(CNN)Nicaragua has seen its fair share of unrest, fear and struggles throughout its troubled history. Now, faced with the deadly coronavirus, the government is coming under fire for its casual approach to containing the pandemic.
'There are two realities.' What is really happening in Nicaragua during the pandemic?
In the past three months, at least six politicians have died, although the details are vague on some of the causes. "Express burials" are happening at night, witnesses told CNN, and doctors have been allegedly fired for raising alarm about the virus' spread. Medical experts have also questioned government-released details about the country's coronavirus infection rate.
"There are always two versions," a doctor who asked that his name be omitted for fear of losing his job told CNN, regarding information offered from the government. "The non-official is truer to reality and the government [version] is cause for confusion."
The government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has described these allegations and reports of "express burials" as "false news."
Six months into a crisis that has shaken the world, the 74-year-old president has refused to impose strict, preventive quarantine measures seen in neighboring countries. Public schools remain open, businesses continue to operate, festivals and cultural events are happening on an almost-weekly basis.
Even without a lockdown, businesses are suffering and the idea of closing down any work sector could lead to "an economic pandemic," Ortega told the nation during an address on May 18 -- the last time he was seen live.
At the start of the pandemic, Ortega had also spent more than 40 days out of the public eye, and no explanation was given for his absence.
The country has been reeling from an economic downspin following socio-political unrest in 2018 and US sanctions that are crippling the country. During his address, Ortega said neighboring Costa Rica's border closure, effective through June 30, had created a "very tough situation." Around 1,000 truck drivers were left stranded at the border, paralyzing commerce throughout the region, he added.
What Ortega failed to mention was that Costa Rica had placed preventative measures to control the spread of Covid-19 after 50 drivers tested positive for the virus. Eleven of them were Nicaraguan, Costa Rican authorities said.
The Pan American Health Organization has also expressed alarm about border areas. "We are witnessing a sharp spike in transmission in the north of Costa Rica around the border of Nicaragua," Dr. Carissa Etienne, the PAHO director said at a briefing on Tuesday.
A lack of transparency from Ortega's administration has made it hard for anyone to grasp the true scope of the problem. Here's what we know:
For many who died of the virus, there has been no Mass, no wake and no funeral arrangements, residents and a priest told CNN. There are simply what have become known as "express burials": a swift trip to the cemetery at night accompanied by police officers. A few relatives can be present, but no filming is allowed.
Domingo Rodríguez, 44, was an immigration agent at Managua's Augusto Cesar Sandino International Airport. In early May he started showing symptoms of Covid-19 and was diagnosed with the virus. Ten days later, he passed away,