Government denial is raising the stakes of COVID-19 in Nicaragua

Amid a disinformation campaign, churches are trying to provide education and aid.

For the past two years, ever since the 2018 conflict over government pension policy and the subsequent crackdown, Nicaraguans have suffered political oppression. For the past four months, they have also been struggling with a marked difference between the government’s story about COVID-19 and the reality they see in their communities.

Inaccurate reporting of numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths have be­come the norm. So have government promotion of social gatherings, not social distancing, and reports of “express burials” carried out under cover of night.

“The government’s behavior is not rational,” said Leonel Argüello, an epidemiologist who cofounded Nicaragua’s Ministry of Health in the 1980s. Last March, he joined with a group of Nicaragua’s leading physicians and scientists to form the Multidisciplinary Scientific Committee, which aims to alert the public about the danger of COVID-19 and to educate them on care and prevention.