Paraguay reshuffles Cabinet after violent COVID-19 protests

ASUNCION (AFP) – Paraguay’s President Mario Abdo Benitez announced a Cabinet reshuffle on Saturday after violent street protests over the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He announced new people would be appointed to the Ministries of Health, Education, Women’s Issues, and Civil Affairs. “I am sure that the men and women named will do their utmost to confront this moment of crisis that the country is enduring,” the President said.

Thousands of protestors clashed with police late Friday, ransacking shops and setting cars on fire. A total of 21 people were injured, hospital officials said. Paraguayans are angry over a shortage of personal protective gear and other equipment to confront the health crisis and a collapse in the healthcare system. The Health Minister already resigned on Friday.

On Saturday, another 5,000 people came out to protest but this time the rally was peaceful, and they called for the President’s resignation. As of Friday, Paraguay had reported 165,811 coronavirus cases and 3,278 deaths.

It is awaiting the arrival of four million vaccine doses from the COVAX system of the World Health Organization (WHO) and a million doses of the Russian Sputnik 5, for a population of just over seven million.