Brazilian politician, in a coma on ventilator due to COVID-19, elected mayor

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Maguito Vilela was elected mayor of the Brazilian city of Goiânia on Sunday, but he has yet to find out. That's because he has spent much of the last month in an induced coma, breathing via a ventilator because of a severe COVID-19 infection.

His case is a vivid example of the reach of the coronavirus pandemic in Brazil, which has the world's worst COVID-19 death toll outside the United States. More than 6.3 million people have been infected and nearly 173,000 have died from the virus, according to Health Ministry data.

A former senator from the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement party, Vilela tested positive for the coronavirus on Oct. 20. A week later, he arrived at Sao Paulo's Albert Einstein Hospital and was intubated on Oct 30.

He came off the ventilator on Nov. 8, but was back on by Nov. 15, when he progressed to a second-round runoff against rival Vanderlan Cardoso of the Social Democratic Party.

On Sunday, Vilela was elected mayor of Goiânia, a city of roughly 1.5 million people in central Brazil, about 200 km southwest of the capital Brasilia. He won 52.6% of the vote.

Rogério Oliveira da Cruz, Vilela's vice mayor, called a press conference after the election victory, in which there was a prayer for the mayor's health.

"We appreciate the voters for electing Maguito Vilela," he said, according to news website G1. "All of Maguito's plan will be executed over the next four years, and he will be by our side."

Vilela's son Daniel accused political adversaries of spreading false information about his father's condition.

"This week, they went out with cars with loudspeakers, announcing the death of the opposing candidate, and sending out mass messages on WhatsApp with fake news about the state of his health," he said, according to G1. "It was a shameful campaign."

Maguito Vilela's office did not respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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