Protesters torch Guatemala’s Congress building amid unrest

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Hundreds of protesters broke into Guatemala’s Congress and burned a part of the building Saturday amid rising demonstrations in opposition to President Alejandro Giammattei and the legislature for approving a controversial price range that minimize instructional and well being spending.

The incident got here as about 10,000 individuals had been protesting in entrance of the National Palace in Guatemala City in opposition to corruption and the price range, which protesters say was negotiated and handed by legislators in secret whereas the Central American nation was distracted by the fallout of back-to-back hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 1,000 protesters had been demonstrating exterior the Congress building.

Video on social media confirmed flames taking pictures out a window within the legislative building. Police fired tear fuel at protestors, and a few dozen individuals had been reported injured.

“We are outraged by poverty, injustice, the way they have stolen the public’s money,” said psychology professor Rosa de Chavarría.

“I feel like the future is being stolen from us. We don’t see any changes, this cannot continue like this,” mentioned Mauricio Ramírez, a 20-year-old college scholar.

The quantity of injury to the building was unclear, however the flames initially seem to have affected legislative places of work, slightly than the principle corridor of congress. Protesters additionally set some bus stations on hearth.

Giammattei condemned the fires in his Twitter account Saturday.

“Anyone who’s confirmed to have participated within the legal acts can be punished with the total pressure of the regulation.” He wrote that 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 with various groups to present changes to the controversial budget.

Discontent had been building over the 2021 budget on social media and clashes erupted during demonstrations on Friday. Guatemalans were angered because lawmakers approved $65,000 to pay for meals for themselves, but cut funding for coronavirus patients and human rights agencies, among other things.

Protesters had been additionally upset by current strikes by the Supreme Court and Attorney General they noticed as makes an attempt to undermine the struggle in opposition to corruption.

Vice President Guillermo Castillo has provided to resign, telling Giammattei that each males ought to resign their positions “for the good of the country.” He also suggested vetoing the approved budget, firing government officials and attempting more outreach 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 the congress before dawn Wednesday. It also passed while the country was distracted by the fallout of hurricanes Eta and Iota, which brought torrential rains to much of Central America.

The Roman Catholic Church leadership in Guatemala also called on Giammattei to veto the budget Friday.

“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,” mentioned Jordan Rodas, the nation’s human rights prosecutor.

He mentioned the price range appeared to favor ministries which have traditionally been hotspots of corruption.

In 2015, mass streets protests in opposition to corruption led to the resignation of President Otto Pérez Molina, his vice chairman Roxana Baldetti, and members of his Cabinet. Both the previous president and Baldetti are in jail awaiting trials in numerous corruption circumstances.

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