ASUNCION – A week of protests in Paraguay against the government of Mario Abdo Benitez ended on Friday with fewer and more deflated protesters after the president made Cabinet changes and the health authorities declared a red alert due to the increase in COVID-19 infections in the country.
Only about 200 people demonstrated on Friday, compared to a week ago when the protests were huge.
The atmosphere was festive, with improvised traditional dances and the usual chants of “Out Marito!” as the president is popularly known, and “Not a step back, until they resign!”
For a week, the protesters have demanded the resignation of the whole government, including Abdo Benitez and Vice President Hugo Velazquez.
With ministerial changes made this week, including in the education, women and health portfolios, the protests subsided, although some groups persist.
Those keeping them alive on Friday installed a dialog table in front of Congress with an open microphone, so that each one could present their criticisms or proposals.
They also brought a doll representing the president, which they put into a cage, representing jail.
The attendees reminded Abdo Benitez, who usually cites the Bible in his speeches, of the 10 commandments, including the seventh: “Thou shalt not steal.”
Paraguayans continue to ask, a year later, where the $1.6 billion loan approved by the government to face the pandemic went, since the trigger for the protests was the lack of medicines and supplies in hospitals and the late arrival of vaccines.
In addition, the red alert declared this week by the Ministry of Health reflects the situation in the country – overflowing hospitals and intensive care units – while medical unions and associations ask citizens to return to a voluntary total lockdown.
Paraguay has registered since March 7, 2020, when the first case of COVID-19 was detected in its territory, 175,827 infections and 3,411 deaths.