The protesters demanded the departure of President Alejandro Giammattei. They hold him responsible for the parliament’s approval of the controversial budget that leads to a hefty national debt. According to the opposition, the money from the budget goes mainly to large infrastructure projects, and not to the fight against poverty and malnutrition in the country.
“Congress has allocated more money for their meals and nothing for poor people,” said 25-year-old student Diego Herrera.
Shortly before the demonstration, the country’s vice president, Guillermo Castillo, had urged President Giammattei to step down with him, for “the good of the country.” Giammattei took office in January, shortly before the corona pandemic struck. He imposed lockdown measures that put pressure on the already weak economy.
While most of the protesters gathered peacefully in the main square in the capital, others set fire to the historic convention building. When the fire broke out in parliament, the building was empty.
The police were able to disperse the protesters with tear gas and the fire brigade extinguished the fire.
The Guatemalan Red Cross has treated people who were intoxicated by smoke, a spokesman for the organization said. Several people have been injured in clashes with the police and at least 22 people have been arrested. A spokesman for one of the capital’s largest hospitals said 14 people have been treated for injuries.