Paraguay riots

Paraguay’s health system is on the verge of collapse, leading to public backlash and the resignation of government ministers

Photo by Reuters

— 2 minute read– by Sam Feierabend

Early March saw protests and riots in Paraguay’s capital city of Asunción over the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic – which has left the country’s health system on the verge of collapse.

Paraguay reported 214,000 coronavirus cases with 4,200 deaths as of 1st April, with cases growing exponentially to record levels since the start of March. The South American country is also struggling to vaccinate the population with only 0.7 percent of people receiving their first dose, whilst not a single second dose has been administered.

Protests began on 4th March in Asunción with the public demanding a response from the government over their poor handling of the crisis. Two days later, Health Minister Julio Mazzoleni resigned due to public pressure, but their anger spread to more pressing issues such as the structural vulnerability of the country’s health system, especially in rural areas of the nation. A lack of vital drugs to treat COVID-19 means that all intensive care beds in Paraguay are full, ensuring that regular patients that require treatment have long waits to be seen.

Unfortunately, protests turned violent towards the police with stones and bricks reportedly being hurled towards officers. Ugly scenes ensued over the following days with Interior Minister Arnaldo Giuzzio claiming, “it is a pity that young people have taken this too far. They are people who only seek to destroy.”

Many high ranking officials across South America have resigned due to poor handling of the pandemic and slow vaccine roll outs. Incidents in Paraguay have shown that the public’s hostility towards the ruling class is at boiling point, and protests may become common occurrences in coming months.