Lenín Moreno delivers an Ecuador plunged into sanitary collapse

Outgoing President of Ecuador, Lenín Moreno.

The images left by the first wave of the coronavirus in Guayaquil in April 2020 are still fresh. Painful scenes in which the pile of corpses in the streets appeared before the eyes of the world. A year later, in the middle of the second wave, hundreds of older adults wait in long lines for up to seven hours to receive the vaccine in schools and sanatoriums in Quito. During this time, in the midst of one of the worst efforts of the pandemic in the region, the government of Lenín Moreno saw five ministers of Health parade. A crisis that included serious logistical failures, budget cuts and vip vaccination scandals.

In March 2020, Catalina Andramuño, outgoing Health Minister, stated in a letter that "facing a health emergency without resources is complicated." As a result of the loan from the International Monetary Fund (for 10.200 billion dollars), Moreno carried out an adjustment in the State that seriously affected the health sector.

The Ecuadorian sociologist David Suárez tells Página12 that the health institutions are undermined. “The agreement with the IMF meant a cut in the national budget, and health was reduced in the middle of the pandemic, when finances are normally reorganized. There were no emergency funds. They were 720 million dollars less between 2017 and 2020 ”.

For the analyst, there was an early lockdown and when the reopening began last June, control and prevention measures were lacking. “There was no institutional strategy, to which was added the lack of credibility of the government, which with its devalued word has serious difficulties in giving messages of care to the population. The panorama today is one of social anomie ”.

Lenín Moreno will leave power on May 24 anchored in an irreversible political decline, with only 8 percent approval, after a damaging management in the economic, institutional and health fields.

The pandemic situation continued on rising peaks. In recent weeks, infections have not stopped growing and new variants are already circulating in Ecuador, which led Moreno to decree last week a state of exception for 30 days in eight provinces, where about 70 percent of the population. The most affected area is Pichincha (which houses the capital, Quito) with 38,8 percent of the cases followed by Guayas (Guayaquil is its capital), with 13 percent. In both cities, central Ecuador, the fragile hospital situation shows signs of exhaustion.

The official registry of deaths marks more than 17.000, but analysis of deaths above normal estimates that the number would be double, since many deaths of the first stage were not registered as victims of covid. Suárez also points out that there is no national testing policy. “There were hardly any tests, which are not public but private and cost $ 79. 1.183.906 PCR tests were carried out in a year in a population of 17 million inhabitants ”.

As if that were not enough, hundreds of irregularities in the purchase of medical supplies such as masks, coronavirus tests or bags to transport corpses also came to light. When the population inoculation campaign is markedly slow (just over 274 Ecuadorians received the first dose), VIP vaccination scandals were uncovered.

Juan Carlos Zevallos resigned from the health ministry in late February after it was revealed that several of his relatives, including his mother, had been vaccinated. His successor, Rodrigo Farfán, resigned on March 19, after a list of "gold vaccinates" was released. According to La Posta, the list included Lenín Moreno's wife, Rocío González, officials, journalists and academics.

Farfán's replacement, Mauro Falconí, lasted 19 days at the head of Health. Moreno dismissed him last Thursday in the face of a new scandal, this time due to total inadequacy: the media showed hundreds of elderly people waiting up to seven hours in long lines to get vaccinated, and some did not even receive their dose.

Against this background, the elected president Guillermo Lasso has already promised that he will immunize 9 million Ecuadorians against the coronavirus in his first 100 days of government, free of charge and with priority for medical personnel and vulnerable groups. The former banker said that to achieve this he will appeal to negotiation with the different manufacturers and the help of "friendly" countries such as the United States.

Campaign promises that seem scripted by an expert who knows about these inventions. Jaime Durán Barba, hired urgently to overcome the second round, appeared on the list of those vaccinated with privilege, a piece of news that the advisor denies and that barely had a tour of the hegemonic media in Ecuador.

With information from Page 12



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