COCHABAMBA, Bolivia – The central Bolivian city of Cochabamba is once again filled with tons of garbage, which cannot be collected due to anti-government blockades and conflict in the company in charge of the service, in the midst of the COVID-19 health emergency.
The streets of Cochabamba have accumulated at least 5,000 tons of garbage that have not been able to be collected and deposited in the K’ara K’ara sanitary landfill for at least 10 days, the technical manager of the Municipal Cleaning Service Company (EMSA) Moises Atue told EFE on Wednesday.
The road to the landfill was again blocked by those protesting the new postponement of the election, to Oct. 18, which the electoral body had already pushed back from May 3 to Sept. 6 due to the pandemic.
The company usually collects around 500 tons of garbage per day, including about 70 tons of medical waste that cannot be disposed of in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Atue said.
In addition, there is a conflict with EMSA’s board of directors, which led to a vigil rejecting the removal of a former company manager carried out by its workers for a week so far.
The workers rejected the removal of former manager Cristian Cuellar, saying his dismissal was without valid argument.
Atue said that once there is safety for the workers and the blockades are resolved, they will immediately return to collect the accumulated waste, which could be completely removed in a week.
At the end of May, EMSA also removed thousands of tons of garbage that had accumulated in the city due to protesters blocking the entrance of the landfill, demanding its closure, as well as the provision of water, the easing of quarantine restrictions, the resignation of authorities such as interim President Jeanine Añez, and the holding of elections.
Cochabamba, one of Bolivia’s biggest cities with a little over 600,000 residents, is also experiencing a collapse of hospitals and a lack of medical supplies such as oxygen, which are vital for COVID-19 patients.
Bolivia has so far reported 3,761 deaths and 93,328 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to official data from the Ministry of Health.