Protesters in Guatemala City set parts of the parliament building on fire during demonstrations against the new state budget.
On Monday protests continued in Guatemala city after the demonstrators in Guatemala City vandalised Parliament and other government buildings on Saturday. Flames broke out from inside the Congress and windows were shattered as the groups with the Molotov cocktails tried to break into the government offices.
The Red Cross treated several people for smoke inhalation, said a spokesman for the organization. Almost 50 people were taken to hospital, one of whom was in mortal danger. The police arrested more than 37 demonstrators according to the official sources.
Hundreds of demonstrators had marched outside parliament to demand the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei. On the sidelines of the demonstration, participants sprayed graffiti critical of the government on the facade of the parliament building and hurled stones at the police, the police officers used tear gas. Another peaceful protest took place in front of the old government palace in the center of Guatemala's capital. The demonstrators waved the Guatemalan flag and shouted "Giammattei out" and "No more corruption".
Cuts in the social area despite record budget
The protest is directed against the controversial record budget for 2021 of almost 12.8 billion dollars (10.8 billion euros).It is an increase around a quarter compared to the previous year. The parliament, which is dominated by Giammattei's conservative party Vamos, had previously passed the budget quickly without public debate. The billion-dollar budget will increase the burden on the country with further debts. According to the International Monetary Fund, Guatemala's national debt has already increased from around 27 percent of economic output to more than 32 percent this year.
Most of the spending relate to infrastructure managed by private companies, not into decrease of the widespread poverty in Guatemala. About 59 per cent of the country's 17 million inhabitants are considered poor, around half of the children under five are undernourished.
The social groups including companies, social movements, educational organizations and the Catholic Church expressed their opposition to the budget. In addition to the new debt, they also criticized the planned cuts in the social and educational sector and the lack of transparency. In addition, critics accuse parliament of having passed the budget quickly while people struggled with the consequences of tropical storms Eta and Iota.
Vice President calls on head of state to resign
President Giammattei condemned the attack on parliament on Twitter and threatened legal consequences. "I affirm that you have the right to demonstrate under the law. However, we cannot allow vandalism of any public or private property," he wrote. "Whoever is proven to have been involved in these criminal acts will feel the full force of the law."
Shortly before the protests began, Vice-President Guillermo Castillo asked the President to step down with him "for the good of the country". There had already been several disputes between Castillo and Giammattei, including because of the corona measures.
The trained doctor Giammattei was only elected in August 2019. He is now under criticism for his pandemic management. The country's hospitals are struggling with supply bottlenecks. According to official information, more than 118,000 infections have been detected in Guatemala so far, and 4,074 people have died.