Corruption in Guatemala Rules Over Health, Education, and Malnutrition
By: Suzann Abraham
Earlier this week, Guatemalan Congress passed a bill that cut funding for education and health to increase stipends for politicians. It would cut funds for the ongoing malnutrition issue in Guatemala, as well as the funding for the judiciary. Guatemala has one of the highest rates of chronic malnutrition in the world and this legislation removed $25 million from the funds designated to improve nutritional problems of the public. In addition to that, the aftermath of multiple hurricanes has worsened living conditions for many. Thousands of people are living in shelters, several of whom have contracted COVID-19.
Following this announcement, Vice President, Guillermo Castilo, stated that he asked the President, Alejandro Giammattei, to resign along with him “for the good of the country.” In May, the Vice President also admitted to arguments over how they would respond to the pandemic. The President has not responded to this so far. When he came to power in January, he promised to end corruption and fight crime. However, his inability to handle the coronavirus has imposed questions about his real intentions. One example is the deficiency of coronavirus relief resources in hospitals: $3.8 billion was set for the pandemic, but only 15 percent was used.
The cuts from other sectors will mostly go to the infrastructure of big businesses. Despite an amendment to restore those funds, enraged citizens and many activist groups set a protest on November 21, demanding the President’s resignation.
On Saturday, November 21, thousands of people gathered in town squares across the country. They demanded a presidential veto of the bill, prosecution of politicians, and their resignation.
Kayla Figueroa, a protestor, held a sign demanding the resignation of 125 of 160 legislators. “We’re tired of corruption. It doesn’t matter which government - they’re all the same,” she said.
Outside the Congress building, a student-led a part of the protest and set a “guillotine” - an apparatus used in older public executions through beheading. Policemen watched as the youth climbed the building, broke windows, and threw in devices that caused flames and smoke. They destroyed framed pictures of politicians. A woman who watched the chaos from afar said that she disagreed with the destruction of the property because the general public would end up paying for the damage. “What we want is to not move backward,” she said.
Later in the afternoon, the President responded on Twitter and condemned the event. “I reiterate that people have the right to protest as allowed by law. But we cannot permit public and private property to be vandalized. Anyone who is proven to have participated in the criminal acts will be punished with the full force of the law.” He said that he had been meeting with groups to change the controversial budget. Legislators had approved thousands to pay for their expenses for meals and other needs and cut funding for COVID-19 patients and human rights agencies.
The President is willing to put protestors under prosecution for the destruction of the Congress building. With the aftermath of two hurricanes, growing poverty, malnutrition, and an on-going pandemic, there may be very few who would remain to be prosecuted. The President came with promises to end corruption and work for the benefit of the people. He hasn’t fulfilled these promises but has allowed the passing of a bill that funds those who cause corruption. The Vice President is urging the President to resign and has admitted to arguments between them.
Corruption exists in every part of life however, these actions affect the lives of millions. The rich and influential are secure, where the poor are left without any support.
*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.
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