© Reuters. Mayan indigenous folks block a highway as they participate in a protest demanding the resignation of Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei and Lawyer Common Maria Porras, in San Cristobal Totonicapan, Guatemala July 29, 2021. REUTERS/Luis Echeverria
By Sofia Menchu
GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) -Hundreds of Guatemalans took to the streets in protest on Thursday, lighting fires and blocking roads throughout the Central American nation, to demand the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei after the firing of a widely known anti-corruption prosecutor.
The protests have gained momentum since Guatemala’s Lawyer Common Maria Porras final week eliminated anti-graft fighter Juan Francisco Sandoval as head of the Particular Prosecutor’s Workplace In opposition to Impunity (FECI), a transfer that drew condemnation from Washington.
Sandoval, who fled Guatemala final weekend, stated he was fired after the legal professional normal prevented him from making an attempt to analyze corruption instances with hyperlinks to Giammattei. The president has denied being concerned in corruption.
In an interview with a neighborhood tv channel final weekend, Porras stated she at all times acted with transparency. “(Sandoval) exercised selective justice since he tried to prosecute folks of reverse ideology,” she stated.
In Guatemala Metropolis, a crowd of hundreds of individuals marched from the presidential palace to the legal professional normal’s workplace holding indicators that stated “Giammattei, Resign.”
Demonstrators set fireplace to tires and threw paint over police deployed to guard authorities buildings.
“In the present day we’re in entrance of the presidential palace however a president doesn’t reside right here: a traitor does,” stated Samuel Pérez, an opposition lawmaker who joined protesters.
By 5pm native time (2100 GMT) the protester numbers started to dwindle, whereas the remaining demonstrators have been peacefully camped out in entrance of the Nationwide Palace of Tradition, an imposing museum constructing that additionally homes a few of the workplaces of the president.
The demonstrations in Guatemala Metropolis have been a part of a nationwide strike known as by indigenous leaders, social teams and pupil organizations to demand the resignations of Giammattei and Porras.
The newest protests spotlight rising inside frustrations in Guatemala over corruption and the dismantling of judicial independence. In 2015, waves of such anti-corruption demonstrations introduced in regards to the downfall of then-president Otto Perez Molina.
On Thursday, throughout the impoverished nation of 17 million folks, protesters blocked site visitors at main intersections and marched with banners calling for the departure of the president, elected two years in the past.
“We’re right here to inform the president that we don’t acknowledge him as president as a result of he not represents the pursuits of our nation,” stated Martín Toc, an indigenous chief from Totonicapán, in western Guatemala.
Since he fled, Sandoval has informed varied media retailers that the president was linked to an incident final yr, the place 122 million quetzals, equal to over $15 million, have been discovered stuffed in suitcases in the home of a former infrastructure minister.
Sandoval additionally stated he was investigating how unidentified businessmen from Russia had allegedly delivered luggage of money to the president in a gathering at his home, an occasion, he stated, which was in a roundabout way linked to the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine.
Giammattei this week strongly denied all of the claims, and added that the allegations involving the businessmen have been “false feedback bordering on slander and defamation.”
U.S. SUSPENDS COOPERATION
The USA, which strongly condemned Sandoval’s dismissal, stated on Tuesday it was pausing some cooperation with Guatemala’s legal professional normal, because it tries to use stress on Central American governments to finish impunity.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has made the struggle towards corruption a central plank of its technique in direction of the area because it goals to handle the foundation causes of unlawful migration to the US, which has elevated this yr.
In an announcement shared on Twitter, Giammettei stated on Thursday that the U.S. choice to droop help to the legal professional normal was “counterproductive” within the struggle towards organized crime and corruption.
U.S. Particular Envoy for the Northern Triangle Ricardo Zuniga, when requested about Giammattei’s feedback, informed reporters in Washington that Sandoval’s dismissal had raised severe questions Guatemala’s dedication to combating graft.
“We made very clear in our response that we had misplaced confidence within the legal professional normal,” he stated.
Whereas police guarding authorities buildings confronted off with protesters within the capital, no incidents of violence have been reported.
Thursday’s demonstrations got here after a whole lot of Guatemalans protested exterior the presidential palace on Saturday after Sandoval’s firing.
Giammattei’s authorities additionally confronted protests final November when a bunch of demonstrators set fireplace to the Congress constructing over cuts to training and well being within the 2021 finances. Days later, Congress retracted the finances.