Guatemala suspends budget that sparked violent protests

Demonstrators burn an effigy representing Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei during a protest demanding his resignation

Guatemala's Congress suspended on Monday a controversial government budget that sparked protests in the impoverished Central American nation, including the torching of the legislature's building.

Widespread discontent and indignation against President Alejandro Giammattei's administration and Congress have been caused by a lack of resources for battling the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the new spending plan.

"In order to maintain the governability of the country and social peace, we have agreed to suspend the processing of the budget," said Congress president Allan Rodriguez.

Guatemala's Congress, dominated by conservative pro-government parties, last week approved an almost $13 billion budget, the largest in the country's history.

Rodriguez added that lawmakers have until November 30 to approve a new budget, otherwise the one that has already passed will take effect.

Hundreds of Guatemalans partly burned the Congress building Saturday and have since returned to the streets to protest and demand Giammattei's resignation.

They are angry over the budget in which most of the funds were to go to infrastructure tied to big business in a country where poverty is widespread and half of children under five years old are malnourished.

Analysts have also warned that a third of the budget will need to be financed by debt.

Congress has also approved $3.8 billion to fight the coronavirus pandemic, but less than 15 percent of those funds have been invested.

Giammattei's vice president said Friday night he had asked the president to resign with him.

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