Venezuela socialist party boss announces he has COVID-19

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan socialist party chief Diosdado Cabello revealed Thursday that he has tested positive for COVID-19, making him the highest-ranking leader in the distressed South American nation thus far to come down with the virus.

Cabello is considered the second-most powerful person in Venezuela after President Nicolás Maduro and made the announcement on Twitter, stating that he is isolated, getting treatment and will overcome the illness.

“We will win!” he wrote in conclusion.

Venezuela is considered one of the world’s least prepared countries to confront the pandemic. Hospitals are routinely short on basic supplies like water, electricity and medicine. The nation has registered considerably fewer COVID-19 cases than others in the region, though the number of infections has grown in recent weeks.

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As of Wednesday, officials had reported 8,010 confirmed cases and 75 deaths.

Cabello was last seen Tuesday, when he met with South Africa’s ambassador, Joseph Nkosi. Photographs released by the government showed him standing alongside and bumping fists with the envoy while wearing a black mask.

The 57-year-old politician is head of the National Constituent Assembly, an all-powerful legislative body created by Maduro’s government in 2017.

He had missed his weekly television program Wednesday, stating at the time that he was “fighting against a strong allergy” and resting.

Maduro said in a broadcast Thursday that Cabello’s diagnosis was confirmed with a molecular exam — a test that is usually conducted with a nasal swab sample. Venezuela has done far fewer of these tests than neighboring countries, instead largely deploying rapid blood antibody tests. Some experts fear that relying so heavily on the rapid tests, which don’t detect signs of illness early in an infection, means cases are being missed.

“Venezuela is with Diosdado,” Maduro said. “I am sure soon enough we will continue on in this fight.”

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