LA PAZ – Disabled persons hung themselves in their wheelchairs from a footbridge and a tree in two Bolivian cities to pressure the government to pay them a monthly benefit of $72.
A woman in a wheelchair identified as Rosmery Huarita was suspended by her companions from the footbridge along busy Perez Velasco Street in downtown La Paz, while others piled up their wheelchairs in the street to block the heavy traffic.
Hundreds of disabled persons kept a vigil this week in La Paz, where they arrived after a procession of over 300 kilometers (185 miles) from the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba, many of them in wheelchairs or on crutches.
“My life doesn’t matter, I’ve been in this wheelchair for 25 years and have never been granted any of my rights,” Huarita told the media.
At the same time, several people stopped traffic by laying their children on the street, youngsters suffering from mental problems or paralysis.
Police tried to break up the demonstrations, but were violently rebuffed by the demonstrators.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement that a police officer was struck and had her hair pulled that caused scalp injuries.
In the southern city of Sucre, another woman in a wheelchair, Arminda Valeriano, was hung from a tree to radicalize the protest, while others among her companions blocked streets to the main square.
The Bolivian government, citing the drop in natural-gas revenues as a result of the steep fall in the price of oil, says that payment of the benefits disabled persons are demanding is impossible.
Last Friday, the authorities signed an accord with another group of disabled persons which offered them the possibility of jobs and training.
But the disabled who are protesting have rejected that approach and say that anyone who signed that agreement does not represent their collective.