January 24, 2021

COVID-19 in La Modelo prison in Nicaragua would be “disastrous”, says a former official

The presence of COVID-19 could have a “disastrous” effect in the “La Modelo” prison, the largest in Nicaragua, since three-quarters of the prison population would be at risk of death, the former director of Maximum Medical Services reported this Wednesday. Security, Freddy Blandón.

This means that more than 5,000 inmates would be at high risk if the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes COVID-19 disease, sneaks into “La Modelo”, according to the ex-official’s calculations.

“The effect would be disastrous, it would eliminate about three quarters of the prison population, because they have a vulnerable immune system, overcrowding, water conditions, contamination, plus all coercive actions, and in the case of political prisoners , torture, verbal abuse, overcrowding, “Blandón, a specialist in family medicine, told Efe.

According to the medical doctor, who worked at “La Modelo” between 2016 and 2017, the vulnerability of inmates is due to the conditions of any prison in Latin America, and is aggravated by the peculiarities of Nicaragua.

Among these conditions is the lack of medical inventory, and overcrowding, as up to 40 convicts are accommodated in dungeons designed for 15 people.


“There they sleep sitting next to each other, on the floor, the water arrives one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon, it comes out with tartar, the prisoners strain it with a handkerchief and in that way they take it, avoid the particles that can see, but not the bacteria, the parasites, or sediments, “Blandón said.

In the case of maximum security prisons, where there are two inmates, although there is no overcrowding, they must coexist in a space of 1.50 by 1.25 meters, with high humidity and extreme heat, since the small windows were designed so that the air does not circulate.

To this is added, according to the former official, that if a convict needs medical attention, the administration of the National Penitentiary System must “consult the Ministry of the Interior, Deputy Minister Luis Cañas, so that he later consults with the Presidency, to find out if he gives him a tablet for the pain”.

According to Blandón, in the best case, an emergency health situation is attended to 45 minutes later, and the situation of the more than 60 “political prisoners” is more complex, since some like Marvin Vargas (considered a political prisoner and former Sandinista military) are not always treated, because “in front of their cell they have a yellow stripe, one meter away, so that not even a member of the prison system comes near without authorization.”

For this reason, a group of 58 human rights organizations, NGOs, opposition political movements, scientific entities, among others, demanded this Wednesday the government of President Daniel Ortega the freedom of “political prisoners”, especially 22 with chronic diseases, under the premise that they should never have been caught.


According to the organizations, the Government must assume “responsibility in the reality of the international emergency” and recognize “the extreme vulnerability and death risks in which political prisoners and for social causes are.”

The movements demanded compliance with the “Nelson Mandela Rules” for the treatment of prisoners, principles of medical ethics, measures to prevent coronavirus, and the family coexistence regime for prisoners at risk.

They also requested information on a possible action protocol, that there be no overcrowding, cleaning products and personal hygiene for the convicts, the control of the health status of the personnel, and the adaptation of the facilities to attend cases of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. .

The scarce and confusing information about COVID-19, as well as the lack of social prevention measures and promotion of massive events carried out by the Nicaraguan Government, has been a matter of national and international concern. The Central American country barely recognizes nine infections and only one died from the pathogen.

Concerns have been expressed by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Organization of American States (OAS), the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the Inter-American Commission on Rights Human (IACHR).

The human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called Ortega’s response to COVID-19 “reckless”.


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