The red light of the traffic light is the signal for Ignacio Moisés Corea Sánchez to take out a pair of chopsticks from his bag and start juggling in the middle of the vehicles and motorcycles that transit in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua.

This 44-year-old man zigzags with worn-out skates and plays with his chopsticks in his hands, which he throws into the air with elegance and skill, defying gravity. Korea has approximately three minutes to demonstrate its ability to drivers and get their attention.

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His sun-battered skin speaks of the long hours he spends on the main avenues of the capital, where the temperature reaches 39 degrees Celsius.

Korea tells Voice of America that through her art she has found a way to survive in the country, hit by a political crisis in 2018 and now by COVID-19.

He relates that he learned to juggle several years ago when he was selling crafts.

“I am an artisan and from there I meet foreigners. A foreigner taught me the basics and the practice of juggling, and then a friend lent me the skates and the combination of both came to me. ”

Pushed by the need to survive and the lack of demand in his old business, he was forced to put his skills into practice at the traffic lights in Managua, where children and adults are also selling products.

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“Practically the same need in life pushed me to this. I realized that I could honestly work at traffic lights, ”says Korea.

Years ago this man had double the economic income of today, but after the protests and the pandemic they were reduced considerably.

“I don’t know how they are going to see this, but before the political crisis, I had the chance to survive, now it is hard. I grab less than half (money) from before. Before, I earned much more. With the pandemic it has worsened, “he says.

Since the first cases of COVID-19 arose, some citizens have avoided having contact with people who work at traffic lights in Managua. Distance that Ignacio decided to respect.

“When they give me money, they pour alcohol (on the money) and I try not to hold their hands out of respect. I don’t wear masks either, because because of the exercises I do I can’t do it, I need a lot of oxygen, ”he says.

Elsewhere in Managua, citizens also face unemployment by dressing up in Spiderman costumes and movie villains.

Unemployment on the rise

According to projections by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in the event that the pandemic only lasted for three consecutive quarters, at least 79,800 Nicaraguans would end up unemployed at the end of 2020.

Other institutions such as the Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUNIDES) estimate that due to the impact that the health crisis caused by the new coronavirus will have, between 59,000 and 123,000 people would join the list of unemployed this year.

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Unemployment projections have not been denied by the government of President Daniel Ortega, but he has not announced financial measures for the most vulnerable sectors of Nicaragua despite being the second poorest country in Latin America.

«It has not stopped working, because here, if you stop working, the country dies. And if the country dies, the people die, it becomes extinct, “Ortega said in a recent speech after 34 days without the pandemic appearing in public.

Meanwhile, traffic lights are increasingly filled with informal workers struggling to survive amid the bleak picture of the coronavirus and rising unemployment.