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A mural to Nicaragua's missing man. Photo: Inti Ocon/AFP via Getty

While some politicians have been criticized for a lack of leadership during the coronavirus crisis, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega takes that to an extreme.

Driving the news: Nicaragua’s government continues to encourage crowds at stadiums and on beaches during the pandemic, though Ortega has personally stayed away. In fact, Sunday marked one month since he last appeared in public.

  • Instead, the response has been led by Ortega's vice president, chief spokesperson and first lady. Those roles are all filled by the same person: Rosario Murillo.
  • As for Ortega, "Nicaraguans are nervously wondering if the former Marxist guerrilla is ill, dead or simply avoiding human contact," the Washington Post notes.

Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov can probably relate, and not only because he was recently rumored to be dead after a prolonged public absence.

  • One of the most secretive countries on earth, Turkmenistan claims to have zero cases of the virus and is fiercely suppressing any evidence to the contrary, Foreign Policy reports.
  • But the government isn't entirely complacent. After Berdimuhamedov said a certain herb could keep viruses at bay, it reportedly began burning it to fumigate public buildings.

Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko is also fighting the virus with machismo rather than science.

  • “There are no viruses here. Did you see any flying around?” Lukashenko said of the threat from COVID-19, particles of which are about 0.125 micron in diameter. "It’s better to die standing than to live on your knees.”
  • Belarus is currently dealing with another risk — of nuclear radiation potentially being blown toward the country from wildfires near the site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
  • Lukashenko was already rising through the Communist Party ranks at the time of the meltdown. That may be where he honed his approach to government transparency.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also continues to downplay the threat, to the extent that some former allies are now backing calls for him to be impeached.

  • Unlike the other denialist leaders, the Economist notes, Bolsonaro is "the elected president of a great, if battered, democracy."

Go deeper

Updated 20 mins ago - Economy & Business

Student debt getting in the way of millennial homeownership

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Millennial homeownership is on the rise — but student loan debt is still keeping millions of members of America's largest generation from owning a home.

Why it matters: Buying a house remains the No. 1 way to build wealth in the U.S.

Updated 21 mins ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Most teachers are white. Most students aren't.

Expand chart
Data: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

The nation's 6.6 million teacher workforce has grown more racially and ethnically diverse over the past three decades — but not nearly fast enough to keep pace with a student population that's nearing majority-minority in public schools, two new reports show.

Why it matters: The disparities are especially acute between Hispanic students and teachers, and in schools with 90% or higher non-white student populations.