Protesters set fire to Congress building in Guatemala

ANTIGUA, Guatemala – Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Guatemalan capital on Saturday, setting fire to the nation’s Congress building this week in a show of anger over a budget bill that cuts funding for health care and education .

Demonstration in Guatemala City, including peaceful march to central ground, a nation still recovering Back-to-back storm That Displaced thousands, Destroyed homes and Critical infrastructure. On Wednesday, the second storm in Guatemala’s high altitude and coastal areas caused heavy rains in the cities, the country’s Congress passed a budget that cuts spending on education and health in favor of the lawmakers’ stipend for food .

The bill also proposed funding to combat malnutrition and reduce funding for the judiciary, causing immediate outrage and protests across the country.

A group of protesters kicked and opened fire in the windows of the Congress building, sending flames out of the entrance, which social media videos showed. According to local news reports, police officers sprayed tear gas on the protesters and firefighters.

Guatemala President Alejandro Giamatetti on Twitter condemned the arson. “We cannot allow vandalism to public and private property,” he said Said in a tweet, Adding that those committing “criminal acts” will be “punished with the full force of the law.” In an attempt to appease the protesters, the president said in an earlier news release that he was reviewing possible amendments to the budget.

But frustration has also risen to the highest levels of his own cabinet with the leadership of Mr. JiaMatei.

On Friday, Vice President Guillermo Castillo said at a news conference that he had “little dialogue with the president” and offered to resign, but only if Mr. Giamatei stepped in with him. Mr. Gematetti has not responded to Mr. Castillo’s comments.

Protesters in the city of Antigua, about an hour’s drive west of the capital, said they were angered by the massive corruption that has long flowered at every step of their government. Last year, Former President Jimmy Morales removed UN-backed commission Who was aggressively investigating high-profile cases. The move was widely criticized for protecting officials accused of misbehaving with public office for their personal enrichment.

Maria Vega, a 42-year-old teacher, told her two sons in Antigua to protest, “I’m upset that the country is in debt and things don’t change.” “We have endured a lot in the last few months and the fact that health, education is not prioritized is a disappointment.”

In Guatemala City, photos were shown on social media after people indicated they had “neither a president, nor a congress” representing them and calling on all MPs to resign . On the central ground of the capital, a giant rat overturned with the President’s name. Religious groups, including the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, joined the Cacophony of Voices, demanding the budget’s Mr. Giamatei veto.

Antonio Duran, an engineer from Antigua, said, “The lack of clarity with which Congress approved the budget is the last straw for me.” “The corruption that governments have shown in Guatemala has affected generations of people – and this is something we need to stop.”

On Saturday night, the Guatemalan interior ministry published a list of the names of 33 people arrested during protests in Guatemala City, with six more in custody in Quetzaltenango, about 70 miles west.

Nick Wirtz reported from Mexico City to Antigua, Guatemala, and Natalie Kitteroff.

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