Guatemala: Congress on fire after protesters storm building

Remigio Civitarese
Novembre 22, 2020

Hundreds of Guatemalans partly burned the Congress building on Saturday in a protest demanding the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei, following the passage of a budget that has sparked outrage in the impoverished Central American nation.

Video on social media showed flames shooting out of a window in the legislative building.

Carrying the national flag and banners that said "No more corruption", "Giammattei out" and "They messed with the wrong generation", the protesters filled the central square in Guatemala City in front of the old palace.

"I feel like the future is being stolen from us", Mauricio Ramírez, a 20-year-old university student, said.

Protesters also set some bus stations on fire.

The protesters are opposed to a budget which was approved by Congress on Wednesday night. "But we can not allow vandalism of public or private property", he posted.

Mr Giammattei condemned the fires on his Twitter account on Saturday, writing: "Anyone who is proven to have participated in the criminal acts will be punished with the full force of the law".

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

A protester waves a Guatemalan flag as a part of the Congress building burns in the background
A protester waves a national flag as a part of the Guatemalan Congress building burns in the background

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

Another peaceful protest, also urging Dr Giammattei to resign, took place in front of the old government palace in the historic centre of the capital, not far from Congress.

He also suggested vetoing the approved budget, firing government officials and attempting more outreach to various sectors around the country.

Another key complaints is that the budget was passed by parliament while the rest of the country was distracted by the after-effects of two damaging storms, Eta and Iota.

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

And Mr Castillo has said he would not resign alone.

He said the budget appeared to favour ministries that had historically been hotspots of corruption.

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

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