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President Of Honduras Tests Positive For Coronavirus, Vows To 'Beat This Pandemic'

Two children watch a national address by Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández on Tuesday, during which he confirmed he tested positive for the coronavirus.
Orlando Sierra
AFP via Getty Images
Two children watch a national address by Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández on Tuesday, during which he confirmed he tested positive for the coronavirus.

The president of Honduras has contracted the coronavirus.

Juan Orlando Hernández confirmed his positive diagnosis in a televised address to the country late Tuesday, adding that he has suffered only mild symptoms so far and is in treatment. His wife, Ana García de Hernández, and a couple of aides have also tested positive, though he said the first lady remains asymptomatic at this point.

"I feel strong and energetic enough to keep going and beat this pandemic," Hernández said, adding: "We continue in the fight, and we trust in God that we are going to get ahead of this situation. I personally trust God, Honduran doctors and the medicine that we're using to combat this disease."

Hernández is one of more than 9,600 confirmed patients in the Central American nation of more than 9 million — but he's just one of a handful of major world leaders to reveal that he has been infected with the virus. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson recoveredand returned to work after spending time in intensive care with COVID-19 earlier this year, while in the past two months prime ministers in Russiaand Armenia have announced positive diagnoses of their own.

Hernández, who says he began to "feel some discomfort" last weekend and received his results earlier Tuesday, told viewers to take a lesson from his experience — to take "all necessary care" in their own lives to avoid the same fate.

Guatemala's new presidentand the man he recently replaced each tweeted words of consolation and solidarity for Hernández, whose second term in office has been mired in controversy.

His brother, former lawmaker Juan Antonio Hernández Alvarado, was convicted of a slew of federal drug trafficking charges in the U.S. last year. And earlier this year, federal prosecutors accused the Honduran president — identified as "CC-4" in a separate complaint — of accepting a bribe of at least $25,000 from an alleged drug trafficker near the start of his first term about seven years ago. According to prosecutors, the money was in exchange for shielding the alleged trafficker's cocaine operation from law enforcement.

Despite these and other allegations against Juan Orlando Hernández — including the claim that he accepted a million-dollar bribe from convicted Mexican cartel boss Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán — U.S. officials have not filed charges specifically against him or sought his arrest. The conservative president, who enjoys close ties with the Trump administration, has vehemently denied the accusations as "100% false."

The Honduran leader also has repeatedly been the subject of widespread protests at home — including apparent irregularities in his disputed re-election in 2017 and a spate of unpopular reform proposals last year that were eventually tossed.

Hernández did not address those controversies in his brief speech Tuesday. Instead he focused on the coronavirus, acknowledging that up to this point, "because of my job, I have not been able to stay 100 percent at home." But he said he has gone into isolation, while he anticipates continuing his work remotely.

"I've been told to rest, but I will continue to carry out my work electronically and through my officials and collaborators," he pledged. "We'll be in contact."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.