Guatemala City (AP): Hundreds of protesters stormed Guatemala Congress and set fire to part of a building amid mounting protests against President Alejandro Giamatte and the legislature for approving a controversial budget that cuts education and health care spending.
The incident took place as 7,000 people protested in front of the national palace in Guatemala City against corruption and the budget. Protesters say the law was passed in secret by lawmakers. Back hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Central American country.
The video on social media showed the window of the assembly building catching fire. Police used tear gas against pratisedhakkarkk.
“I think the future is being stolen from us,” he said. We don’t see any change, it can’t continue like this, “said Mauricio Rameres, a 20-year-old university student.
The extent of the damage to the building is not clear, but the fire initially appears to have affected legislature offices more than the main hall of Congress. Protesters also set fire to some bus stations.
Giamati on Saturday condemned the fire on his Twitter account.
“Anyone found to be involved in criminal activities will be punished with the full force of the law.” He wrote that he defended the right of the people to protest, “but we cannot allow people to destroy public or private property.”
The president said he was in talks with various groups to present changes to the controversial budget.
Dissatisfaction with the 2021 budget was high on social media. Guatemalans are outraged that lawmakers have agreed to pay $ 65,000 for self-feeding, but cut funding for corona virus patients and human rights agencies.
The recent moves by the Supreme Court and the Attorney General in an attempt to weaken the fight against corruption have upset protesters.
Vice President Guillermo Castillo has promised to resign, and both have told Giamatte to resign “for the good of the country.” He suggested vetoing the approved budget, expelling government officials and making more efforts in various sectors of the country.
Giamatte did not respond publicly to the proposal, and Castillo did not share the president’s response. Castillo said he would not resign alone.
The spending plan was discussed in secret and approved by Congress before Wednesday morning. Most parts of Central America were devastated by Hurricane Eta and Iota.
The leadership of the Roman Catholic Church in Guatemala also asked Giotti to veto the budget on Friday.
“It was a huge blow to the people because Guatemala was in the midst of a natural disaster. There are signs of government corruption and there are clients in humanitarian aid,” said Jordan Rodas, the country’s human rights prosecutor.
He said the budget favors ministries that have historically been the subject of corruption.
In 2015, mass street protests against corruption led to the resignation of President Otto Perez Molina, his vice president Roxana Baldetti and members of the cabinet. The former president and Baldwin are in jail awaiting trial in various corruption cases.