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Escalation in Guatemala: Protesters set fire to parliament buildings

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Hundreds of people in Guatemala march in front of parliament on Saturday, some break into the building and start fires. The cause of their anger is the government’s new record budget. He imposes heavy debts on the people.

Protesters in Guatemala City set parts of Congress on fire during protests against the 2021 budget. A group broke into the building in the historic center of the city on Saturday and set fire to it. The television showed how flames came out of a window of the parliament. The fire brigade later brought the fire under control, the police said. On the fringes of the largely peaceful demonstration, demonstrators hurled stones at the police, and officials fired tear gas into the crowd.

“There is a right to demonstrate,” wrote President Alejandro Giammattei on Twitter. “But we cannot allow public or private property to be destroyed. Anyone who engages in these criminal acts will face the full severity of the law.”

The demonstrators called on the head of state to veto the budget. The budget for the coming year was last approved by the MPs in a fast-track procedure without public debate. The draft met with rejection from numerous social groups from entrepreneurs to social movements and the education sector to the Catholic Church. The high new debts, cuts in the social and educational sector and lack of transparency were criticized. Critics accused the Congress of having passed the budget quickly while the people in the Central American country had to struggle with the consequences of the devastating tropical storms “Eta” and “Iota”. In addition, almost 60 percent of Guatemala’s 17 million inhabitants live in poverty, and around half of the children under five are malnourished.

The trained doctor Giamattei is also under criticism for his corona management. The hospitals of the Central American country are struggling with supply bottlenecks. According to official information, 118,417 corona infections have been detected in Guatemala so far, 4074 infected people have died.

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