Sunday, September 19, 2021

Thousands of Guatemalans demand resignation of president, lawmakers

Guatemala City, Sep 20 (EFE).- Thousands of protesters marched peacefully Wednesday to the Guatemalan capital’s historic downtown to demand that President Jimmy Morales and the majority of federal lawmakers resign.

A large group of peasants who arrived from northern and eastern Guatemala along the main access road to the city center were among the first to arrive outside the Congress building.

Other groups of demonstrators left from various sectors of Guatemala City and made their way to Constitution Square, where the different marches converged.

Unarmed contingents of National Civil Police officers were deployed outside various public buildings, including the Government Ministry and the National Palace of Culture to provide security, EFE observed.

Thousands of other Guatemalans are expected to join the protest in the coming hours to demand the resignations of the president and at least 107 lawmakers (out of a total of 158) whom they accuse of corruption.

Demonstrators also marched and blocked roads in the provinces of Quiche, Solola, Suchitepequez, Huehuetenango, Totonicapan, Alta Verapaz, Sacatepequez, Santa Rosa and Retalhuleu in support of the nationwide protest.

Many Guatemalans were angered by a vote in the unicameral legislature on Sept. 13 that would have had the effect of shielding party leaders and candidates from prosecution for violations of campaign-finance laws.

Amid widespread criticism, court challenges and the threat of a presidential veto, the lawmakers voted overwhelmingly two days later to undo those changes, but that reversal did not quell the national uproar.

Protesters also are angry over Morales’ decision – temporarily blocked by Guatemala’s Constitutional Court – to order the head of the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Cicig), Ivan Velasquez, to leave the country.

Morales issued that expulsion order on Aug. 27, two days after Velasquez and Attorney General Thelma Aldana leveled allegations of illicit campaign financing against him and said they would seek to have his immunity from prosecution stripped.

Congress voted against lifting Morales’ immunity on Sept. 11 and then subsequently voted two days later for the controversial measure to shield lawmakers and senior party leaders from potential prosecution for campaign-finance irregularities.

Before it was overturned, that legislation put the burden of ensuring clean campaigns squarely on the shoulders of party accountants.