Hundreds of protesters stormed Guatemala’s parliament and burned part of the building amid growing anger over the approval of a controversial budget that would cut education and health care costs.
- Citizens angry over budget allocation of large sums for politicians’ food while cutting funding for COVID-19 patients
- The vice president has called for the president to resign
- Guatemala Catholic Church weighs in, calls on president to veto controversial budget
The incident took place when about 7,000 people gathered in front of the National Palace in Guatemala to protest corruption and the budget, which protesters say was negotiated and secretly passed as the Central American country was distracted by the recession. Hurricane and COVID-19 epidemics.
Video on social media showed flames exiting a window in the assembly building. The police fired tear gas at the protesters.
“I feel like the future is being stolen from us,” said 20-year-old university student Mauricio Rameres.
“We do not see any change. It can not continue like this.”
The extent of the damage to the building was not clear, but it seemed that the fires would initially affect the Legislature offices more than the main hall of Congress. Protesters also set fire to some bus stops.
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giamati took to Twitter on Saturday to condemn the protesters’ actions.
“Anyone found guilty of involvement in a criminal offense will be punished with the full force of the law,” he wrote.
He defended the right of the people to protest, saying, “But we cannot allow people to destroy public or private property.”
The president said he was meeting with various committees to present changes in the controversial budget.
Dissatisfaction with the 2021 budget erupted on social media before clashes erupted during Friday’s protests.
Guatemala was outraged because members of Congress approved $ 65,000 ($ 89,000) to feed themselves, but cut funding for corona virus patients and human rights organizations.
The recent moves by the Supreme Court and the Attorney General, seen by citizens as attempts to undermine the fight against corruption, have also provoked Guatemalan anger.
President pressured to resign
Vice President Guillermo Castillo offered to resign and told Mr Giamate that the two should resign their positions “for the good of the country”.
He suggested that the approved budget should be vetoed, government officials should be sacked and more efforts should be made to various departments across the country.
But Mr Giamati did not publicly respond to the proposal, and Mr Castillo did not share the president’s reaction to his proposal.
Mr Castillo has said he will not resign alone.
The budget was secretly negotiated and approved by Congress on Wednesday morning.
It passed when the country was diverted by Hurricane Eta and Iota, which caused heavy rainfall over much of Central America.
The leadership of the Roman Catholic Church in Guatemala also called on Mr Giomate to veto the budget on Friday.
“This is a terrible blow to the people because Guatemala was in the midst of a natural disaster.
He said the budget was in favor of ministries that have historically been hotbeds of corruption.
In 2015, mass street protests against corruption led to the resignation of then-President Otto Perez Molina, his deputy Roxana Baldetti and his cabinet members.
Both the former president and Ms Baltetti are awaiting trial in various corruption cases.