By Laura Gamba
BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) - A controversial budget that triggered massive protests during the weekend in Guatemala will be shelved, according to the President of the Congress, Allan Rodriguez.
"With the purpose of maintaining the governability of the country and social peace, we have agreed to suspend the processing of the budget of income and expenditures of the State and the Legislative Branch 2021," announced Rodriguez on Monday morning.
Hundreds of protesters broke into Guatemala’s Congress and burned part of the building on Saturday amid growing discontent against President Alejandro Giammattei and lawmakers for approving a budget that slashed spending on health and education.
The government called fires set by protesters “terrorist acts” and police used tear gas and batons to push demonstrators back, which left more than 40 people detained and dozens injured. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned the “excessive use of force” by police.
The budget, which amounted to $13bn, the largest in Guatemala's history, was criticized by demonstrators who said it benefited big business and that it had been negotiated by legislators in secret while the Central American nation was distracted by hurricane Iota's landfall and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government said that the budget did contain funds to build hospitals.
Rodriguez said that leaders of some of the political parties represented in Congress had agreed to shelve the budget but did not say if lawmakers would draw up a new budget or what changes it would make ahead of a December deadline for it to be passed into law.