Bolivian interim president has Covid-19

jeanine añéz bolivia
Jeanine Añéz. Photo: Zaconeta Caballero Reinaldo/Fotos públicas

Interim President Jeanine Áñez, of Bolivia, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, along with Health Minister Eidy Roca and Presidency Minister Yerko Nuñez. The interim president came to power through a military coup that removed then-President Evo Morales from office last November following contested first-round election results. 

While Bolivia has not been as badly hit by the pandemic as its neighbors, it still has 42,984 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,577 deaths. Hospitals are being overwhelmed in several regions across the country and there have been reports of bodies lying in the streets of the city of Cochabamba.

Ms. Áñez’s diagnosis has serious political implications as the country heads towards its scheduled September 6 presidential elections. She is trailing in the polls behind former Economy Minister Luis Acre — who is running on the ticket of Mr. Morales’s party — and ex-President Carlos Mesa, who is second in the polls. 

Ms. Áñez, whose hard-right evangelical politics has led many to compare her to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — who also tested positive for Covid-19 this week — faces an uphill battle to stay in power. However, considering the military coup that brought her to power, the threat of further authoritarianism in Bolivia is looming over the country’s handling of the pandemic

Bolivia and Brazil are not the only countries in South America to have had their political leaders test positive for coronavirus this week. In Venezuela, Diosdado Cabello, the head of the ruling Socialist Party, also announced he had the disease. Latin America is now the global epicenter of the pandemic after recording 3 million cases and 133,000 deaths.

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