Workers in free trade zones fear eventual quarantine – Nicaragua

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Among the workers in companies that operate within the free trade zones and the sea of vendors, motorcycle taxis, and payday lenders that orbit around them, there’s a mix of acceptance and resignation before the possibility of a quarantine being declared.

Raquel Rodriguez, a lender, already had her face mask ready even before the official reports of the first confirmed infection. She states: “from this moment, we’re feeling” the effects of the health crisis on the economy. In her case, it’s because “many of my clients have already been laid off. That’s affected me a little, but up until now, God hasn’t abandoned me.  But if they close the zone down completely, I don’t know. I’m afraid my blood pressure would go way up.”

Maria del Socorro Chavarria sells bread and butter at the entrance to one of the companies in the zone, a business that doesn’t generate a huge income. She notes that a quarantine order “would affect us economically, because we couldn’t keep our business going, and we’d have to use the small reserves we have for our food.”

Judith Castro is taking all the preventive measures that they taught her in the company, and is also applying them at home, to safeguard her children’s health. In addition to seeing them healthy, she also wants them to be well fed.

That’s the reason the idea that they could order the workers to stay at home to slow the rate of contagion disturbs her. “In that case – What are we going to do? If we don’t work, we don’t get paid. There’s no food.  And that’s the main thing – food. I don’t think we could stand it for much time,” she admits.

Wiston Cortes drives a motorcycle taxi in which he transports passengers from the north highway into the neighborhood. He also takes workers from the factory to the bus stops and vice versa. He explains that he’s had to prioritize his business over his health. “I’ve thought about wearing a mask as a form of prevention, but then the passengers will think that I’m sick, and they won’t want to ride with me,” he says. 

He’s also concerned about the possibility of an order to close the factories, because “we transport people from the bus stops to the free trade zone, and if they close down, we lose our income. If they close the other companies, we could no longer transport people out of the neighborhood because they wouldn’t be going to work anymore.”

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