HUNDREDS of protesters broke into Guatemala’s parliament and set fire to it after MPs and the President slashed health spending.
Shocking pictures show flames shooting out of windows after the building was stormed by the mob furious at President Alejandro Giammattei.
A demonstrator runs after setting fire to an office in the Congress building Credit: AFP or licensors
Riot police outside the burning building Credit: AP:Associated Press
The central American country has been devastated by coronavirus and back-to-back hurricanes and the president’s health and education cuts enraged the public.
Guatemalans were also angered because MPs approved $65,000 to pay for meals for themselves, but cut funding for coronavirus patients.
They say the budget was negotiated and passed by law makers while the Central American country was distracted by the fallout and the Covid pandemic.
The spending plan was negotiated in secret and approved by the congress before dawn on Wednesday.
It also passed while the country was distracted by the fallout of hurricanes Eta and Iota, which brought torrential rains to much of Central America.
Discontent had been building over the 2021 budget on social media and clashes erupted during demonstrations on Friday.
About 7,000 people were demonstrating in front of the National Palace in Guatemala City against the budget.
An official photo of a former Congress President is thrown out from the buildingCredit: AP:Associated Press
Firefighters tackling the blaze inside the buildingCredit: AFP or licensors
The charred remains of a sofa that had been set on fire Credit: AP:Associated Press
Security agents fired tear gas at protestors and there were people injured.
Giammattei condemned the fires in his Twitter account on Saturday saying: “Anyone who is proven to have participated in the criminal acts will be punished 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.
Vice President Guillermo Castillo has offered to resign, telling Giammattei that both men should resign their positions “for the good of the country”.
He also suggested vetoing the approved budget, firing government officials and attempting more outreach to various sectors around the country.
The Roman Catholic Church leadership in Guatemala also called on Giammattei to veto the budget Friday.
Giammattei, a 64-year-old doctor, swept to power in January promising to clean up corruption and fight organized crime.
But his presidency has been dominated by controversy over his handling of the coronavirus, particularly deficiencies in the country’s hospitals.
Demonstrators demanding the resignation of President Alejandro GiammatteiCredit: AFP or licensors
Smoke billowing out of the Congress buildingCredit: AP:Associated Press
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