Antigua: Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Guatemala’s capital, setting fire to the nation’s parliamentary building in a show of anger over a budget bill passed this past week that cut funding for health care and education.
The demonstrations in Guatemala City, which also included peaceful marches in the central plaza, rocked a nation still recovering from back-to-back hurricanes that displaced thousands of people, destroyed homes and obliterated infrastructure. As heavy rains brought on by the second storm pummeled impoverished towns in Guatemala’s highlands and coastal regions on Wednesday, the country’s Congress passed a budget that cut spending on education and health in favour of increasing lawmakers’ meal stipends.
The bill, which also proposed gutting funding to combat malnutrition and slashed funding for the judiciary, set off outrage and led to demonstrations across the country.
One group of protesters kicked in the windows of the Congress building and set a fire that sent flames billowing out of the entrance, social media videos showed. Police officers sprayed tear gas at demonstrators and firefighters quickly put the blaze out, according to local news reports.