The Guatemalan population returned to the streets this Thursday (29) to demand the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei and, for the first time, of the Attorney General Consuelo Porras. At least 20 sections of road in various parts of the country were blocked during the protests, the main objective of which was to fight corruption.
Acts were recorded in 10 of the 22 departments – a form of administrative division of the country -, according to information from the local newspaper Prensa Libre. Many were run by indigenous people, who now make up 41% of the Guatemalan population.
The new wave of protests intensifies the history of popular delegitimization of the Giammattei government. In the final months of 2020, the administration of the president, a right-wing leader, was the target of massive protests, in which protesters even torched Congress.
Triggered by the approval of a billion dollar budget plan – the largest in the country’s history – that prioritized support for businesses and construction companies, to the detriment of areas such as health and education, the acts resulted in the subsequent abandonment of the plan. Popular discontent, however, has not subsided.
Already during these protests, the people of the Central American country lodged complaints against the Supreme Court of Justice, which had closed corruption cases against members of the highest government. The theme remained and guided the actions of this Thursday.
The last straw was the dismissal on the 23rd of prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval, considered a key figure in the fight against corruption in the country. The revocation was signed by Attorney General Consuelo Porras, whose name was on the protests’ agenda. Sandoval, who headed the Office of the Special Prosecutor Against Impunity, then decided to go into exile from the country, fearing reprisals after accusing the attorney general of obstructing investigations involving government officials and President Giammattei.
“We demand the resignation of Giammattei for all the arbitrariness he has committed and that of Ms. Porras for this opaque action to dismiss prosecutor Sandoval,” a protester told the France-Presse agency of the Totonicapán department.
The case led the United States to end its cooperation with the Guatemalan prosecution service, a partnership that has intensified under the government of Joe Biden, whose banners are the fight against corruption in Central America. In a statement, US State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter said that with the resignation of the prosecutor, the country “has lost confidence in the attorney general’s efforts to cooperate with the US government and fight corruption “.
In a statement addressed to the population, President Giammattei expressed concern about the withdrawal of American support. “I consider it necessary that communication with the prosecution does not stop and that we have the opportunity to discuss the reasons for this measure,” wrote the head of state.
In addition to the allegations against political corruption, there are accusations of Giammattei’s misconduct in tackling the pandemic. The country, with around 16.6 million inhabitants, has 358,798 cases of Covid-19 and 10,224 deaths from the disease.
Cases, which showed a slight decline at the start of the year, have started to grow again since the last half of May and have broken records. Over the past seven days, the country has recorded an average of 140 new cases per day per million population.
Vaccination, on the other hand, is slow. Only 1.76% of the Guatemalan target audience received both doses of the Covid vaccine, while 7% received the first, according to data compiled by Our World in Data.