One of the protesters’ claims is where is all the money that the Congress, with a pro-government majority, has approved the government for the pandemic and the recent storms; millions of dollars have flowed and the accounts do not add up.
The president of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, faces a serious political crisis in only ten months of government after the burning of Congress on Saturday at the hands of hooded protesters and a massive protest against him.
These are the keys to the crisis that threatens the Government of Giammattei (inaugurated last January) and also the political class of the Central American country.
1. THE PANDEMIC
“Where is the money?” It is one of the main questions from the protesters who arrived on Saturday to expose their rejection of Giammattei, referring to the emergency funds for the covid-19 that supposedly never reached the population.
SEE: Vice President of Guatemala asks to investigate vandalism and excessive use of police force
The Guatemalan Congress, with an official majority of Giammattei’s political group, Vamos, added 2.2 billion dollars to the 2020 budget since March to help the population economically affected by covid-19, financed based on international credits.
However, eight months after the first contagion in March, the aid has been irregular according to various sources.
One of the aid methods was called “Family Bond” and promised to deliver $ 390 in three installments to low-income families, but an evaluation by the non-governmental organization Paraíso Desigual certified that finally only $ 292 will be delivered in total, prioritizing aid for the central region of the country and forgetting the departments with more poverty.
In addition, certain abnormalities at all levels were certified in audits made by some deputies.
“This is a disaster … dead, public and municipal employees, thousands who are not poor and thousands who are outside of Guatemala received the ‘Family Bonus’ and the bonus for the informal economy,” denounced on November 16 on their social networks the legislator Carlos Barreda, from the National Unit of Hope (UNE).
SEE: Guatemala protests corruption and questioned budget
2. MILLIONS GO AND MILLION COME
On October 16, the Public Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (the remnants of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala) seized $ 15.7 million in cash (in various currencies) from a private home in Antigua Guatemala.
The alleged owner of the money is the former Minister of Communications of Jimmy Morales (2016-2020), Jose Luis Benito Ruiz, whom the authorities tried unsuccessfully to capture after finding his name in one of the suitcases with the cash (for a trip made Recently).
Ten days later, on October 26, an official from the Communications Ministry of the Giammattei Government indicated in Congress that he was unaware of the destination of 17.5 million dollars, in a fact currently under investigation by the Public Ministry.
There is no relationship between the confiscation of the 15.7 million dollars and the ‘loss’ of the other 17.5 million dollars by the Government of Giammattei, but both generated discomfort within the population both in social networks due to the normalization of corruption, the same one that put former President Otto Pérez Molina in jail in 2015.
3. AND E IOTA
Hurricanes Eta and Iota wreaked havoc and destruction as they passed through Central America during the first 15 days of November. Between them they caused the death of 59 people, 99 missing, 1.5 million affected, 211,000 evacuated and billions of dollars in losses due to flooded crops and infrastructure.
President Giammattei tried to respond to the catastrophic emergency but was criticized for the lack of warnings by civil protection authorities to populations at risk, while some communities are still flooded.
The response of Giammattei in the interior of the country to a journalist who questioned him about the lack of help to an isolated town, without communication and with a lack of food in the north of the territory, was not well received within some sectors: ask for it. I guess I’m not. Ask us for it. This is the first time they are telling me. If they are isolated, perhaps they are not so isolated because you know it ”.
4. THE BUDGET 2021
Last Wednesday, at 05:30 in the morning, 115 deputies of the Guatemalan Congress approved the state budget for 2021, with the support of the ruling majority of the Vamos party, from Giammattei, including the president of Parliament, Allan Rodríguez.
Lawmakers who opposed the budget said there was no access to the final document for the 160 deputies, in a marathon session that began Tuesday afternoon under heavy security outside the congressional facilities.
PHOTOS: Detentions, injured journalists and more than 60 people poisoned by tear gas during protests in Guatemala
The budget provoked that same Wednesday the general anger of the population and mainly of some artists who, with their influence on social networks, gave force to the unease against Giammattei. Among them are ska and rock singer Francisco Paez and chef Mirciny Moliviatis.
In the new budget, according to a study released by the non-governmental organization of the Central American Institute for Fiscal Studies (Icefi), “public spending” seeks to “prioritize the allocation to infrastructure, but neglects the population and its needs.”
5. THE VICE PRESIDENT AND THE CENTER OF GOVERNMENT
On Friday night, surprisingly, the Guatemalan Vice President, Guillermo Castillo, publicly asked Giammattei at a press conference to resign together to “oxygenate” the Central American nation because “things in the country are not well.”
The differences between Castillo and Giammattei have been wide for months, but several versions and the vice president himself have pointed to a state entity called the Government Center as the main point of disagreement.
The Government Center has become the axis of the Giammattei Administration, as has its director, Luis Miguel Martínez Morales, a 31-year-old engineer with no experience as a civil servant who has become the president’s trusted man.
Martínez Morales, according to the 64-year-old president himself, is a friend “from many years ago.”
The split between president and vice president is not irreversible, as Castillo said on Friday, but it does raise doubts about the future of the government.
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