Hundreds of protesters have broken into Guatemala’s Congress and burned part of the building amid growing demonstrations against President Alejandro Giammattei and the legislature for approving a budget that cut educational and health spending
Video on social media showed flames shooting out a window in the legislative building. According to media reports, security agents fired tear gas at protestors and there were people injured.
Giammattei condemned the fires in his Twitter account Saturday.
“Anyone who is proven to have participated in the criminal acts will be punished with the full force of the law.” He wrote that he defended people’s right to protest, “but neither can we allow people to vandalize public or private property.”
The president said he had been meeting with various groups to present changes to the controversial budget.
Vice President Guillermo Castillo has offered to resign, telling Giammattei that both men should resign their positions “for the good of the country.” He also suggested vetoing the approved budget, firing government officials and attempting more outreach to various sectors around the country.
Giammattei had not responded publicly to that proposal and Castillo did not share the president’s reaction to his proposal. Castillo said he would not resign alone.
The Roman Catholic Church leadership in Guatemala also called on Giammattei to veto the budget Friday.
“It was a devious blow to the people because Guatemala was between natural disasters, there are signs of government corruption, clientelism in the humanitarian aid,” said Jordan Rodas, the country’s human rights prosecutor.
He said the budget appeared to favor ministries that have historically been hotspots of corruption.