Revolutionaries set fire to Congress in Guatemala on Saturday after a neoliberal budget bill sparked an uprising across the country.
Thousands of people took to city and town squares around Guatemala calling for the overthrow of the right wing regime of Alejandro Giammattei, and an end to the capitalist policies that enrich the economic and political elite at expense of poor and indigenous people.
“It doesn’t matter which government – they’re all the same,” said one demonstrator.
Guatemala’s Congress passed the budget bill Tuesday night, increasing lawmakers’ own stipends for meals and other expenses and cutting $25m destined to combat malnutrition, igniting nationwide outrage. A subsequent amendment that restored those funds did nothing to quell peoples’ anger.
Movements of Indigenous survivors of genocide and other atrocities during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war also have pointed out that the budget doesn’t include funding for a promised peace commission to replace 3 institutions the president shut down.
Guatemala’s civil war began with a US-backed coup in 1954, installing the right wing regime of Carlos Castillo Armas, followed by successive right wing dictatorships. The US continued to support counterinsurgency and train right wing paramilitary groups in Guatemala, while an estimated 200,000 people were killed or disappeared by military forces and right wing death squads.
The close relationship between the right wing in Guatemala and the US continues with the current regime, as Trump withdrew support for an anti-corruption commission, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, in exchange for Guatemala’s support for Trump’s fascist immigration and Middle East policies.
While Congress passed the budget at breakneck speed in the capital, rains from Tropical Storm Iota were flooding regions already devastated when Hurricane Eta swept through Central America earlier this month.
Thousands remain in shelters, some of which have had confirmed cases of COVID-19.
More than 100 Indigenous villagers were buried in landslides in several regions after the storm, and subsistence crops were destroyed across vast swathes of the country.
Guatemala has one of the world’s highest rates of chronic malnutrition and the hurricanes have exacerbated hunger; for many, the funding cut affecting malnutrition was the last straw.
Militants climbed the building, broke down the entrance door, kicked in windows, and threw in incendiary devices.
Flames and smoke shot out of the windows for several minutes as militants destroyed framed photographs of politicians.