Coronavirus Politics Daily: Nicaragua's coverup, Russia's plea, Sweden's death toll

Is Nicaragua covering up COVID cases? As other countries across Latin America have imposed strict lockdowns to stem the spread of COVID-19, Nicaragua's nominally socialist strongman president Daniel Ortega has continued to encourage mass gatherings, citing the country's low caseload as justification for carrying on with business as usual. But Nicaraguans who have lost loved ones to respiratory illness in recent weeks say the government isn't counting them, and that their deceased relatives were whisked away for "express burials," accompanied by members of pro-government paramilitary groups. Taken together with reports that hospitals are packed with people showing coronavirus symptoms, the official toll of just 10 people is looking like a gross cover up. Meanwhile, although Ortega and his wife, the powerful vice president Rosario Murillo, have said the crisis is overblown, they haven't made a public appearance in months, a sign, critics say, that they are seeking to prevent their own exposure to the outbreak.

Russia's search for supplies: As Russia now records the second highest number of cases in the world, the Kremlin has asked the United States for much-needed medical supplies. You may recall that it was barely a month ago that Russia was lavishing medical aid on the US, in what was viewed as a propaganda coup for the Kremlin. Washington now says it will send Moscow a shipment of test kits and excess ventilators in the coming days. For months, medical workers in Moscow and St. Petersburg have warned that the virus was spreading like wildfire in hospitals because of an acute shortage of protective equipment, even as President Putin and other top officials claimed the situation was "under control" and cracked down on critics of the government's response. President Putin has pointed to Russia's low death toll as proof that things are going well — it has registered fewer than 2 deaths per 100,000 people, against 27 in the US and more than 50 in the UK, Italy, and Spain. But critics say the Kremlin is undercounting COVID-19 deaths, and that the toll could be 70 percent higher than official data show.

Deaths in Sweden: Sweden's approach to COVID-19 continues to be a source of intense controversy. Its government has not ordered citizens to stay home or wear masks. It has closed universities and banned large public gatherings, but it hasn't shuttered schools, bars or restaurants. The hope is that by allowing the virus to work its way through healthier peopleeven as precautions are taken for the elderly and people with underlying health problems—a large number of people will develop immunity. Thus, a future wave of the virus will kill far fewer people—leaving less human and economic damage in total. Is it working? On the one hand, more Swedes died in April than in any month in the past 27 years, and its death rate is much higher than in other Scandinavian countries. On the other, it has avoided the death tolls we've seen in Italy, France, Britain, and New York City, where lockdowns have been the rule. Whether there's a lesson here for other countries is another question.

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Facing the biggest economic crisis in the EU's history, the European Commission's president, Ursula von der Leyen, pulled out all the stops this week, unveiling an unprecedented plan to boost the union's post-coronavirus recovery.

The plan: The EU would go to international capital markets to raise 750 billion euros ($830 billion). 500 billion of that would be given to member states as grants to fund economic recovery over the next seven years; the remainder would be issued as loans to be paid back to Brussels. The EU would pay back its bondholders for the full 750 billion plus interest by 2058, in part by raising new EU-wide taxes on tech companies and emissions.

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"A lot of people are going to die until we solve the political situation," one Brazilian medical expert said recently when asked about the deteriorating public health situation in that country. For months, Brazil has been one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, steered by a President who has repeatedly dismissed the severity of the virus and rejected calls to implement a national social distancing policy. To date, two Brazilian health ministers have either resigned or been fired for pushing back against President Jair Bolsonaro's denialism. Meanwhile, Brazil has emerged as a global epicenter of COVID-19, with almost 27,000 deaths, though health experts believe the real toll is way higher. Here's a look at Brazil's surging daily death toll since it first recorded more than 10 deaths in one day back in late March.

Watch GZERO World as host Ian Bremmer talks to acclaimed foreign policy expert Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "The World: A Brief Introduction." Haass explains that while the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of life as we know it, the major issues confronting geopolitics in the 21st Century already existed.

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62: Southeast Asia is one of the world's largest sources of plastic waste, and Thailand is a big culprit. Before the pandemic, Thailand tried to address the problem by banning single use plastics, but that's fallen apart fast: in April, Thailand recorded a 62 percent increase in plastic use, due largely to increased food deliveries as coronavirus-related lockdowns keep people at home.
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