Congress building set on fire as violence erupts in Guatemala

Clay Curtis
November 23, 2020

The protests in Guatemala City, which included peaceful marches in the central plaza, rocked a nation still recovering from back-to-back hurricanes that displaced thousands of people, destroyed homes and obliterated critical infrastructure.

On Saturday night, some protesters approached the headquarters of the Legislative Palace, where they hurled objects with fire into the offices of the Congress building, reports Xinhua news agency.

Hundreds of demonstrators have broken into Guatemala's Congress and burned part of the building amid growing anger over the approval of a controversial budget that cut educational and health spending.

A spokeswoman for San Juan de Dios General Hospital, one of the capital's biggest hospitals, said it was treating 14 people for multiple injuries and tear gas inhalation, after clashes with police in riot gear who used force to disperse the crowds.

A man walks past an office of the Congress building set on fire by demonstrators during a protest demanding the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei, in Guatemala City, Guatemala November 21, 2020.

Protesters held signs saying they had "neither a president, nor a Congress" representing them and calling on all lawmakers to resign, photos on social media showed.

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The protesters are now pressing for President Alejandro Giammattei to resign.

At 99.7 billion quetzals (about $12.9 billion), the budget increased public debt while cutting funding for healthcare, education, human rights and the justice system, outraging people from students to business leaders in a year marked by the economic crisis of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Twitter, President Alejandro Giammattei denounced the arson, saying: "We can not permit public and private property to be vandalised".

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

Vice president Guillermo Castillo said he called on Giammattei on Friday to resign with him. The president has not publicly responded to Castillo's comments. Castillo said he would not resign unless Giammattei does.

The spending plan was negotiated in secret and approved by the congress before dawn Wednesday.

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