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Coronavirus: Paraguay president dismisses ministers

image copyrightReuters

image captionAnti-government anger exploded into violence in Asuncion on Friday night

The president of Paraguay has sacked three of his ministers in response to violent protests over the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mario Abdo Benítez said the ministers for education, women’s affairs and civil affairs, were being replaced. The health minister resigned on Friday.

Health workers say hospitals have run out of medicine to treat Covid-19 patients.

Opposition parties want Mr Abdo to resign and call new elections.

They accuse his right-wing government of widespread corruption.

Paraguay has registered more than 165,000 cases of coronavirus and about 3,200 deaths. A steady rise in cases in recent weeks has brought the country’s health system to the brink of collapse. In addition, the rollout of vaccines has been slow with latest data showing that less than 0.1% of the population has received a jab.

“I am sure that the men and women named will do their utmost to confront this moment of crisis that the country is enduring,” said President Abdo, as he announced that four new ministers would be appointed.

Late on Friday, health workers and relatives of Covid-19 patients were among thousands of people who took to the streets of the capital, Asunción, and other cities to protest. They accuse the government of stealing millions of dollars that could have been used to deal with the health emergency.

image copyrightReuters

image captionRiot police struggled to disperse the protests in Asuncion

Some of the protesters clashed with police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Shops were ransacked and cars set on fire amid the chaos and about 20 people were reported injured.

Earlier, Health Minister Julio Mazzoleni resigned after fierce criticism from lawmakers and from health service unions.

Then on Saturday, the government’s Communications Minister, Juan Manuel Brunetti, said President Abdo was holding talks with advisers to “evaluate yesterday’s situations”.

“The concrete message is that: the president listened to the citizens, summoned his Cabinet and asked that they make their position available,” Mr Brunetti said.

image copyrightEPA

image captionPresident Mario Abdo Benítez is facing growing calls to resign over his handling of the Covid outbreak

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