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A man waves a Paraguayan national flag during a protest against President Mario Abdo Benitez’s health policies in Asuncion, Paraguay March 7, 2021. Source: Reuters/Cesar Olmedo.
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  • Protestors clashed with police in Paraguay’s capital city Asuncion late on Friday as public anger over the government’s handling of COVID-19 reached a peak
  • The violence comes as coronavirus infections hit all-time highs and hospitals teeter on the brink of collapse
  • It led to the resignation of the country’s health minister Julio Mazzoleni, who lawmakers had already been calling on to stand down
  • Dr. Julio Borb has been appointed to replace Mazzoleni and said he would begin tracking down medicine and supplies immediately
  • Paraguay has reported 115 infections per 100,000 people in the last seven days and has so far vaccinated less than 0.1 per cent of its population

Protestors clashed with police in Paraguay’s capital city Asuncion late on Friday as public anger over the government’s handling of COVID-19 reached a peak.

Security forces fired rubber bullets and tear gas on hundreds of rioters who gathered around the Congress building, while protesters broke down security barriers, burned road barricades and threw stones at police.

The violence comes as coronavirus infections hit all-time highs and hospitals teeter on the brink of collapse.

“It is a pity that young people have taken this too far. They are people who seek only to destroy,” Interior Minister Arnaldo Giuzzio told the Telefuturo television channel. “This violence does not make sense.”

Paraguay’s health minister Julio Mazzoleni resigned earlier on Friday, just a day after lawmakers called for him to stand down.

Mazzoleni had initially rebuked the Senate’s non-binding declaration asking him to leave, but conceded just hours later following a meeting with President Mario Abdo.

He’s the latest in a string of top health officials to be ousted across Latin America in recent weeks as the slow rollout of vaccinations adds to already increasing tension.

Dr. Julio Borba, a vice minister, has been appointed to take Mazzoleni’s place, telling reporters he would immediately begin tracking down medicine and supplies.

According to a tally from Reuters, Paraguay has reported 115 infections per 100,000 people in the last seven days and has so far vaccinated less than 0.1 per cent of its population.

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