One Big Thing: Is Nicaragua hiding the truth about its COVID-19 outbreak?
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What is it?
- To date, Nicaragua has only reported 25 COVID-19 cases and eight related deaths but many experts believe these statistics to be false. Recently, reports have emerged that the government has ordered “express burials” to hide the true scale of Nicaragua’s COVID-19 outbreak.
- Nicaragua’s government has also gone against the international norm in combatting the spread of COVID-19. Citizens have been encouraged to continue to attend school, work, and public gatherings including soccer matches and parades.
Why is it important?
- President Daniel Ortega first came to power through a coup in 1979 and was later elected president in 2007. Since then, Nicaragua went from a promising democracy to a near autocracy. Police and military crackdowns on his critics and political opponents are common. Human Rights Watch has reported that more than 88,000 people have fled the country since April 2018.
- Nicaragua, while certainly not free, had escaped the violence of its Northern Triangle neighbors of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Millions from those countries have fled to the United States seeking refuge and asylum. With Ortega’s and his wife’s (the current vice president) increasingly corrupt and brutal rule, that could lead to more Nicaraguans leaving the country and headed to the United States to seek safety.
- Freedom of press and access to reliable information are also under attack in Nicaragua. Ortega’s government regularly raids news critical outlets, confiscates their equipment and forced them to shutdown indefinitely.
- Nicaragua has also faced endemic corruption since Ortega took power through a system of political and economic patronage. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index shows how Nicaragua’s world score has been within the bottom 20 percent of world since 2012.
What can you do?
- Learn more about Nicaragua’s human rights situation from the State Department and check out the current sanctions imposed on the central American country.
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