Bolivia President, Jeanine Añez, Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Bolivia President, Jeanine Añez, Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Bolivia President, Jeanine Añez, Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Bolivia President, Jeanine Añez, Tests Positive for Coronavirus

TARIJA, Bolivia — President Jeanine Añez said Thursday that she has tested positive for the coronavirus, highlighting how the pandemic is spreading to Latin America’s highest echelons of power.

Ms. Añez, a caretaker leader who took office after the controversial ouster of Bolivia’s first Indigenous president in November, said in a video posted on social media that she felt fine and would work remotely in quarantine for 14 days.

But her infection could further complicate Bolivia’s tense political situation because Ms. Añez has no clearly identified deputy who could assume her functions if she becomes seriously ill.

Ms. Añez is the second Latin America leader this week, after President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, to disclose an infection, a sign that the region is at the epicenter of the pandemic. Numerous lower-ranking political leaders in the region have also tested positive in recent weeks, including four government ministers in Bolivia.

The president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, was hospitalized in mid-June with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Latin America accounted for half the new cases in the world last week, and Brazil alone had 25 percent of new global infections, the World Health Organization said. About 140,000 people have died from the virus in Latin America, according to the W.H.O., although most governments acknowledge that limited testing and record-keeping hide the true toll.

While Bolivia has been able to escape the dramatic outbreaks that have ripped through neighboring Brazil, Peru and Chile, the pandemic is beginning to spread quickly in the poor highland nation. Bolivia has reported nearly 43,000 infections and over 1,500 deaths.

The government’s pandemic response has been tainted by a corruption scandal over the purchase of hospital ventilators, which led to the resignation and house arrest of the health minister. Ms. Añez’s political rivals have accused her of using state resources earmarked for the pandemic to benefit her election campaign.

Despite originally promising to stand down after the end of her caretaker term, Ms. Añez is now seeking to keep her office in the September general elections.

As with many of its neighbors, Bolivia’s strict quarantine has gradually unraveled. The government’s limited economic aid to citizens has failed to prevent the nation’s poorest from venturing onto the streets to earn money for food and rent. The country is partially lifting restrictions now to resuscitate its ailing economy.

Ms. Añez rose suddenly to prominence following the chaotic resignation of President Evo Morales, whose attempt to secure a fourth term as president plunged the country into chaos and forced him into exile. A quirk in Bolivian Constitution made Ms. Añez, then a senator from a remote tropical region, the caretaker president until the new elections.


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