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Bolivian health workers start hunger strike in protest over pay and lack of equipment

HEALTH workers in Bolivia have gone on hunger strike in protest at low pay and a lack of medicine and equipment to treat the country’s growing number of Covid-19 patients.

Staff at the Palos Blancos Health Centre near the capital La Paz declared on Monday that they were forgoing food as they accused the country’s coup administration of ignoring them.

Spokesman Dr Aramayo said: “We feel abandoned and unprotected,” as he appealed for public support. “We have maintained the service even though we haven’t been paid in months.

“But we can no longer treat Covid-19 patients because of the lack of supplies and medicines.”

Bolivia has recorded more than 83,000 cases of coronavirus and 3,320 deaths. The interim government has been accused of handling the pandemic poorly, with the health service complaining of a lack of resources and support.

Workers say their concerns are being ignored and Dr Aramayo explained that they don’t have the equipment needed to detect positive cases.

 “We’ve been asking for protective equipment for months. We are still waiting for a response,” the medic said.

Bolivia has been paralysed by mass strikes in protest at the government’s decision, citing the coronavirus outbreak, to delay presidential and parliamentary elections for the third time. They were originally scheduled for May.

Elections are necessary after former president Evo Morales was ousted in a Washington-backed coup last November, despite having recently won re-election.

He has been blocked from seeking a Senate seat by the election authorities, which ruled him ineligible as he is not resident in the country. The ex-president lives in exile in Argentina.

Mr Morales has branded the election delay a coup designed to extend Jeanine Anez’s tenure as interim president.

Her government is seeking to dismantle Mr Morales’s Movement Towards Socialism, as polls indicate that the party and its presidential candidate Luis Arce would win the elections.

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