CARACAS – Health sector workers took to the streets on Wednesday in Caracas both for and against the constitutional assembly convened by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to rewrite the Constitution.
Hundreds of healthcare workers backing the government gathered on Morelos Square downtown and headed for the Miraflores presidential palace, where they were hoping to be received by the head of state.
Venezuelan Health Minister Luis Lopez, who was with the crowd, said that the healthcare sector was mobilizing because its personnel want peace, adding that “the road to peace” is via the constitutional assembly, given that – he said – the people “want to discuss things” and that is the process that will enable them to do so.
“They have mobilized to support President Nicolas Maduro because it’s only in revolution that they have had true results on health matters, positive results ... with the recovery of different areas and with dignifying the healthcare workers,” he said.
Meanwhile, dozens of physicians, nurses and healthcare personnel opposed to the government gathered in La Candelaria, another downtown district, and tried to march to the Health Ministry but were stopped by a cordon set up by the Bolivarian National Police.
Pharmacist Aida Cabrera told EFE amid the opposition marchers that they had turned out due to the scarcity of medications and because every day “more patients” are dying due to the lack of medicine.
“Because expired medicines are coming to us, medicines without a health certification are coming to us,” she said.
Cabrera said that before the demonstration began, the protesters spoke with the police, who told them that they were going to let them march although not to the Health Ministry, but rather nearby a ministry representative would meet with them. However, after that the police did not let them move forward.
“The police promised to escort us and they escorted us a block-and-a-half. Now they’re saying that they cannot continue to the ministry because there are armed groups, and of course for our security they cannot allow us to go on,” she added.
The demonstration came within the series of protests convened by the Venezuelan opposition for the past month-and-a-half against the Maduro government, some of which have degenerated into violence that has left 43 people dead and hundreds injured and under arrest.