Hundreds were protesting in front Guatemala The legislature’s decision to approve the controversial budget, which cut spending on education and health care, filled the country’s congressional building on Saturday, setting part of it on fire.
The video on social media showed large flames coming out of the window of the legislature building in Guatemala City as police used tear gas on protesters.
“We are outraged by the poverty, the injustice, the way they have stolen people’s money,” Rosa de Chavaria, a professor of psychology, told the Associated Press.
Dissatisfaction with the 2021 budget erupted on social media and clashes erupted during demonstrations on Friday. Guatemalans were furious because legislators allowed ,000 65,000 to pay for meals for themselves, but cut funding for coronavirus patients and human rights agencies.
Protesting against corruption and about 10,000 people took to the streets in front of the National Palace during the day on Saturday and their so-called budget was secretly negotiated by legislators.
The spending plan was approved before dawn on Wednesday. It also passed when the country was distracted by hurricanes Eta and Iota, causing torrential rains in most parts of Central America.
“I think the future is being stolen from us. We don’t see any change, this can’t continue like this,” said Mauricio Ramrez, a 20-year-old university student.
Initially, the fire in the Congress building affected the offices of the MLAs instead of the main hall of the Congress. Protesters also set fire to several bus stations.
President Alejandro Giamatte has condemned the blaze on Twitter.
“Those found to have participated in criminal acts will be punished with full force of law.” He wrote that he defended the people’s right to protest, “but we cannot allow people to sabotage public or private property.”
Opponents were also outraged by the recent move, which was seen as an attempt by the country’s Supreme Court and Attorney General to weaken the fight against corruption.
Vice President Guillermo Castillo has offered to resign, saying “both men should resign for the good of the country.” Castillo also suggested vetoing the approved budget, dismissing government officials and trying to make more contact in various areas across the country.
Castillo said he would not resign alone.
Leaders of the Catholic Church in Guatemala on Friday also called on Giamtei to veto the budget.
“This is a misleading blow to the people because Guatemala was in the midst of natural disasters, government corruption, signs of globalization in humanitarian aid,” said Jordan Rhodes, the country’s human rights lawyer.
He said the budget favored ministries that have historically been centers of corruption.
The Associated Press contributes to this report.
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