News ID: 271371
Published: 0248 GMT July 11, 2020

Virus hits dozens of Latin leaders, including presidents

Virus hits dozens of Latin leaders, including presidents

The COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping through the leadership of Latin America, with two more presidents and powerful officials testing positive this week for the new coronavirus, adding a destabilizing new element to the region’s public health and economic crises.

In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro, 65, announced his illness Tuesday and is using it to publicly extol hydroxychloroquine, the unproven malaria drug that he’s been promoting as a treatment for COVID-19, and now takes himself.

Bolivian interim President Jeanine Anez, 53, made her own diagnosis public Thursday, throwing her already troubled political prospects into further doubt.

And in Venezuela, 57-year-old socialist party chief Diosdado Cabello said Thursday on Twitter that he, too, had tested positive, at least temporarily sidelining a larger-than-life figure considered the second-most-powerful person in the country.

Another powerful figure, Venezuela's Oil Minister Tarek El Aissami, announced Friday he has the bug.

An Associated Press review of official statements from public officials across Latin America found at least 42 confirmed cases of new coronavirus in leaders ranging from presidents to mayors of major cities, along with dozens, likely hundreds, of officials from smaller cities and towns. In most cases, high-ranking officials recovered and are back at work. But several are still struggling with the disease.

Many leaders have used their diagnoses to call on the public to heighten precautions like social distancing and mask wearing. But like Bolsonaro, some have drawn attention to unproven treatments with potentially harmful side effects.

El Salvador’s Interior Minister, Mario Duran, was diagnosed on July 5, becoming the second cabinet member there to fall ill.

Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández announced June 16 that he and his wife had tested positive, along with two other people who worked closely with the couple.

The following day the 51-year-old Hernandez was hospitalized after doctors determined he had pneumonia. The president’s illness came as the pandemic spread from an early epicenter in the northern city of San Pedro Sula to the capital of Tegucigalpa, where cases surged.

In the Caribbean, Luis Abinader, the newly elected president of the Dominican Republic, contracted and recovered from COVID-19 during his campaign.

Like Bolsonaro, many Latin leaders have kept up a schedule of public appearances even as the region has become one of the hardest-hit in the world.

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei placed his entire cabinet and their staff in quarantine Thursday after one of his ministers tested positive.

In Bolivia, officials said the interim president Aaez, had not been displaying symptoms and was in good spirits in her official residence on Friday.

At least six other Bolivian ministers and vice ministers have been infected, and at least eight staff members.

COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in Bolivia, overwhelming the already weak medical system and funeral services to the point where families in the central city of Cochabamba have been holding funerals in the street.

With the country in crisis, some polls have shown Anez in last place in a three-way presidential race leading to September elections. Anez, who took power after President Evo Morales had to resign during national unrest last year, does not have a vice president and, if she could no longer serve, the next in the line of succession is Senate President Eva Copa, a member of Morales' party and a bitter opponent of Anez.



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