Protesters torch Guatemala’s congress building amid unrest

Elias Hubbard
November 22, 2020

Guatemalans are protesting the actions of President Alejandro Giammattei whose government approved a new budget of over $13 billion, the largest approved budget in the country's history, presented for 2021. "This can not continue like this".

While most protesters assembled peacefully at the main square, others set part of the historic Congress building on fire, sending up dramatic orange flames and a cloud of smoke that could be seen blocks away. "But we can not allow vandalism of public or private property", he posted.

President Alejandro Giammattei pledged "the full force of the law" against people who vandalize public property.

Discontent had been building over the 2021 budget on social media and clashes erupted during demonstrations on Friday.

The demonstrators, majority hooded, broke the entrance door to Congress as well as its windows, hurling flaming torches inside, with no deputies present inside the building.

A man is detained by police near the congress building
A man is detained by police near the congress building

They are also angered by what they describe as major cuts to education and health spending.

Mr Giammattei's vice president said on Friday night he had asked the president to resign with him. According to protesters, cited by The AP, the budget was negotiated and passed by the legislators in secret amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of back-to-back hurricanes.

Waving national flags and signs declaring "Giammattei, resign", demonstrators called for Giammattei to veto the budget, which lawmakers approved at dawn last Wednesday even as Hurricane Iota was drenching parts of the Central American country still reeling from the destruction of a prior storm.

He said the budget appeared to favor ministries that have historically been hotspots of corruption.

In 2015, mass street protests against corruption led to the resignation of then-president Otto Pérez Molina, his vice-president Roxana Baldetti, and members of his cabinet.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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