Protesters torch Guatemalas Congress building amid unrest

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Through: AP | Guatemala City |

November 22, 2020 12:02:05 pm


A man walks past an office in the Congress building set on fire by protesters during a protest calling for the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei, in Guatemala City, Guatemala, November 21, 2020. REUTERS / Luis Echeverria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Hundreds of protesters broke into Guatemala’s Congress and burned down part of the building on Saturday amid growing protests against President Alejandro Giammattei and the legislature for endorsing a controversy. budget that reduce spending on education and health.

The incident came as around 10,000 people demonstrated outside Guatemala City’s National Palace against corruption and the budget which protesters said was negotiated and passed by lawmakers in secret as the Central American country was distracted by fallout from backtoback hurricanes and COVID19 pandemic.

About 1,000 demonstrators demonstrated in front of the Congress building.

A video on social media showed flames shooting through a window of the Legislative Building. Police fired tear gas at protesters and a dozen people were reportedly injured.

We are outraged by the injustice of poverty as they have stolen public money, said psychology professor Rosa de Chavarria.

I feel like the future is being stolen from us. We don’t see any change, it can’t continue like this, said Mauricio Ramirez, a 20-year-old college student.

The amount of damage to the building was not clear, but the flames initially appear to have affected the legislative offices rather than the main congress hall. Protesters also set fire to some bus stations.

Giammattei condemned the fires on Saturday in his Twitter account.

Anyone who is proven to have participated in criminal acts will be punished with the full force of the law. He wrote that he defended the right of peoples to protest, but neither can we allow people to vandalize public or private property.

The president said he had met with various groups to present changes to the controversial budget.

Discontent had grown over the 2021 budget on social media and clashes erupted in Friday’s protests Guatemalans were angry that lawmakers approved 65,000 to pay for meals for themselves but cut funding for coronavirus patients and human rights agencies, among others.

The protesters were also upset by recent actions by the Supreme Court and the Attorney General, which they saw as attempts to undermine the fight against corruption.

Vice President Guillermo Castillo offered to step down, telling Giammattei that the pair should step down for the sake of the country, he also suggested vetoing the approved budget sacking government officials and trying to raise awareness more diverse sectors of the country.

Giammattei had not responded publicly to the proposal and Castillo did not share the reaction of the presidents to his proposal Castillo said he would not resign on his own.

The spending plan was negotiated in secret and approved by Congress before dawn on Wednesday, and was also passed as the country was distracted by the fallout from Hurricanes Eta and Iota which brought torrential rains to much of Central America.

Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Guatemala also called on Giammattei to veto the budget on Friday.

It was a devious blow to the people as Guatemala was between natural disasters, there are signs of government corruption patronage in humanitarian aid, said Jordan Rodas, the country’s human rights attorney.

He said the budget seemed to favor ministries that have always been hotbeds of corruption.

In 2015, mass street protests against corruption led to the resignation of President Otto Perez Molina, Vice-President Roxana Baldetti and members of his cabinet.The former president and Baldetti are both in prison in awaiting trial in various corruption cases.

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