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Government tries to “criminalize” protests in Guatemala, says ombudsman

The Guatemalan ombudsman, Jordán Rodas, said this Sunday that the government tried to “criminalize” the protests calling for the departure of President Alejandro Giammattei, relying on acts of violence that occurred on the sidelines of the demonstrations.

“I reject the acts of vandalism that occurred outside the demonstrations called by citizens,” said Rodas in a statement he shared on Twitter.

Rodas, a human rights attorney, also wrote on the social network that “it is unethical for the Ministry of the Interior to use vandalism to justify the persecution of journalists and human rights defenders and to criminalize legitimate citizen demonstrations.”

On Saturday, thousands of Guatemalans resumed their protests demanding the resignation of the president, in the square located in front of the old seat of government, in the capital.

The protesters blame the president for opaquely drawing up the country’s budget for 2021, which later had to be annulled due to citizen demands.

After hours of peaceful protest, a group of people with their faces covered arrived in a public service bus without passengers and set fire to it in front of the National Palace.

During these incidents, three journalists, five policemen and three delegates from the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman were injured.

Rodas asked Giammattei to remove the Minister of the Interior (Interior), Gendri Reyes, and the Director General of the Police, José Tzubán, who had to act “guaranteeing the integrity of the protesters and the protection of public and private property.”

The protest was held while an OAS mission has been in the country since Friday to analyze the political crisis. That same day he met with the president.

The protesters also called for the resignation of all the deputies for having initially approved the budget, which they criticize for not addressing the country’s most urgent problems, such as poverty, health and education.

Almost 60% of the almost 17 million inhabitants of the country are in a situation of poverty.

They also criticize the president, a doctor by profession, the mismanagement of the covid-19 pandemic and the lack of transparency in the handling of more than 3,000 million dollars in loans to face the disease.

The demonstrations began on November 21, in a day that also began peacefully but in which a group of unknown persons set off a fire in some Parliament offices.

ec / ll / gma