Sao Paulo mayor, who fought Covid and cancer, dies at 41

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This file photo from May 21, 2020, shows Sao Paulo Mayor Bruno Covas speaking during an interview with AFP; the Brazilian politician died May 16, 2021 of cancer, hospital officials announced

The mayor of Sao Paulo, Brazil's most populous city, died Sunday after a long battle with cancer of the digestive system, the hospital where he was being treated announced.

Mayor Bruno Covas had been hospitalized on May 2 as the cancer, first diagnosed in 2019, spread through his body.

His medical team said Friday that his condition was terminal.

News of his death, announced by the city's Syrian-Lebanese Hospital, prompted an outpouring on social media, with thousands of supporters expressing condolences for the moderate politician and solidarity with his family.

Covas, a member of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, had positioned himself in the center of a polarized country, seeking to emerge as the moderate leader of a new political generation in a Brazil ruled by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

As he led his city's response to the coronavirus pandemic, Covas himself contracted Covid-19 last August. After recovering, he easily won re-election, with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

Sao Paulo, Brazil's economic capital with a population of more than 12 million, has lost 29,000 lives to the coronavirus.

This year, when Covas's cancer took a turn for the worse, he had asked the city's Chamber of Councillors for a 30-day break to allow him to focus fully on his health.

"My body is demanding that I dedicate more time to treatment, which is entering a more demanding phase," he said on Twitter.

Deputy Mayor Ricardo Nunes, a centrist, is expected to complete Covas's term, which runs until 2024.

Covas, a trained lawyer whose grandfather Mario Covas was one of the most influential politicians in the country, began his political career at age 26, winning his first election in 2006 as a deputy in the Sao Paulo Assembly.

He later served as the city's environmental secretary.

Covas was elected deputy mayor in 2016 and became mayor two years later when then-mayor Joao Doria resigned to seek the state's governorship.

Covas was elected to a full term in November 2020.

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