Covid-19.
Digna Potosme Nororis expressed her indignation on Facebook at the unscrupulous lies the opposition posted claiming her husband, Dr. Marco Enrique Zamura Amador died of Covid-19. “They took his photos and information from his Facebook profile without authorization to create fake news posts to try to discredit the Health Ministry. I want to clarify that he was never part of their ‘Nicaraguan Medical Association.’ He was a committed Sandinista, part of a Sandinista Medical Brigade and the Health Federation.”
The corporate media has followed the narrative of the US-led opposition from the beginning of the April 2018 coup without questioning or investigating their absurd allegations. The corporate articles pretty much reprint what is in the opposition Nicaraguan press, or they interview opposition members in the most favorable light possible, never asking one hard question. The same thing has happened with the Covid-19 Coup. There are articles in the international corporate press every day disseminating fake and distorted news.
It is quite likely that when it is all said and done Nicaragua will be recognized as one of the countries in the world that did the best job preparing for the pandemic, preventing community transmission and treating Covid-19 patients. By February 9 it had issued a joint protocol with the Pan-American Health Organization…setting out its strategy. At this early stage of the crisis, few countries outside Asia had done anything similar.
Included in its strategy were preparing 19 hospitals and nearly 40,000 health personnel to treat Covid patients. It had multiple virtual meetings with other countries to learn from them as part of their preparedness. Its nearly 160,000 trained volunteer health workers and health staff made more than 5 million home visits to educate about prevention and symptoms and to find ill patients. Nicaragua has an elaborate screening system at the borders and airport and sends everyone entering the country to quarantine. And, amazingly, the health ministry follows up with visits and phone calls. This, as well as detailed contact tracing, something that has barely been done in the United States, is how they were able to avoid community transmission for nearly two months between their first imported case on March 18 and mid-May. Nicaragua has a successful hotline for questions and for asking for help; it is disinfecting public transportation and markets as well as encouraging physical distancing, preventive measures in government buildings and supermarkets like testing temperature, requiring masks, making hand-washing stations and alcohol or alcohol gel a requirement as well as shoe washing.
Nicaragua did not call for a quarantine as a large percentage of workers are in the informal sector and if they don’t go out to work every day, they don’t eat and would end up dying from some other hunger-related illness.
In the government’s weekly report on Covid-19 cases, recuperated patients and deaths on June 2, 9 and 16, there were consistently fewer new cases each week as well as fewer deaths. This means Nicaragua reached its peak of new cases in the week ending May 26 and is now well down the curve and Covid-19 will soon be an illness of the past.
As of June 16 the Covid-related mortality rate is: .98 (less than 1%) per hundred thousand whereas the US rate is 35.39, about thirty-five times more than Nicaragua.
Unfortunately the US-led opposition will surely be on to a new strategy to falsely malign Nicaragua, and it will probably including “killing” people off as during the 2018 coup attempt and the 2020 Pandemic.
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By Nan McCurdy
Eden Pastora, Comandante Zero, Dies
Commander Zero, Eden Pastora died June 16 at 83 years of age from a heart attack, after being hospitalized for several days, his family confirmed. Pastora is being lauded as a brave fighter, who put Nicaragua on the world map with the taking of the National Palace in Managua on August 22, 1978, which liberated a number of Sandinista political prisoners. During the struggle against Somoza, he led operations in the “Benjamin Zeledon” Southern Front against elite National Guard troops. Pastora received the honorary rank of Guerrilla Commander and the military rank of Brigade Commander in the nascent Sandinista People’s Army (EPS) and held for a time the position of Vice Minister of Defense and National Chief of the Sandinista People’s Militias (MPS). [At the end of 1982 he left Nicaragua and formed a contra group, ARDE, the Democratic Revolutionary Alliance, in Costa Rica which received funding from the US. He reconciled fully with the Sandinistas in 2007 and from then on had an important role with the Sandinistas.] (Radiolaprimerisima, 6/16/20)
Covid-19 cases Week of June 9 to June 15
The weekly report from the Health Ministry June 16 shows 197 new cases and 9 new deaths. Thus, since May 26, every week there have been fewer new positive cases. Included in the government’s positive cases are not only those who actually test positive but also those who show typical Covid-19 symptoms. Nicaragua as of this report has 1,864 total cases and of these, 522 are active, 1,238 have recuperated and a total of 64 people have died. Using this data and others from Statista.com, Nicaragua has a current Covid-19 mortality rate of approximately .98 per 100,000, the US has a rate of at least 35.39 per 100,000 and the global average is 5.43 per 10,000. (Health Ministry, Radiolaprimerisma, 6/16/20)
Funding Agreement Modified for Containment of Covid-19
The Cooperation Agreement for “Improvement of the Nejapa-El Crucero-Diriamba Jinotepe-Nandaime Highway Project” subscribed with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration will be modified. The authorized change will transfer to the Health Ministry US$11.7 million to support the “Program for Emergency Prevention and Containment of COVID-19 in Nicaragua”. (Nicaragua News, 6/12/20)
Honduras Emulates Medical Brigades of Nicaragua
The Honduras Health Ministry will emulate the medical brigades of Nicaragua, which Guatemala also began to do recently. This is an attempt to have a more timely detection of people with COVID-19. The Honduras government launched an initiative June 15 in which 25 medical teams will go through neighborhoods house by house to look for infected people. Although the project initially starts in Tegucigalpa, it will also be developed in San Pedro Sula and the rest of the Sula Valley. Neither in Guatemala, nor in Honduras, nor the Nicaraguan opposition, nor the OAS, nor the IACHR, nor the UNHCHR, nor PAHO have criticized this measure in those countries by saying that the Health Ministries are unnecessarily exposing health workers. But this is what some of those same actors said about Nicaragua’s strategy in which more than 5 million home visits have been made. (Informe Pastran, 6/16/20)
Ministry of Family Economy Helps Small Business
Justa Perez, head of the Ministry of Family, Community, Cooperative and Associative Economy (MEFCCA) reported that through June 11, 2020, they have assisted more than 35,000 entrepreneurs with capacity building, organizing a business and digital marketing. Since January MEFCA has held Cyber Monday Nicaragua, an online sales platform for all types of items. Two hundred twenty online businesses participated in May. MEFCCA works in three areas: promotion of entrepreneurship, family economy, value addition and transformation of family agriculture. There are delegations in 20 departmental capitals, and one or two representatives in each municipality.
The Ministry of Family Economy platform, Nicaragua Emprende, promotes youth entrepreneurship. Nicaragua Fuerza Bendita assists entrepreneurs who have some kind of disability. “We are giving financial credit for strengthening agricultural production,” said Justa Perez. Three thousand loans were granted in 2020. From April 20 to date, 40,000 producers have been visited by the government. (Radiolaprimerisima, 6/11/20)
Nicaragua Diversifying Export Market
The Nicaragua Export Processing Center reported that between January and May 2020 exports totaled US$1.3 billion, US$171.67 million more than during this period in 2019. As of May, exports increased 14.2% in volume and 14.45% in revenue. During the first five months of 2020, premium coffee and beef were the leading products generating US$534 million in sales. Diversification of markets now includes Belize, Cuba, Lebanon, Norway, New Zealand, Paraguay, Poland and Ukraine. (Nicaragua News, 6/11/20)
Coffee, Beef and Gold Top Exports
The top ten export products in 2020 are: coffee, beef, raw gold, cane sugar, beans, peanuts, Morolique cheese, raw tobacco, farmed shrimp and fish. These ten products represented 77.7 percent of total income. For its part, the Association of Producers and Exporters of Nicaragua (APEN) details in its May report, that the products that show a year-on-year increase have been gold with an additional US$46.95 million, beef with US$37.11 million and coffee with US$31.32 million. So far this year, coffee generated US$295.41 million in foreign exchange for the country, US$31.31 million more than last year, mainly due to an increase in volume and price, which went from US$2.8 to US$3.0 per kilogram. (Radiolaprimerisima, 6/13/20)
30 Nurseries Part of Reforestation Program
A reforestation campaign was launched in Managua. “The crusade’s aim was to create 30 nurseries with 35 species of fruit, ornamental and forest plants, among which are native plants. Darwin Umanzor, departmental delegate of the Forestry Institute, said that to date there are 35 nurseries, which indicates that the goal has been met. “These nurseries will produce 840,000 plants which will be destined for producers. Seven hundred hectares that were affected by forest fires in the dry season will be reforested. Claudio Urroz of Ticuantepe, said that this launch is a tribute to the 41 years since the vile murders of young people at Hill 110 by the Somoza Guard. “They dreamed that one day Nicaragua would be free and that we would have social programs like the Bismarck Martínez housing program, the reforestation program, the Family and Community Health System, to restore rights to our population,” said Urroz. (Radiolaprimerisima, 6/12/20)
Nicaragua Preserves Indigenous Languages
The Nicaragua Minister Adviser for National Policies, Paul Oquist, participated in a recent virtual meeting on “Public Policies for the Preservation and Use of Indigenous Languages.” Dr. Oquist highlighted achievements in the recognition and promotion of indigenous languages through approval of the Autonomy Statute and the Law of Languages that establishes the right to bilingual intercultural education and a judicial model that respects the traditions and customs of the Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples of the Caribbean Coast. Organized by the Fund for the Development of Latin America and the Caribbean, with support of the Ibero-American General Secretariat and the Organization of Ibero-American States, the event was convened to review the lessons learned during the International Year of Indigenous Languages, dedicated to promoting the use, preservation and development of indigenous languages in Latin America and the Caribbean. (Nicaragua News, 6/12/20)
Government Supports Textile Entrepreneurs
The Nicaraguan Ministry of Family Economy trained and delivered sewing material and machinery to eight small textile entrepreneurs affected by the Covid-19 pandemic to incentivize production of masks, medical scrubs, and coats in Waspam, Northern Caribbean Autonomous Region. The funding is part of the Textile Sector Challenges and Opportunities in the context of the Pandemic Program, that the Government is implementing in support of the sector. (Nicaragua News, 6/12/20)
Zero Usury Provides Support to 2,000 Women
The government microloan program “Zero Usury” provided US$465,200 to 2,000 women organized in 300 solidarity groups for the installing and expansion of small restaurants and miscellaneous stores in urban and semi-urban areas. The financing is part of the Plan to Strengthen Productive and Organizational Capabilities of the Creative Economy Model that the Government is implementing. (Nicaragua News, 6/12/20)