Crisis in Guatemala: budget approval suspended after wave of violent protests

It was announced by the president of Congress after a weekend of fury. The law contemplated wide cuts in sanitary subjects.

The Guatemalan Congress suspended early this Monday a controversial budget for next year, whose approval unleashed protests in which protesters they set fire the seat of Parliament on Saturday, informed the president of the organization, the official Allan Rodríguez.

“In order to maintain the governability of the country and social peace, we have agreed to suspend the processing of the budget for income and expenses of the State and the Legislative Organ 2021,” said the parliamentarian in a message to the nation through the Congress channel.

However, the president of Congress did not refer to the changes that will be made to the budget to be sent to the president of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, before December, as provided by law.

The opposition deputy, Lucrecia Hernández Mack, warned in a message on her social networks that legally “neither the Board of Directors (of Congress) nor its blocs have the power to file a law approved by the plenary session” and urged the population to do not be fooled by the parliamentary authorities.

The approval of the budget last Wednesday, at 5:30 a.m., caused an unrest in the population that resulted in the demonstrations on Saturday, called during the week to express rejection of Congress.

Said budget, approved by 115 of the 160 legislators under strict security measures with closure of several streets around, has been described as “opaque” by opposition legislators who indicated that they never had access to the document.

In addition, according to experts, the budget presents large reductions for health and human rights issues.

The premises of Parliament were partially burned on Saturday by hundreds of hooded protesters who stormed Congress and set fire to it with torches.

After ten minutes of chaos in which the protesters destroyed part of the facilities, the security forces cleaned up the area and the relief forces put out the fire.

In parallel, at the same time less than a kilometer away, some 10,000 Guatemalans peacefully demonstrated against Giammattei and the Parliament in front of the National Palace of Culture, the seat of the Government.

This Sunday, the opposition deputy Orlando Blanco said he suspects that there were “infiltrators”, probably gang members, in the demonstrations on Saturday against the government and that they could be involved in the burning of Congress.

Blanco also indicated that it is possible the participation in the fire of “internal personnel” of the same Guatemalan Parliament, located in the center of the country’s capital.

“We know about the Congress. This act would not have been perpetrated without the participation of internal Congress personnel,” argued Blanco, from the political group Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza (UNE).

Giammattei appeared publicly for the last time on Friday afternoon and since then he has only referred to the incidents on Saturday in a message on social networks in which he indicated that “you have the right to demonstrate according to the law” but “we will not be able to allow what vandalize with public or private property “.

However, the president has endorsed at all times the budget as well as its bench, the political group Vamos, with a majority in Congress through alliances.

The political crisis became even bigger for Giammattei when his vice president, Guillermo Castillo, asked him at a press conference on Friday to resign together to “oxygenate” Guatemala since “the country is not feeling well.”



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