One axis of the fight is the national budget, rejected by the population because it takes funds away from Education and gives them to Housing, a sector associated with corruption.
Just ten months after taking power in Guatemala, the different visions of the future for the country have opened a gap between the president, Alejandro Giammattei, and his vice, Guillermo Castillo, who asked for the joint resignation of both on Friday. The last episode of that division took place on Saturday night, with the burning of sectors of Congress by radicalized groups in a popular protest.
The break between Giammattei and Castillo is not irreversible in the words of the vice president himself, but it does raise doubts about the future of the Government after taking office less than a year ago, on January 14, 2020.
The differences between officials have been widening and the dialogue between the two is null, as the Castle himself has hinted in public appearances.
The joint resignation proposal raised by Castillo on Friday at a press conference originated in the state budget for 2021 approved by Congress early Wednesday morning, and endorsed by Giammattei on Friday despite popular discontent, but it is only the last disagreement of several during the year.
The climax came in the streets on Saturday night when a thousand exalted people entered and burned part of the Congress facilities amid protests against the president and the legislature for the approval of the national budget that reduced funds for education and health.
The violent events took place at a time when some 7,000 people demonstrated in front of the National Palace as part of a protest called for the afternoon and which attracted hundreds of participants early.
The protest was also against the Supreme Court of Justice for processing the withdrawal of immunity to constitutional magistrates, who with their rulings have stopped several attempts against corruption and impunity.
What filled the patience of the Guatemalan citizens was the handling that was given to the budget discussion in Congress, which ended up approving some 12.7 billion dollars early Wednesday morning while the population slept.
The budget approved by 116 of 160 deputies in Congress, among pro-government deputies and allies, reduced money on issues for primary care for Covid patients, education, the fight for human rights, attention to nutrition, among others. In contrast, it strengthened ministries such as Infrastructure and Housing that in previous governments have been the spoils of corruption.
The vice president kept a low profile during the start of the government, but his voice has grown over the months, especially for show your opposition and distance to certain controversial decisions of Giammattei.
The murmurs about the relationship between president and vice president took hold on July 31 when the Supreme Court of Justice, suddenly, endorsed an impeachment process against Castillo for an alleged illegal appointment in a public institution, amid Giammattei’s silence.
The problems exploded publicly on September 29 after the leak of a digital conversation in which Castillo urged Giammattei to “be serious” and comply with “being correct”, as he promised in the campaign.
“It is time that you acted like a true statesman (…) This is not the different Guatemala that we promised so much in the campaign. He offered not to be perfect but he was correct. Fulfill it,” Castillo argued in the Government Cabinet chat group.
The president responded that same day on a local station, in which he legally threatened Castillo for allegedly spreading the private conversation. At the same time, he criticized the vice president’s work, stating that the official tasks he performs are unknown.
“If Mr. (Castillo) has differences, let him come to the Council of Ministers and expose them. But he should not grab his chat and send him to a newspaper to try to make himself a victim of something that he is not a victim,” said Giammattei angered that 29 of September.