Mario Abdo Benitez is expected to announce changes to his cabinet after citizens protest handling of COVID-19 pandemic.
Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez has asked all cabinet ministers to resign following clashes between demonstrators and police at protests against the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
The country’s communications minister, Juan Manuel Brunetti, said on Saturday the president asked “all the members of the cabinet to give up their positions”.
“The president … will surely speak today with the citizenry. He [will] announce the changes, but we want all the citizens to know and understand is that their message has reached the president,” he said.
Abdo Benitez respects peaceful protests and calls for peace, Brunetti added.
Clashes broke out on Friday evening between protesters and police in the centre of the capital, Asuncion. Rioters hurled stones at the officers, who in turn used rubber bullets and tear gas.
The protests came amid growing outrage over a surging COVID-19 pandemic in Paraguay, where infections hit record levels and hospitals have been pushed to the brink of collapse.
Protesters rallied outside the Congress building to demand the resignation of Abdo Benitez.
On Thursday, the Senate adopted a resolution calling for Health Minister Julio Mazzoleni to step down over the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Mazzoleni has been under attack from legislators, including some from the governing party, and by health worker unions.
On Friday, Mazzoleni announced after a meeting with the president that he had submitted his resignation.
The country’s health system is in trouble, as the government recently said there is a shortage of important drugs to treat COVID-19 patients and that almost all intensive care unit beds at public hospitals were full.
“We are in a critical situation,” health ministry spokesman Hernan Martinez recently said.
“Let’s avoid crowds. It is the only thing that can save us from the collapse of healthcare.”
Paraguay has reported more than 165,800 cases of COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, and more than 3,200 people have died due to the coronavirus.