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 12 mins ago - World

Protests in Belarus turn deadly following sham election

Belarus law enforcement officers guard a street during a protest on Monday night. Police in Minsk have fired rubber bullets for a second night against protesters. Photo: Natalia Fedosenko/TASS via Getty Image

Protesters and security forces have been clashing across Belarus overnight in a second night of protests that has left at least one person dead, hundreds injured and thousands arrested.

Why it matters: Sunday’s rigged presidential elections have yielded political uncertainty unlike any seen in Aleksander Lukashenko’s 26-year tenure. After claiming an implausible 80% of the vote, Lukashenko is using every tool in the authoritarian arsenal to maintain his grip on power.

Updated 28 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11:30 p.m. ET: 20,014,574 — Total deaths: 734,755 — Total recoveries — 12,222,744Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 11:30 p.m. ET: 5,089,416 — Total deaths: 163,425 — Total recoveries: 1,670,755 — Total tests: 62,513,174Map.
  3. Politics: Trump claims he would have not called for Obama to resign over 160,000 virus deathsHouse will not hold votes until Sept. 14 unless stimulus deal is reached.
  4. Business: Richer Americans are more comfortable eating out.
  5. Public health: 5 states set single-day coronavirus case records last week — A dual coronavirus and flu threat is set to deliver a winter from hell.
  6. Sports: The cost of kids losing gym class — College football is on the brink.
  7. World: Europe's CDC recommends new restrictions amid "true resurgence in cases."
Updated 2 hours ago - World

Trump admin: Jimmy Lai's arrest marks Beijing's "latest violation" on Hong Kong

Media tycoon Jimmy Lai at the Next Digital offices in Hong Kong in June. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said in a statement Monday night the Trump administration is "deeply troubled" by the arrest of Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai on suspicion of "collusion with foreign powers."

Why it matters: The arrest Monday of the most prominent person under the new national security law that gives Beijing more powers over the former British colony comes amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and China.