March revolution in Paraguay?
Paraguay is witnessing an explosion of mass protest over government mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis. With hospitals overwhelmed and infections soaring, teachers refused orders for a mandatory return to classes on March 2. The following day, nurses, doctors, patients and their families demonstrated outside the main hospital in the capital Asunción to protest the lack of vaccines, protective equipment and basic medications. On March 5, widespread protests escalated to clashes with the riot police, leaving one demonstrator dead and several injured. President Mario Abdo Benítez of the conservative Colorado Party offered dialogue and forced the resignation of several cabinet members, including health minister Julio Mazzoleni. But protesters are continuing to mobilize, demanding the resignation of Abdo himself and his entire government, under the slogan !Que se vayan todos! (Throw them all out!)
Protests are being organized under the hashtag #EstoyParaElMarzoParaguayo2021, or "I am for the Paraguayan March 2021." This is a reference to several political upheavals in the country's history that took place in the month of March: the 1947 military rebellion against a Colorado Party dictatorship, which sparked a brief civil war; the 1999 "Marzo Paraguayo" popular uprising against another corrupt government of the still-ruling Colorado Party, which did succeed in forcing the resignation of the president, and the exile and later imprisonment of longtime party patriarch Lino Oviedo; and the 2017 protests against the attempt of yet another Colorado Party president, Horacio Cartes, to change the constitution to allow him to stand for another term of office. (Telam, AFP, NYT, Rio Times, In Defense of Marxism)
Deadly prison uprising
Two weeks before the current protest wave began, Latin America’s deepening prison crisis saw its latest irruption in Paraguay, A riot at the country's largest penitentiary, Tacumbú in Asunción, left six inmates dead—including three by decapitation. Several guards were also taken hostage before the uprising was put down at the dangerously overcrowded facility. Authorities said the riot began with fighting between members of the local Paraguayan crime network, the Clan Rotela, and followers of Brazil's more powerful criminal machine, the First Capital Command. (Daily Mail, Feb. 18; El País, Feb. 17)