Nicaraguan authorities have fired at least 10 health workers in apparent retaliation for voicing concern about the Daniel Ortega government’s management of the Covid-19 health crisis, Human Rights Watch said today. The Ortega regime should immediately allow the health workers to return to their jobs, compensate them for their lost wages, and adopt effective measures to respond to the pandemic.
On May 18, 2020, more than 700 health workers from the public and private sectors signed a letter urging the government to acknowledge that the virus was spreading in Nicaragua and to put in place preventive measures recommended by the World Health Organization to limit its further spread. They noted that Nicaragua’s weak public health system was at “great risk of a collapse that could endanger the lives and health of Nicaraguans broadly,” contradicting the official narrative that the virus has had limited impact. On June 6 and 9, Nicaraguan Health Ministry officials dismissed several workers in the public health system who had signed the letter, without following standard legal procedures for dismissals.
“Ortega is seeking to intimidate and punish health workers for trying to protect the health of all Nicaraguans and exercising their basic right to freedom of expression,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The government went from denying the pandemic to deliberately trying to conceal the real effects of its shameful failure to respond to the virus. Arbitrarily removing health workers amid a health crisis further threatens a public health disaster.”