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Nation's Congress Building Is Set Ablaze

Protesters oppose budget cuts in Guatemala
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 21, 2020 4:40 PM CST

(Newser) – Hundreds of protesters broke into Guatemala's Congress and burned part of the building Saturday amid growing demonstrations against President Alejandro Giammattei and the legislature for approving a budget that cut educational and health spending, the AP reports. The protest came as about 7,000 people were demonstrating in front of the National Palace in Guatemala City against the budget, which protesters say was negotiated and passed by legislators in secret while the Central American country was distracted by the fallout of back-to-back hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.

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Giammattei condemned the fires in his Twitter account Saturday and threatened to punish arsonists "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. Discontent had been building over the 2021 budget on social media and clashes erupted during demonstrations on Friday. Guatemalans were angered because lawmakers approved $65,000 to pay for meals for themselves, but cut funding for coronavirus patients and human rights agencies. Vice President Guillermo Castillo has offered to resign, telling Giammattei that both men should resign their positions "for the good of the country."

(Read more Guatemala stories.)

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