• As virus ravages Latin America

  • Region reports over 120,000 deaths

Venezuelans observing COVID-19 protocols

Two more leading Latin American politicians, from Bolivia and Venezuela, have confirmed testing positive for the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19).

These announcements are coming in the same week that Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, said he had contracted the deadly virus, a development that underlines the extent to which COVID-19 is sweeping across the region.

Bolivia’s rightwing interim President, Jeanine Añez, said she had received the same diagnosis. “I’ve tested positive for COVID-19,” tweeted Añez, who controversially took power after Evo Morales was forced into exile last year.

“I’m OK, I will work in isolation. Together, we will get through this.”

This also as Venezuela’s number two official and leader of the Socialist party, Diosdado Cabello, announced his diagnosis on social media on Thursday evening and said he was in self-isolation.

“We will prevail!!” tweeted the influential Chavista.

Latin America is home to eight per cent (8%) of the global population but nearly half of recent COVID-19 deaths. The region has suffered more than 120,000 of the world’s 550,000 coronavirus fatalities since its first official case was recorded in Brazil in March.

More than 3 million confirmed cases have been recorded. Brazil is the worst-hit country with a confirmed death toll of more than 69,000 and 1.7 million infections.

The official figures of neighbouring Venezuela, which Human Rights Watch dismissed as not credible, are far lower, with just 75 recorded deaths and 8,010 confirmed cases.

But on Wednesday, the president, Nicolás Maduro, warned that his economically collapsed country was now witnessing the “real outbreak”.

Cabello’s announcement came amid growing fears over COVID-19’s spike through Venezuela and the potential for its already collapsed health system to be overwhelmed.

Juan Pablo Guanipa, a prominent opposition politician involved in efforts to force Maduro from power, said he believed the situation was far worse than Venezuela’s authoritarian regime was admitting.

“I’m certain these figures bear no relation to reality. The reality is utterly overwhelming,” Guanipa said.

Guanipa is from the western state of Zulia, which appears to be one of the worst-hit parts of Venezuela, with 1661 of its 8,010 confirmed cases.

On Thursday evening, Zulia’s Chavista governor announced he had also been infected. “We are in battle and stable. God is with us. We shall overcome,” Omar Prieto wrote on Twitter.

There are also growing concerns over coronavirus’ spread through Bolivia which has recorded 1,577 Covid-19 deaths and nearly 43,000 cases.

Last month, the president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, also tested positive for the deadly virus. – The Guardian

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