For nearly six months, protesters have been demanding that the Bolivian government increase disability benefits to the equivalent of $72 a month, or less than a third of the country’s minimum wage.
They have marched nearly 380 km across the Andes to La Paz, the nation’s capital. In Cochabamba, many of the protesters who use wheelchairs suspended themselves from a bridge, attracting international attention to their cause.
But when they entered La Paz, to set up a meeting with President Evo Morales on May 25, they were met by more than 400 police in full riot-gear and three tanks.
Shocking footage from the Huffington Post shows police officers dousing the protesters with water cannons and throwing activists from their wheelchairs.
The actions are reminiscent of a similar march to La Paz by activists in 2012, calling for expanded state subsidies to assist people with disabilities.
“This benefit will reduce the inequality gap and help us make decisions for ourselves,” Feliza Ali, a spokesperson for the protesters, told ABC News. “This isn’t a self-righteous demand, it’s the beginning of self determination. The time has come to stop the segregation and apartheid that we’ve been living for generations.”