According to The Washington Post this week, Trump is still in the running for president with the worst response to COVID… but he has competitors…
- Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega and his wife responded to news of a pandemic by calling people into the streets for a festive parade they called “Love in the Time of Covid-19” — a perversely fitting allusion to the work of Gabriel García Márquez.
- There’s Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil, where the health-care system stands on the verge of collapse, and the unchecked spread of the virus has spawned variants now threatening other struggling countries. He has fired health ministers for refusing to go along with his covid-19 denial and claimed that Brazilians might be immune to the “little flu” because they swim in sewage and nothing happens to them. Bolsonaro himself became infected and called on Brazilians to protest antivirus measures and joined them in the streets. He gleefully shook hands — sometimes after coughing into his own.
- Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador advised Mexicans to “live life as usual.” Even after he became infected, he rejected requests to wear a mask. He says he will wear one when corruption is eradicated in Mexico. Mask-wearing became highly politicized, a development that contributed to the climbing death toll.
- Belarus’s dictator Alexander Lukashenko, who described the pandemic as nothing more than a “psychosis” and prescribed vodka and saunas to prevent it. Lukashenko, who has faced months of mass protests after a disputed election last summer, has blocked common-sense measures to slow down the virus at almost every turn.
- In Turkmenistan, another post-Soviet dictatorship, the government has set a new low for denial by banning mask-wearing and any discussion of the pandemic. The use of the word “coronavirus” has reportedly been outlawed in media or health information materials. Turkmenistan still claims it hasn’t had any coronavirus cases, a claim no one believes.
- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen welcomed cruise ship passengers shunned by other countries for fear of the pandemic. Gradually, his response turned to repression, banning criticism and arresting those who complained, then using the emergency to tighten the regime’s grip.
- Africa’s President John Magufuli of Tanzania dismissed talk of a global emergency. He told people not to bother with masks or vaccines, claiming that three days of prayer eradicated the virus in Tanzania. To make his point, he claimed to have submitted samples of pawpaw fruit and said they came back positive, ridiculing scientists. (Magufuli died this month “from heart complications” but members of the opposition say they have it on good authority that he died of COVID.)
These other leaders remind us that Trump wasn’t alone in his mishandling of the pandemic. He has a lot of competition for the title of worst pandemic president. But he’s still a HUGE contender.
(Photos, Zoom, screen grabs, Wikimedia Commons; via WaPo)