News ID: 277162
Published: 0431 GMT November 22, 2020

Guatemala protesters set Congress on fire during budget protests

Guatemala protesters set Congress on fire during budget protests
OLIVER DE ROS/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Protesters set the building that houses Guatemala’s Congress on fire in Guatemala ‎City, Guatemala, on November 21, 2020.‎

Hundreds of protesters broke into Guatemala‏’‏s Congress and burned part of the ‎building amid growing demonstrations against President Alejandro Giammattei and ‎the legislature for approving a budget that cut educational and health spending.‎

The incident on Saturday came as about 10,000 people were protesting in front of ‎the National Palace in Guatemala City against corruption and the budget, which ‎protesters say was negotiated and passed by legislators in secret while the Central ‎American country was distracted by the fallout of back-to-back hurricanes and the ‎COVID-19 pandemic, theguardian.com wrote.‎

About 1,000 protesters were demonstrating outside the Congress building.‎

Video on social media showed flames coming out of a window in the legislative ‎building. Police fired teargas at protesters, and about a dozen people were reported ‎injured.‎

The amount of damage to the building was unclear, but the fire appeared to have ‎affected legislative offices rather than the main hall of Congress. Protesters also set ‎bus stations on fire.‎

Giammattei condemned the incidents via Twitter on Saturday, saying, ‎‏“‏Anyone who ‎is proven to have participated in the criminal acts will be punished with the full force ‎of the law.”‎

He said he defended people‏’‏s right to protest, ‎‏“‏but neither can we allow people to ‎vandalize public or private property”.‎

The president said he had been meeting various groups to present changes to the ‎controversial budget.‎

Discontent had been building on social media over the 2021 budget and clashes ‎erupted during demonstrations on Friday. Guatemalans were angered because ‎legislators approved almost £50,000 to pay for meals for themselves, but cut ‎funding for coronavirus patients and human rights agencies.‎

Protesters were also upset by recent moves by the supreme court and attorney ‎general they saw as attempts to undermine the fight against corruption.‎

The vice president, Guillermo Castillo, has offered to step down, telling Giammattei ‎that both men should resign ‎‏“‏for the good of the country”. He also suggested ‎vetoing the approved budget, firing government officials and reaching out more to ‎various sectors around the country.‎

Giammattei had not responded publicly to that proposal and Castillo did not share ‎the president‏’‏s reaction to his proposal. Castillo said he would not resign alone.‎

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

The Roman Catholic church leadership in Guatemala called on Friday for Giammattei ‎to veto the budget.‎

Jordán Rodas, the country‏’‏s human rights prosecutor, said, ‎‏“‏It was a devious blow to ‎the people because Guatemala was between natural disasters; there are signs of ‎government corruption, clientelism in the humanitarian aid.”‎

In 2015, mass streets protests against corruption led to the resignation of President ‎Otto Pérez Molina, his vice president, Roxana Baldetti, and members of his cabinet. ‎The former president and Baldetti are in jail awaiting trials in various corruption ‎cases.‎

OLIVER DE ROS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Protesters set the building that houses Guatemala’s Congress on fire in Guatemala City, Guatemala, on November 21, 2020.

 

   
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Resource: theguardian.com
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