Several pro-democracy organizations have called this Sunday a new protest in the capital of Guatemala to demand the resignation of the country’s president, Alejandro Giammattei. It is the response to the harsh repression against the massive demonstration held the previous day, which ended with an assault on Congress, in which some rooms were burned. As a consequence, 37 citizens were arrested and at least 22 were injured by the excessive use of force.
Saturday’s demonstration in Guatemala City had aftershocks in cities in the interior of the country and was driven by the approval of the largest budget in the history of this country of 99.7 billion quetzals (about 10.8 billion euros). An increase of almost 25% on this year’s accounts, which will be financed with a notable increase in debt and without the destination of many of its items being clearly defined. A ruse that has already been used to combat covid-19 and that allowed those millions to simply “disappear”, as many of the banners displayed by the protesters denounced: “Giammattei, where is the money?” The president took office last January.
From the details that are known about the budget, it is known that there are vital items for the population, such as hospital equipment or education, whose budget has been frozen, as well as funds destined to combat child malnutrition and poverty, while others, aimed at the instances that exercise counter-power to the Executive, such as the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office or the Constitutional Court, have been considerably reduced.
This is in a country in which 59.3% of the population of almost 17 million inhabitants live in poverty and child malnutrition affects almost half of children under five years of age. In addition, just this month the passage of two hurricanes has hit the country hard, causing some 60 deaths and dozens of missing people and destroying the crops that sustain thousands of families.
On the contrary, the budget for infrastructures in concessions for the private sector grew considerably, something that historically allowed the enrichment of small groups close to the rulers.
The way in which the budget was approved on Friday, in a single parliamentary session and without the 160 deputies having time to read its content, prompted the vice president, Guillermo Castillo, to ask the president on Friday afternoon to veto the budget for Hours later, they demanded Giammattei to resign and leave the country in the hands of a “board of notables.”
This provoked the indignation and revolt of the citizens against what in Guatemala is known as “the corrupt pact”, which brings together some politicians, an ultra-conservative sector of the bosses, the military and drug trafficking mafias.
“Public institutions are perverted, forcing citizens to cry out in the streets for their rescue,” explained analyst Luis Linares, from Asies, the oldest and most prestigious think tank in Guatemala, to add that the country attends a fractured government. The two highest authorities emanated from the polls are in a political divorce, something that seriously compromises governance, stressed the expert.
Along these lines, the internationalist Gabriel Orellana recalled a history of disagreements as serious as the current one between the two most responsible for the political leadership of the country, which, at the time, were resolved civilly. “It is very unfortunate that this is happening. It is important that reason prevail, both of those involved and of the citizens, because it can polarize us, “he said.
Orellana draws similarities with Bolivia regarding the awareness of indigenous peoples, the majority sector and secularly ignored by the country’s “white” minority. “Unpredictable consequences of that awareness can be expected for now,” he warns.
For the opposition deputy Aldo Dávila, Guatemala urgently needs “to find a way out in which the interest of the citizenry prevails over any other”, something that has not exactly been the mark of the current government.