Socialist Worker

‘The people have had it,’ say protesters in Guatemala

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2732

Guatemalan president Alejandro Giammattei has refused to resign

Guatemalan president Alejandro Giammattei has refused to resign (Pic: Carlos Sebastián/Wikimedia commons)


Angry protesters took to the streets in Guatemala, Central America, last week.

They set light to the Congress building after it approved a budget that favoured big business and the rich but cut education and health services.

Around 10,000 people ­demonstrated in front of the national palace in Guatemala City on Saturday. Protesters called on the president to veto the budget.

They also demanded ­prosecution of government officials for corruption.

“I feel like the future is being stolen from us. We don’t see any changes—this cannot continue like this,” said Mauricio Ramírez, a 20 year old university student.

Anger has been building amongst Guatemalans at the ­rampant inequality highlighted during coronavirus.

One particularly stark example was that legislators had approved over £50,000 for their meals while cutting funding to tackle the pandemic.

The budget was voted through at dawn by congress on Tuesday last week. Many protesters believed that this was an attempt to pass it at a time when it would be less noticed.

Some said they thought the ­government had hoped Hurricane Eta and Covid-19 would act as a distraction.

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One protester told the AFP news agency, “Guatemala cries with blood—the people have had it. We have been living while getting stomped for over 200 years.”

Others denounced the lack of economic aid during the pandemic. Karla Figueroa who is a professional translator told Al Jazeera, “We’re tired of corruption. It doesn’t matter which government— they’re all the same.”

Guatemala currently has one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world. But this didn’t stop congress cutting £18 million aid that had been promised to combat it.

Hurricane Eta has swept through Central America. The storm has left thousands of mainly indigenous Guatemalans displaced and living in temporary shelters. And now there are reports that coronavirus has come to these shelters.

Since the beginning of the ­pandemic the government has been criticised for its handling of the coronavirus.

Thousands of Guatemalans have lost their jobs and the infrastructure—especially in rural areas—to combat the spread of the virus is virtually nonexistent.

The government used police special forces to attack protesters. But the authorities are shaken.

After president Alejandro Giammattei ignored calls to veto the budget, vice president Guillermo Castillo called on him to resign together.

Protests in Guatemala show part of a trend in many parts of the world.

Workers and the poor ­everywhere are confronting the corruption of their governments and their fatal mishandling of the virus.


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