Guatemala: Thousands Protest, Set Congress Ablaze

Cover photo credit, Getty Images

By Nélida Tello

Over the weekend, thousands of people across Guatemala protested the government’s new $13 billion budget. It is the largest budget in the country’s history, but despite its size the budget slashes health and educational funding. Protesters in Guatemala City, nearly burned the Congress down forcing the President of Congress, Alan Rodriguez, to recall the budget a day after the protest in an attempt to quell the anger of the masses.

The new budget also cut $23 million from the “Great National Crusade for Nutrition,” a program focused on combating malnutrition, while increasing government officials’ meal stipends.

The budgetary cuts caused nationwide outrage as millions have been hit by the current economic crisis and thousands displaced by hurricanes Eta and Iota.

In Guatemala City, capital of Guatemala, protests erupted in the city center, where protesters gathered outside of the State Congress. Gasoline was poured on the outside of the building and different slogans were spray painted on the building reading, “thieves,” “murders,” and “rats”.

Protesters made their way into the building by breaking windows and forcing the doors open. Once inside, the building was set on fire. Furniture was burned and confiscated. Other actions taken, included burning bus stops and defacing reactionary statues throughout the city.

One speaker at the protest explained that the government sustained the misery of the people and that pacifism would no longer be used. Instead, the government and its institutions would be met with the anger of the people.

State forces unleashed repression against protesters. In Guatemala City, rubber bullets were fired at protesters’ heads leaving two blind in one eye and 14 injured. By the end of the protest, 43 arrests had been made. In Quetzaltenango, west of Guatemala City, six were arrested.

No amount of edits to the budget by the Old State can serve the interests of the people, the people will continue to face repression and hunger under the rule of the ruling class. Just as the people set fire to the congress, the budgets of the ruling class will also go up in flames as the people wield revolutionary violence against class enemies.

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