Since November, a series of mass protests have shaken the streets of Guatemala’s capital. When Guatemala’s Congress and President Alejandro Giammattei released the details of their 2021 budget, people responded with anger and indignation. Over a week of protests and mass unrest, the budget bill was suspended.
Yet the protests continue. Indigenous Peoples, workers, students and peasants are not only waging a struggle against a rotten budget that attacks the poor. They are not only demanding that a corrupt and unaccountable government resign. They are fighting for a truly representative government — a Plurinational Constituent Assembly. Grassroots International, for our part, is sending our solidarity to our partners in the struggle.
These protests come on the heels of government inaction in the face of back-to-back Category-5 hurricanes that ripped across Guatemala and the region just a few months ago, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Over 5,000 people in Guatemala remain homeless from the hurricanes. But instead of addressing ordinary people’s needs, the government attempted to cut food support and increase legislators’ state benefits.
Not Just a Budget
Though the budget was the trigger for the mass protests, according Sandra Moran, the former director of our partner Sector de Mujeres and former congresswoman, there are deeper reasons for the mass anger. “Because, as it is said, it is not the budget; it is the system.”
Our partners have been front and center in the struggle in Guatemala. Sector de Mujeres and the Peasant Unity Committee (CUC) are both members of the Asamblea Social y Popular, a coalition of social movements, farmers and labor unions. Sector de Mujeres mobilized for November 25th’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women — one of the first mass protests against the budget. CUC has advocated for both peasants and Indigenous peoples in the fight for a new government.
As the protests continue, our partners are continuing to call out the government for its attempts to use repression, co-optation and provocateurs to undermine the movement. The National Police brutally has brutally attacked peaceful protesters since November 21st, including reportedly aiming for protesters’ eyes. At other times, the police have given groups free rein to infiltrate protests and vandalize property — later using this vandalism to arrest student leaders after the fact. The burning of Guatemala’s legislature is one such incident occurring under suspicious circumstances.
Below, read statements and programs from our partners and allies, including CUC, Sandra Moran, and the Asamblea Social y Popular. We will continue to share updates from and share our solidarity with our partners in the struggle.
CUC: We reject the 2021 budget aimed at corruption and the death of the Peoples
The recent emergency events have been a test for the government of Alejandro Giammattei and Guillermo Castillo, showing their indifference to the hundreds of deaths, the destruction of their livelihoods, loss of sources of support for families, and the collapse of the system. health and education.
The crisis has turned out to be a great business for the oligarchic sector, the banking sector, food suppliers, supermarkets, construction companies and other services provided by large State providers, companies grouped in the different chambers that make up Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial and Financial Associations (CACIF) and that have looted and controlled the state forever. As the President requests states of emergency to evade purchasing controls, the chambers are very comfortable receiving their payment for illicit financing.
These crises exacerbate the country’s structural problems. Poverty and hunger are at their worst level in decades. It goes back to levels prior to the signing of the Peace Accords in which there was no institutional framework focused on these issues. The closure of the Peace institutions is an example of this indifference and structural racism in Guatemala towards the needs raised by the peoples. The 2021 budget is only the tip of the iceberg of a series of corruption of this Congress managed by President Giammattei, it reflects the incompetence to administer the State, and the persistent desire to enrich itself illicitly. The unpunished State expands financially asphyxiating the Peace institutions, the Human Rights Ombudsman, and placing its political operators in fundamental instances such as the Public Ministry, the Supreme Court of Justice, the Constitutional Court, and the General Comptroller’s Office. of counts.
In the departments, the absence of a State that is really responsible for supporting the emergency has generated chaos and death, while local political actors such as deputies, mayors, and governors engage in acts of corruption to strengthen their power.
- That the recently approved 2021 budget be vetoed so that it is addressed in a transparent, democratic way and includes the needs of the communities most vulnerable to the recent situations of Covid 19 and the hurricanes.
- That the board of directors of the current congress resign and re-elect it and the purchase of votes for the approval of the budget is investigated.
- Purge the Executive, including the Center of Government and the Judicial body plagued with corruption
- We demand that Congress elect Magistrates to the Supreme Court of Justice and the Chambers of Appeals in accordance with what is ordered by the Constitutional Court.
- That the life and safety of the most vulnerable and at risk people who suffer from the current inclement of recent events be prioritized.
- That instances with social representation be established to monitor support for the urgent communities and stop party patronage.
Now more than ever, social mobilization is necessary for the defense of individual and collective human rights. We must speak out in the streets, in the squares, in the communities, in front of the housing of the responsible deputies in front of all spaces of social participation.
Sandra Moran: It is not the budget, it is the system
The situation of the majority of the population is terrible if to the existing poverty and extreme poverty we add the effects of the pandemic, unemployment, salaries between 200 to 300 dollars a month, 70% of informal work that lives off its sales with $10 a day, adding to it the effects of the floods that affected 1.8 million people. Economic studies say that 900,000 people who were in the lower middle class will be in poverty.
In other words, it is very difficult to struggle for what is necessary to live and then be confronted with corruption, impudence, racism, from politicians in Congress and in the executive branch. [We face] violence against women, children and adolescents and the weakening of the institutional supports to respond to the protection of life. The resources are there but the need is too.
That is why the approval in the early morning of the budget for 2021 that did not respond to the needs and if the corruption was the trigger. Now changes are required in the government, including the resignation of Giammattei, the resignation of the Board of Directors of Congress that expresses the corrupt pact, the resignation of the minister of the interior and the director of the National Police for the repression of 21Nov and the very strong demand for a Plurinational Constituent Assembly. Because it is said that it is not the budget, it is the system.
The protagonists are the youth, Indigenous Peoples and their authorities and the women participating in all organizations. It was won since the approved budget was shelved, now it is expected that the budget really responds to the needs of the population and entails care for those affected by the floods and the generation of actions to care for malnutrition, for example.
Asamblea Social y Popular: The violence comes from the state
The violence comes from the state, not from the People!!
As a social and popular Assembly, we reject the infiltration strategy that was evidenced in the demonstration of November 28, in the central plaza of the city of Guatemala. Strategy orchestrated by the government of A. Giammattei and the structure of the Ministry of the Interior to reject citizen protest, discourage participation in future mobilizations and victimize the National Civil Police (PNC)
We reject that the PNC, which in the presence of the OAS in the country, wanted to give a less repressive face to the population by attending the plaza without weapons, with blue headscarves and roses in hand. We make it clear that we don’t believe you. The violent and repressive actions of November 21 are not forgotten.
We reject the violent actions that the infiltrators committed against representatives of the Human Rights Ombudsman in their attempt to distort the responsible work of this instance. We also condemn the violent expressions of the patriarchy that were commented against the comrades, protesters and journalists, who were beaten and denigrated for being feminists.
We salute the courage shown by the youths, students, peaceful protesters and journalists, in stopping and documenting this attack against the right to free expression and demonstration of the population that expresses itself against the corrupt pact and its embedded mafias, generators of violence.
Despite these attempts to generate fear and division, let it be clear to you, we are not going to be silent. Flowers Guatemala!