The COVID-19 pandemic has had a knack for stripping politics to their basics. While many leaders have been ill prepared for the crisis, and made errors of judgment about how best to protect their populations, a handful of leaders have shown an admirable degree of statesmanship: Jacinda Ardern, in New Zealand; Sanna Marin, in Finland; and Angela Merkel, in Germany, come to mind. Elsewhere, leaders with authoritarian streaks have felt unleashed; this group includes Rodrigo Duterte, of the Philippines; Alexander Lukashenko, of Belarus; and Viktor Orbán, of Hungary.
In this hemisphere, Donald Trump has alternated between public displays of foul temper and misinformation; this week he claimed that it is a “badge of honor” that the United States has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, because it means that the nation has done a lot of testing. The first couple of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, early on in the pandemic, organized rallies called “Love in the Time of COVID-19,” and the government appears to have underreported the number of cases—so far, they claim just twenty-five, with eight deaths—and to have orchestrated “express burials” of suspected victims of the coronavirus. Nayib Bukele, the young President of El Salvador, has asserted emergency powers in defiance of the Supreme Court, and deployed soldiers to enforce the strict quarantine measures he has imposed, which include thirty days’ confinement in “containment centers” for violators and for citizens and residents returning to El Salvador from abroad.