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Police guard a highway during a protest in La Paz, Bolivia. Police keep the highway connecting El Alto to the capital open to transit during a protest in La Paz, Bolivia, Aug. 17, 2020 (AP photo by Juan Karita).

Bolivia’s Political Paralysis Is Imperiling Its Response to COVID-19

Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020

It was probably just a matter of time before Bolivia’s response to the coronavirus became viscerally polarized. With an unelected interim government appearing to overstep its mandate and repeatedly pushing back new elections, and an opposition embittered by the ousting of the previous president, Evo Morales, over alleged electoral fraud, the Andean nation was already desperately divided before being hit by the pandemic. Now, however, Bolivia is mired in a partisan fight over who is responsible for the deaths of COVID-19 patients due to dire shortages of oxygen in hospitals.

The trigger came last month when supporters of Morales blockaded roads across the country. They were furious that elections, originally scheduled for May 3, have been pushed back a third time, to Oct. 18, because of the pandemic. That delay means that the interim president, Jeanine Anez, a staunch religious conservative who temporarily assumed the presidency from her seat in the Senate last year, after Morales’ forced resignation, will be in power for almost exactly a year. Among other demands, the protesters want Anez to resign immediately. ...

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