Sucre, Bolivia – A special clinic built to process more Covid-19 tests back in April has yet to open their doors while the country´s cases continue to surge. This is just one in a series of events that personifies the tragedy of errors at work in Bolivia´s battle with the pandemic.
On March 10th, the de facto president Jeanine Añez confirmed the nation´s first 2 cases in the departments of Oruro and Santa Cruz. Since then the current administration has fallen from public favor due to a considerable lack of support for the country´s healthcare system or attempts to expand testing.
As cases of the virus approach 22,000, Bolivian citizens have grown weary and poorer in a quarantine that´s been in effect since March 17th. Demands for a better government response have been heard in every department, with city protests seen in Riberalta, Santa Cruz, Yapacani, Cochabamba, and El Alto.
Many Bolivian businesses haven´t survived the lockdown while others have been prevented from working due to the strict nature of the national quarantine. This has predictably resulted in an urgent need for money in most Bolivian households, to the point of desperation for some. Public transportation has been suspended in most departments, forcing many to walk up to 10 miles just to acquire necessities or open their businesses.
Despite the government´s attempt to pacify the economically ailing masses with a 500 Boliviano bonus (which is approximately $72.49 US Dollars), discord between the people and their government continues to escalate.
In addition, recent scandals have been exposed within the present government. The first of which involves the president´s daughter, Carolina Ribera Añez. In April the first daughter held a birthday party in La Paz. Deputy Ginna Torrez and her son flew across the country on a private military charter to attend the function. As a result, charges were filed on May 5th by MAS (Movimiento Al Socialismo) party senator Elizabeth Orporto against Carolina Ribera Añez for violations of the government-sanctioned quarantine measures.
Another hapless event took place in May when it was revealed that the now dismissed Health Minister, Marcelo Navajas, spent nearly $5 million US Dollars on imported ventilators that were not suitable for use in Bolivia´s intensive care facilities. To make matters worse, it was later revealed that the government paid an inflated price for the useless machines. This lead to widespread public outrage.
These failures aside, it´s important to consider how this government came to power in the first place: By the law of succession. They arrived on the coattails of Bolivia´s post-election revolution in November 2019.
In other words, Añez´s administration was not elected by the people.
According to the law, Jeanine Añez and her appointed officials were only meant to hold power until the new general election, which was set to take place this past May. However, with the pandemic already underway, Añez decided to cancel the election. She then proceeded to fight tooth-and-nail against the country´s elected government when they pressed her to set a new date.
Juan Carlos Astroña is a spokesperson and candidate for senator in the Comunidad Ciudadana political party and when asked how he feels the current administration is handling Covid-19, he didn´t mince words. “Añez is a circumstantial president whose party holds such an insignificant portion of the public vote, they nearly lost their license to be a political party in Bolivia.” He explained, highlighting the mere 4% of the vote the current party occupies. “Also because of their inexperience, they have made many mistakes. Too much incompetence has cost both lives and jobs.” He continued.
After a pause, he added, “The worst part is this government has no plan or strategy for the future.”
Turning to the topic of the new general election that is tentatively set for September 6th, Juan Carlos Astroña was candid about what his party would do differently if given the chance. “We have to restore our economy and we absolutely must provide doctors and nurses with the right medicine and equipment to fight this virus.”
The office of Jeanine Añez declined to comment when they were contacted.
In the meantime, Bolivians continue to hold their breath in anticipation of a light at the end of the tunnel.