The “official” fake news of the pandemic

The lack of information and the uncertainty caused by the Ministry of Health and the State Government is generating disbelief among the population about the pandemic

Photography: Juan José Estrada Serafín

Pandemic. Nahuatzen.- In the photographs released by the Ministry of Health of Michoacán (SSM) thousands of people can be seen dancing in the street celebrating the San Juan fair, as the patronal festival of the Purépero municipality is popularly known.

The images caused outrage on social media and were published on dozens of news portals and newspapers that condemned the crowding of people ignoring the rules of healthy distance, avoiding public events and the use of face masks.

Through a statement, the SSM accused the citizens of ignoring the health recommendations and pointed out that they crowded into the streets without any protection or keeping their distance.

A day later, the Ministry of the Government of Michoacán had to back down and recognized that the photographs and videos released by the Ministry of Health were false and it was a patron saint’s party from previous years.

The event marked a blow to the credibility of the SSM, something that has affected the divulgation of other messages such as the recommendations to stay home, wash your hands, keep your distance and avoid crowds.

“Honestly, the lack of information and the uncertainty caused by the Ministry of Health and the State Government is generating disbelief among the inhabitants of the region,” said Efraín Avilés Rodríguez, spokesman for the Nahuatzen Indigenous Citizen Council.

According to the spokesperson, it is increasingly difficult for citizens to comply with sanitary measures and the lack of certainty from the authorities worsens the situation in Nahuatzen, where there are already three cases, although they occurred outside the municipality and are hospitalized in Morelia and Uruapan.

To combat the lack of information and mistrust, the governments of the town of Nahuatzen have turned to the human rights defense organizations as Services and Advice for Peace A.C. (Serapaz) and the Human Rights Solidarity Network.

Through the support of these organizations, indigenous autonomous governments have created links that allow them access to first-hand information to try to contain the “epidemic of disinformation” that accompanies COVID-19.

In the absence of help from state and federal authorities, indigenous peoples have had to seek their own mechanisms to have reliable information and protocols to treat patients with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
“At the request of the population, we had an approach with the health center unit to learn more information about the virus, since we are concerned about the proximity to the towns of Paracho and Cherán, because they are our neighbors and they already register infections,” said Efraín Aviles.

The spokesperson assured that it is necessary for health officials to have an approach with the indigenous populations so that they make a diagnosis and present a report on the progress of the novel coronavirus in Michoacán, but so far they have not received a response.

Through a statement, the SSM assured that together with the State Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (CEDPI) they worked on the development of posters, radio spots and audios for peripherals, both in Spanish and in Otomí, Purépecha and Mazahua, indigenous languages spoken by many people in the communities.

In addition, he pointed out that they spread information in communities such as San Francisco Ichán, Cuanajo, Ihuatzio, Ucasanastacua, Pichátaro, La Escondida, San Juan Tumbio, San Ángel, Zurumucapio and San Felipe de los Alzati.

However, this information has not yet reached hundreds of communities in the Purépecha Plateau, the Sierra-Costa, the Lago de Pátzcuaro region and La Cañada de los Once Pueblos, so municipalities such as Nahuatzen still do not receive adequate information.

20/20 News asked the SSM communication department for more information on this matter, as well as an interview to find out why false images about the Purépero festival were disseminated, but so far no response has been received.

Meanwhile, indigenous communities abide by the measures they consider necessary and fight against the disinformation that arrives – even from the offices of the Ministry of Health itself – to stop the coronavirus pandemic.

“We see that the Ministry of Health is very focused on large cities, it is necessary that the health authorities do not wait for a massive outbreak to occur in an indigenous community to pay attention to what is happening, I believe that the measures of prevention is what will allow us to return to normalcy ”, assured Efraín Avilés.

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