The president has vanished; his wife, the VP, says the coronavirus isn’t a problem. Nicaragua declines to confront a pandemic.
MANAGUA, Nicaragua — In the photo, a bunch of kids in swimsuits are sitting around a table at the beach. They’re drinking Cokes, waving, grinning.As much of Latin America shuts down in the face of coronavirus, Nicaragua is striking out as a radical outlier — urging citizens to go to the beach, enjoy holiday cruises, and turn out for Easter-season passion plays.Rather than discouraging crowds, the Sandinista government is trying to manufacture them. It’s promoting festivities such as an event to distribute a sugary fruit treat — “the biggest almibar handout in Nicaragua.” Authorities haven’t closed borders, businesses or stadiums.But what perhaps most sets the Central American nation apart is its president. Daniel Ortega doesn’t seem to be leading the charge against coronavirus. In fact, he hasn’t appeared in public for a month. The government says he’s still in control. But Nicaraguans are nervously wondering if the former Marxist guerrilla is ill, dead, or simply avoiding human contact.Health and human rights groups in the hemisphere, meanwhile, are growing increasingly alarmed at the government’s laissez-faire approach to the deadly virus.The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has called on Nicaragua “to recognize the extreme gravity of the situation, and immediately adopt steps