Bolivia: Yellow alert for the Bolivian Red Cross

By: Ana Rosa Boyán, La Paz, Bolivia

Angry protests, which have brought the city of La Paz to a standstill over the past couple of weeks, have led the Bolivian Red Cross's National Directorate to call a state of national yellow alert, informed the Society's President, Abel Peña y Lillo.

The principle demands of the demonstrators are the approval by Parliament of the summoning of the Constituent Assembly and a referendum over the question of autonomy, along with the nationalisation of the country's gas reserves. The lobby is made up of various social sectors from the west and eastern parts of Bolivia, namely the Civic Committees of Santa Cruz and Tarija; the coca producers; the neighbourhood union of the city of El Alto and urban and rural teachers, along with other groups who continue to join the protestors.

Given the deterioration of the situation at the start of this week and following an evaluation of the events, the Bolivian Red Cross implemented an yellow alert and the Head Office along with the volunteers from the subsidiary branch of La Paz have thus mobilised their human resources and technicians in order to provide immediate first aid relief in case of any possible emergency.

Rubén Gonzáles, head of the national Emergency Relief Unit, stated that a departmental contingency plan was underway and that the Head Office was in constant communication with other subsidiary branches throughout the country. Meetings with other institutions are also taking place in order to determine the roles each will play in view of internal unrest.

Contact with the Regional Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Lima is likewise being maintained; in order to keep the ICRC up to date with any development, bearing in mind the Committee's concern over violent situations and the regrettable outcomes which often occur in such instances.

Gustavo Sotillo, a volunteer from the Bolivian Red Cross's La Paz branch and in charge of emergency relief, stated that the all the branch's volunteers had been called upon and that to date they were carrying out two shifts: from 10 o'clock in the morning to 2 in the afternoon and from 2 pm until 6 pm, each shift team being supported by three ambulances.

It was likewise reported that all emergency Bolivian Red Cross teams had been correctly identified and were fully equipped to deal with typical first aid cases, such as asphyxia due to tear gas and wounds caused by violent confrontations and projectiles.

Finally, the National President stated that while such events continued to occur, the Bolivian Red Cross would evaluate daily the situation, in order to adopt immediate and appropriate measures.