Guatemala suspends budget ratification after attack on congress

Demonstrators set fire to congressional building to protest against the 2021 budget plan approved by legislators.

The budget had been due to go to President Alejandro Giammattei to be approved, but on Saturday demonstrators set fire to congress in protest over the plan [Luis Echeverria/Reuters]

Guatemala has suspended the final ratification process for the 2021 budget after its approval by lawmakers sparked violent protests at the weekend and attacks on the legislature, the president of the Congress of Guatemala, Allan Rodriguez, has said.

Congressional leaders met on Sunday to discuss the budget, which foresaw cuts to spending on health, education and human rights, and an increase in public debt.

“In order to maintain the governability of the country and social peace, we’ve agreed to suspend the process of approving the revenue and spending plans for the 2021 budget,” Rodriguez said on congressional social media on Monday.

Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest to demand the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei, a day after protesters set fire to a part of the congress building [Luis Echeverria/Reuters]

The budget had been due to go to President Alejandro Giammattei to be signed off, but on Saturday demonstrators set fire to Congress in protest over the plan.

Instead, next year’s budget will be based on the 2020 spending plan. That puts it 8.2 billion quetzals ($1bn) above the sum that had been proposed for 2021, and includes additional spending to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The Central American country has recorded COVID-19 4,076 deaths and nearly 120,000 infections.

Guatemala’s President Alejandro Giammattei speaks during a news conference in Guatemala City, Guatemala [Luis Echeverria/Reuters]

Before the meeting, the Guatemalan government called on the Organization of American States (OAS) to help facilitate dialogue between political forces after warning that some minority groups were seeking to carry out a coup.

Guatemala is also coping with the effects of two major hurricanes that battered Central America during the past month, affecting more than 350,000 people in the country.

Source: Reuters