A woman walks in La Paz on the eve of the presidential elections.Juan Karita / AP

Sabina Pardo traveled to San Vicente, her town, during the strict quarantine in mid-June due to the coronavirus. Her father was ill and neither the pandemic nor the restrictions could stop her. Accompanied by her two children, she traveled a little more than 200 kilometers from the city of Cochabamba, capital of the department of the same name located in the center of Bolivia, until reaching almost the border of this region, which borders the north of Potosí, located to the southwest, one of the poorest areas of the Andean nation. His father for years suffered from Chagas disease and it seemed her condition had worsened. Being a base disease, Pardo feared for his father, since covid-19 could be lethal for him. It was difficult to make forecasts or take biosecurity measures in a town where it was “impossible” to even get a mask, worse access to medicine or treatment if someone became seriously ill.

They thought that the virus would not reach the depths of the rural area, however, one by one they began to get sick. Of the 500 people who live in San Vicente, at least 100 fell ill. Pardo took care of his father for several weeks until the inevitable happened, his strength was not enough to remain in this world. Without evidence and with a complex bureaucratic procedure, which could take days or weeks, to have an analysis carried out to determine if his father died from coronavirus, he was buried with uncertainty. Her mother developed symptoms later on, so she had her checked. The doctor told him that his mother had covid-19, but that the most critical stage had already passed. With that diagnosis, Pardo was able to confirm his suspicions. His father’s symptoms, in recent days – bone pain, throat pain, headache, among others – were caused by the coronavirus which, together with his basic disease, ended up causing his death.

Almost four months later, Bolivia is in the phase of disarray and, despite the fact that the virus is still out there and there is fear of an outbreak like the one that is happening in different countries of the world, Pardo has something clear in his head, that this Sunday, October 18, he will attend to vote to elect a new president. Almost a year after the post-election crisis due to irregularities in the previous elections, which resulted in a situation of political and social instability; In addition to the resignation and subsequent exile of former President Evo Morales, the country attends the polls in decisive elections for its future. “They say that we can get infected by going to vote. I believe that it depends on each one to take care of ourselves. It hardly scares me anymore, I’m no longer afraid because I also want to recover democracy, ”says Pardo, 35, who makes a living as a domestic worker.

Pardo will be one of the more than seven million registered voters qualified for this election, according to data from the Plurinational Electoral Body (OEP). In accordance with the guidelines proposed by the OEP, for this year’s elections, more voting precincts were set up to limit crowds and the voting hours were extended by one hour from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. People will attend to vote in two shifts according to the completion of the number of their identity card. In addition, it determined that the use of face masks is mandatory at all times and recommended that each citizen take their pen and the use of 70% alcohol gel in case of touching the amphora or any surface.

The elections were postponed twice. Initially they were to be held in May and later in September. From the interim government they argued that the postponements were made to take care of the health of Bolivians. First, due to the imminent presence of the virus since March and later because the second date would coincide with the peak of the pandemic, according to the Ministry of Health. From the opposition, led by the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), they only saw “prorogist intentions” on the part of the interim president, Jeanine Áñez.

Criticisms of health management

Bolivia arrives at the appointment on Sunday with more than 139,000 infections, of which more than 103,000 have been recovered, and more than 8,000 deaths have been registered due to the coronavirus, according to data provided by the Health portfolio. However, despite Áñez repeated in more than one speech that “in the last three months we have done more for health than has been done in decades”, alluding to the almost 14 years in power of the MAS, the questions and the Doubts towards the Executive did not wait. A report from New York Times He called into question the management of the country’s health crisis, revealing that the number of deaths from covid-19 was five times higher than what was actually disclosed. According to data from Johns Hopkins University in the United States, the Andean country is among the 10 with the most deaths per capita in the world.

Likewise, the interim government’s management of the health crisis was punctuated by accusations of improper use of State property during confinement, corruption and criticism by international organizations for “excessive and unnecessary” use of public force against the protests that opposed the assumption of Áñez to the Presidency, as well as threats to freedom of expression during the pandemic. “They keep saying [el Gobierno interino] that ‘we have done things well’, but not for me. At first we supported her because she was a woman [Áñez]We thought he was going to do things well, but his management has been the worst, ”says Pardo.

The Bolivian Constitution establishes the obligation to vote from the age of 18, subject to sanctions that, in case of not voting, does not allow any citizen to carry out any procedure in public entities and in private banks during the three months after the elections. However, not everyone shares Pardo’s enthusiasm. Leticia Vargas, fictitious name to preserve her identity, admits that she does not plan to attend on Sunday to cast her vote. His sister recently passed away from covid-19 and is now in charge of her two nephews. Additionally, her mother is in serious health due to a depressive condition from which she cannot recover after the death of her daughter. “I will not go on Sunday. I do not know what to do. If something happens to me, who takes care of my mother, my nephews? ”She says in distress.

The latent fear in the population is that after Sunday’s results, which will not be made official at least until October 21 or 22, the convulsion will break out again in the country. According to data from the Ombudsman’s Office and the Institute of Forensic Investigations, during the post-election social upheaval, which lasted for 21 days, 35 deaths and 500 injuries were registered. “That is why it is important to choose a president who does good to our democracy, so that we no longer see all the violence we have been in. We no longer want to live that. It’s what is scary, ”concludes Pardo, hesitant and with some uncertainty on her face, but determined, like many Bolivians facing the elections.

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