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Bolivia: Far-Right Protesters Attack Ambulances And Health Workers

Santa Cruz, Bolivia – Far-right opposition groups in the city of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, are violating international law by attacking health workers and hindering the passage of ambulances. The city’s police have registered more than 20 cases of physical attacks against health workers and ambulances, many of them resulting in patients being unable to reach a medical center.

Protesters say they want the national census to be brought forward six months, and their preferred tactic is to block roads and demand payment from anyone who wants to pass through. Those who fail to comply are assaulted by young men armed with sticks and baseball bats. The secretary of the Health Workers union at the San Juan de Dios Hospital, Ulises Guzmán, said, “I don’t know what they are waiting for, maybe for someone from our sector to die so that they just give us guarantees?”

International Human Rights Law (IHL) establishes that medical personnel have the right to be protected under the same conditions as the wounded and sick, even in situations of armed conflict.

“The detention of health personnel, for the fact of providing health care, can be equated to a violation of human rights, even when done legally, in accordance with national legislation,” states the International Red Cross.

Violent protests have been ongoing for a month now. Other incidents include an arson attack on the indigenous campesino federation building in the city (FUTCSC), and the looting of the workers union federation (COD), along with numerous government buildings. The pretext is a demand to bring forward the national census, but the government say that this is merely an excuse used to justify violent mobilizations aimed at launching another coup.

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