Monday, March 5, 2012

Bolivian President Bows to Pressure from Disabled Activists

A group of disabled demonstrators agreed to end weeks of protests after Bolivian president Evo Morales agreed to some of their main demands.

The breakthrough came after Morales said on Friday that he would support a proposal granting increased rights to disabled individuals. The General Law for Persons with Disabilities would grant equal rights to the disabled as well as the “social inclusion of disabled people in public institutions of the state.” Furthermore, the proposal would reportedly drop the tariffs on imports of wheelchairs and other assistive devices as well as free medical access in public hospitals.

Additionally, Morales also agreed to the protesters’ request for an annual state subsidy for the disabled. However the $143 per person agreed to was less than the original $431 per individual sought by the protesters.

Disabled protest leaders subsequently said that the group of approximately fifty people would leave from the tent camp that they resided in for nine days in La Paz’ Murillo Square. “We will return to our points of origin with three key victories: the approval of the law (for the disabled), the granting of a subsidy for disabled people and bringing citizen awareness to our cause,” claimed protest leader Carlos Mariaca.

The protesters’ actions began last November when dozens of people with disabilities and their supporters marched along the highways from the province of Beni to the capital city. Their 1000-mile gained little global attention until last month when some of the protesters clashed with La Paz riot police:

The government backed the actions of the officers and minister Carlos Romero alleged that opposition activists infiltrated the group of disabled demonstrators. Yet the police were accused of unnecessarily repressing the protesters including the reported use of pepper spray and “tazing” to control the crowd.

“Any allegations of abuse should be thoroughly and impartially investigated,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Americas Program Director at Amnesty International.

Video Source – YouTube via Al Jazeera English

Online Sources – Diario El Siglo, Amnesty International USA, The Guardian, AFP, The Latin Americanist

No comments: