Security forces fired rubber bullets and tear gas at hundreds of rioters who gathered around the Congress building.
Protesters clashed with police in Paraguay’s capital, as anger over the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis boiled through the streets, with shops ransacked and cars set on fire.
Security forces fired rubber bullets and tear gas at hundreds of rioters who gathered around the Congress building in downtown Asuncion on Friday evening, as protesters demolished security barriers , burned road barricades and threw stones at the police.
The riots, which turned the historic center of the capital into an improvised battlefield of fire, smoke and gunfire, erupted amid mounting outrage as coronavirus infections reached record levels and hospitals were on the verge of collapse across the South American country.
Protesters gathered earlier in front of the Congress building to demand the resignation of President Mario Abdo Benitez.
On Thursday, the Senate adopted by 30 votes out of 45 a resolution calling for the resignation of Mazzoleni.
Health Minister Julio Mazzoleni, who has come under attack by lawmakers, including some from the ruling party, and by health workers’ unions, tendered his resignation, which he made public on Friday after a meeting with the President.
Abdo Benitez has appointed Julio Borba, Deputy Minister, to replace Mazzoleni. Borba told reporters he would immediately start searching for drugs and supplies.
The coronavirus outbreak is spreading in Paraguay and officials admit the threat is serious.
“We are in a critical situation,” said spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Hernan Martinez.
“Let’s avoid the crowds. It is the only thing that can save us from the collapse of health care. “
Paraguay had 165,811 cases and 3,278 deaths on Friday.
The hospitals “were working hard” but “the situation is complicated,” said pulmonologist Carlos Morinigo.
The country has vaccinated less than 0.1% of its population, data shows.