Parliament burned down during demonstrations against power

In front of the burning parliament, a protester waves the Guatemalan flag, November 21, 2020. – Oliver De Ros

Anger is brewing in Guatemala, where the executive faces a real revolt. Hundreds of Guatemalans set fire to parliament on Saturday to protest against the 2021 budget and above all to demand the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei. Gigantic flames ravaged the interior of the building, the facade of which was studded with anti-government graffiti.

A historic budget

The group that set fire to the building acted as a peaceful demonstration took place in the historic center of the capital, to demand the resignation of the head of state, a 64-year-old doctor in power only since January. The demonstrators waved banners adorned with the slogans “more corruption” or “Giammattei out”. They accuse him in particular of having given his approval to the controversial budget of nearly 13 billion dollars, the largest in the history of the country.

Disgruntled Guatemalans also denounce the opacity of resources to deal with the coronavirus pandemic or the creation of a post of super-minister assigned to a young person close to the president. On the night of Friday to Saturday, the Vice President of Guatemala himself, Guillermo Castillo, had urged President Giammattei to resign with him. “For the good of the country, I asked him that we present our resignation together,” he said in a message to the nation, circulated through social media and sent. Guillermo Castillo also once again admitted not having a good relationship with the head of state.

Malnutrition infantile

The parliament, made up mostly of members of the ruling party and related parties, approved a highly controversial budget this week. However, economic entities and analysts have warned against the risk that a third of the budget will be financed by debt, as proposed. In addition, most of the funds are intended for infrastructure managed by entrepreneurs and neglect the fight against child poverty and malnutrition, which has sparked protests. The subject is however crucial in the country. Out of nearly 17 million inhabitants, more than 59% of the population lives in poverty and child malnutrition affects almost half of children under five.

Finally, Congress approved loans of more than $ 3.8 billion to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, although less than 15% of those resources have been invested. The management of the health crisis has been severely criticized by political opponents and sectors of society, denouncing in particular deficiencies in hospitals. According to official data, the country has recorded 11.8417 cases of contamination and 4,074 deaths from Covid-19.

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