March for Equality for Disabled People in Bolivia - This is happenning in my country right now

Maria Pena
Posted April 29, 2016 from Bolivia
after being pepper sprayed
after being pepper sprayed (1/7)

March for Equality for People with Disabilities in Bolivia

39 days ago, on March 21st of 2016, a large group of disabled Bolivian citizens started a 265 miles quest to protest the unequal treatment of disabled Bolivians by the government. The group consisted of about 150 disabled Bolivians. The trip's goal was to cross the Andes Mountains by wheelchair to arrive to the capital of Bolivia to demand adecent monthlystipend of $72 a month.

After crossing the Andes Mountains, this brave group has finally reached its final destination, La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, where they were not welcomed by the government. Protesters were blocked to enter La Plaza Murillo, the main public square where the legislative and presidential palace are. The police used pepper spray and electric shocks indiscriminately against anyone trying to enter the square. Many other protests have taken place in the same location, yet this particular protest was met with excessive force from the police. Several protesters with disabilities were injured. Today, 10 disabled adults are on a hunger strike and the rest are on a vigil, all of them sleeping in the cold streets of La Paz.

People and organizations helping them or supporting them have been accused of being infiltrated and traitors by the Bolivian government and are receiving death threats.Many Bolivian citizens, myself included, are outraged and are supporting these people. Whether we supported their cause or not has become secondary, we are now supporting them because of the grueling conditions they have been exposed to and to defend their rights. Other generous and compassionate citizens are organizing groups to create communities that will donate 1 boliviano every month to cover for a portion of their stipend.

Disabilities in Bolivia

In Bolivia, disabled people receive an annual stipend of 1,000 bolivianos ($145), which is $0.39 cents per day and below the minimum wage. The Defensor del Pueblo says that there are about 388,000 people with some type of permanent disability (cerebral palsy, ME/CFS, fibromyalgia, blindness, amputation and more) in Bolivia but only citizens with a valid identification can claim the annual stipend of 1,000 bolivianos ($145). 52,000 disabled reported to have a valid identification and only 69% from this group was able to claim the annual stipend due to the broken registration process that is in place. Disabled people in the rural parts of Bolivia are abandoned and live in extreme poverty and pain. No one takes care of them because their family members have to work in the fields to be able to bring food and support for survival.

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