Covid-19, the Chiapas mirror

Mad Doctor

By: Luis Hernández Navarro

Dr. José Manuel Cruz Castellanos is a peculiar character. He would seem taken from a humorous Monty Python film. When they asked him if the arrival of dust from the Sahara could affect the health of Chiapanecos, or make them susceptible to contracting Covid-19, he responded: “The arrival of no foreigner, of no Mexican, of no one who comes to Chiapas, is harmed and cannot harm Chiapas because we have the great filter of the airport.”

Before the rant, the journalists specified that they were referring to the dust cloud that would enter Mexico.

“Without any problem –the doctor replied–, everyone who arrives is subject to epidemiological surveillance and laboratory studies, in such a way that we have a context for protecting the population. Health filters were established for that.”

The nonsense wouldn’t matter, except for one fact. Cruz Castellanos is the Secretary of Health of Chiapas.

His delusions are enough to write a book. When the journalist Lizbeth Jiménez questioned him about irregularities in the number of patients with the coronavirus registered in the state, he blurted out: “Interpreting costs when one does not have a very clear mind in what one is doing, as I see in your case that it wasn’t clear to you. Record it so that you don’t come with absurd questions. You just walk around with a lot of precaution, I’m not going to grab you over there and we don’t want that. You are very pretty, very elegant for something to happen to you.”

The reporter’s question was correct. The Chiapas Secretary of Health is a magician with the numbers. Since last June l8, he made the number of infections diminish, literally from one day to the next. And like a good illusionist, he kept the number below 100 cases per day. A convenient management for the state to move to the orange light!

Cruz Castellanos’ dance of the numbers has been questioned by a multitude of voices. One of those voices is that of the state delegate of the Red Cross, Francisco Alvarado Nazar –himself infected with the coronavirus–. The delegate reported that on June 23 they received “an hourly emergency call from people with Covid-19 problems, which in 40 percent of the cases, the condition of the possibly infected person was critical and the chain of infections in Tuxtla Gutiérrez urgently needed to be cut.”

The Secretary’s response was flamboyant. He accused the Red Cross delegate of not having correct information and that the patients who are recovering (like Alvarado) “remain half crazy.” He added that the criticisms of his management “slide off” of him, because “every morning I put on a little oil and everything slides off of me.”

Cruz Castellanos is a figure very close politically to the Tabasco woman Rosalinda López Hernández, general administrator of the Fiscal Auditor of the SAT and the wife of Rutilio Escandón, the Governor of Chiapas. He jumped from the PRI, to the PRD and then to the PVEM until his incorporation into Morena. In 2015 he competed on behalf of the Green Party (PVEM), to be deputy for the sixth district. That’s where he built an alliance with Rosalinda, who was a candidate for that same party to the mayoralty of Villahermosa. Both were defeated.

The Chiapas Secretary of Health made his political career in the Tabasco health sector, during the governorship of Manuel Andrade Díaz (2002-06). Local deputy Olvita Palomeque accused the official of committing grave irregularities in his Chiapas term of office, benefitting from public works and contracts through a direct award to three Tabasco companies.

The governmental management of the pandemic in Chiapas has been a calamity. Hundreds of people have denounced infections and deaths of their family members, without medical attention and without tests, whose deaths are not counted ( According to Section 7’s democratic teachers, “the data that health entities provide is far from the information that is known. Not all suspected or confirmed cases or deaths have been taken into account for the statistical record. Every day we know about stories of people who tested positive or who had a tortuous pilgrimage to receive attention until they died.”

Ignoring the enormous confusion caused from the social networks (, local authorities reported about the disease in indigenous languages until June, despite being the state with the third highest proportion of the population speaking them ( Personnel of the state’s Health Secretariat work without protective equipment, with grave risk of contracting the disease: 42 have died and 751 have contracted the virus. For years, workers of Section 50 of the SNTSS have denounced the corruption, dismantlement and lack of equipment in the state’s hospitals.

Dr. José Manuel Cruz’s figures are not accidental. They are a substantial part of the style of doing politics of the political bosses (cacicazgos) that control political power in Chiapas, protected for years by a counterinsurgency policy. Today, those political bosses wear the clothing of the 4T.

The pitiful management of the health crisis in Chiapas is a mirror in which the rest of the country should see itself. The damage the population has suffered has been catastrophic. The federal government’s decision to hide that disaster will aggravate it even more.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



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