Romanian Health Ministry Resignation Sparks Antigovernment Protests

Romania was the scene of anti-government protests Saturday evening, with as many as 2,000 people occupying Bucharest's University Square, while smaller rallies of no more than a hundred people took place in Sibiu, Suceava, Iasi, Cluj-Napoca and other cities.


Imaginea articolului Romanian Health Ministry Resignation Sparks Antigovernment Protests

Romanian Health Ministry Resignation Sparks Antigovernment Protests

The protests were sparked on Thursday by the resignation of Dr. Raed Arafat from the position of deputy secretary of state in the Health Ministry, due to his opposition to a new healthcare bill and perceived pressure from higher state officials, including President Traian Basescu.

Small marches in support of Arafat and criticizing Basescu and the Government had taken place in various cities on Thursday and Friday.

Eventually, the protests turned against the government's policies - cuts in salaries and welfare benefits, higher taxes - as well as the widespread corruption.

In Bucharest Saturday evening, there were scuffles between protesters and security forces in the square and on the Magheru Boulevard. Some demonstrators threw stones or firecrackers, and gendarmes answered with force, in some cases using tear gas; 29 people were detained for violence. Most of the scuffles occurred in tight places where security and protesters were piled together, with little room for movement, raising the tension.

A few dozen people, including gendarmes, were injured; six required hospital care.

A little after midnight, University Square had been cleared.

In 1990, Arafat was one of the founders of SMURD, a special emergency and resuscitation service, which began in Targu Mures and now has bases in several Romanian cities. As SMURD's reputation grew, so did Arafat's public profile, also thanks to his image as a no-nonsense professional.

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