Asuncion, Mar 6 (efe-epa).- Protesters, most of them young, clashed with police in the heart of Paraguay’s capital Asunción and demanded the resignation of President Mario Abdo Benitez over his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The protests late on Friday were triggered after medical personnel and relatives of patients demonstrated this week against the lack of medical supplies and equipment in public hospitals, especially those impacted by the coronavirus.
On Friday, security forces used tear gas to disperse a gathering of hundreds of people outside the Congress building.
At least 20 people were injured in the riots as police fired rubber bullets at stone-pelting protesters, according to media reports.
The commander of the National Police, Francisco Resquín, said 12 police officers had sustained injuries, one of them with a knife.
He confirmed that a man had died from a stab wound in the vicinity of the riots.
However, he said that so far there is no data to confirm that the person had died as a result of the violence that had ensued.
The city’s Trauma Hospital confirmed that eight injured civilians had been admitted, some of them hurt by rubber bullets.
Local media reports said the group of protesters, around a hundred, intended to hold a night vigil in front of the Congress building to demand the resignation of Mario Abdo Benitez of the conservative Colorado Party.
Interior Minister Arnaldo Giuzzio told the media that the riots were caused by people who had joined the protests looking to cause incidents.
Troops have been deployed to protect institutional buildings, as well as the presidential residence and government headquarters, according to media reports.
The riots broke out about two hours after the start of the demonstration by hundreds of citizens who had responded to a call on social media for a peaceful protest to express their anger at the government’s policy on the pandemic.
Police spokespersons said the officials used tear gas after some protesters tried to break the police cordon.
The crowd then dispersed through several streets of the capital’s center chanting slogans against the government.
The protest came after medical personnel and relatives of patients protested this week against the lack of medical supplies and equipment in public hospitals, especially those impacted by the coronavirus.
The protests resulted in the resignation of Health Minister Julio Mazzoleni on Friday morning after a meeting with Abdo Benítez.
The citizens are also protesting against a delay in the arrival of vaccines, which at the moment are limited to 4,000 doses of Sputnik V that have already been given to health workers.
Paraguay, which has seven million inhabitants, has recorded more than 160,000 Covid-19 cases, including around 3,200 deaths. EFE-EPA