A demonstration against the management of the pandemic by the Government of Mario Abdo Benítez was harshly repressed by the police this Friday in Asunción. The incidents have left one dead and at least 20 injured among civilians and uniformed men, according to authorities. Shortly before, the Minister of Health, Julio Mazzoleni, had resigned, questioned about the handling of the health policy against the pandemic, in which corruption and the lack of medicines and vaccines against covid-19 are criticized.
The Paraguayan president announced this Saturday, after the protests, changes in four portfolios of his Cabinet “for the sake of pacification”, in an attempt to appease protests that demand his resignation. “All the new authorities and in particular those of the Ministry of Health will assume with precise instructions to make renewal and changes,” said President Mario Abdo Benítez, in a video recorded and broadcast on public television.
Abdo Benítez announced that he will also change some of the less popular officials, the Minister of Education, Eduardo Petta, the Minister of Women, Nilda Romero and his chief of civilian Cabinet, Juan Ernesto Villamayor, all protagonists of numerous complaints of irregularities in the last year, as well as viral memes and parodies. “The mandate of Health will be to put all possible efforts to guarantee the supply of medicines,” added the president. Meanwhile, the two political forces of the opposition, the Liberal Party and the Guasu Front, have announced proposals for impeachment and in the street, some 5,000 people returned to gather in the Plaza de Armas in the center of Asunción demanding the resignation of the president. .
Two hours before the start of the protest on Friday, the protesters, a total of about 10,000, were expelled with tear gas and rubber bullets by riot police, which led to a pitched battle in the heart of the Paraguayan capital. A dozen masked men threw stones at the agents in the vicinity of the Congress and they responded. A woman with her baby was sprayed with tear gas as she was about to enter her home and there are at least a dozen civilians and four policemen injured. The clashes ended with an unusual scene: the riot police raising white flags in peace, after running out of ammunition.
Photogallery: Protests in Paraguay against President Mario Abdo Benítez, in pictures
The Archbishop of Asunción, Edmundo Valenzuela, asked the parties to cease hostilities. “A call to the entire population that is currently convulsed by violence. A call for the media to call for peace, ”Valenzuela told the Telefuturo channel. The Interior Minister, Arnaldo Giuzzio, justified the police action to the press and assured that “the Police reacted and tried to prevent the spread of [la protesta], which at this point is already contained in some points, “he said.
Paraguay, one of the countries that best fought the covid-19 pandemic in the first half of 2020, has its health system in crisis. Deaths from the virus total 3,278 and there are more than 165,000 infected, but only 4,000 vaccines have arrived so far, without it being clear when more will arrive.
Criticisms of the conservative government of President Mario Abdo Benítez, son of the private secretary of the dictator Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989), grow as medicines run out in a precarious health system, considered by the World Bank insufficient and unequal. The Paraguayan upper classes are cared for in private centers with prices in the United States, while the rest of the population goes to public centers, where, despite the efforts of officials, the lack of resources and infrastructure makes care very deficient.
Since Wednesday, doctors and nurses, patients and their families protested in the streets of Asunción over the lack of medicines. The workers of the main center in the fight against covid-19 marched in front of the headquarters, forcing the resignation of its director. The doctors denounced that there are no drugs or for chemotherapies, or sedatives for those intubated in intensive care and much less vaccines against the coronavirus. Paraguay received 4,000 doses and is still waiting for a million more from Russia and another 4.3 million from the World Health Organization (WHO).
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