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Guatemala Shelves Budget After Protesters Set Parliament On Fire

Guatemala’s Congress on Monday shelved a controversial budget that triggered protests leading to the parliament building being set on fire. “To maintain the governability of the country and social peace, we have agreed to suspend the budget process,’’ parliament speaker Allan Rodriguez said in a video message, accompanied by other legislators. The draft budget had been criticised over cuts in the social and educational sectors and high levels of debt, and was also accused of a lack of transparency.

Rodriguez denied the accusations and claimed that the protests had been planned since late October to “break the constitutional order.’’ He added that the budget would no longer be sent to President Alejandro Giammattei for final approval. The government said on Sunday that there had been an attempt to “force a real coup d’état” and called for an intervention by the Organisation of American States (OAS), which backed its call for dialogue and condemned acts of violence.

People demonstrating against the budget and against Giammattei broke into the parliament building on Saturday and set part of it ablaze. Protesters also stoned police, who fired tear gas into the crowd. At least 14 people were injured and 37 arrested.

Human rights ombudsman Jordan Rodas accused the security forces of an excessive use of force. Hundreds of people marched against the budget also on Sunday. Protests have taken place in several cities. The budget for the coming year had been criticised by numerous social groups, ranging from entrepreneurs to social movements, and the education sector to the Catholic Church. NAN

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