LatinNews Daily - 20 October 2021

GUATEMALA: Military veterans invade congress

On 20 October hundreds of retired soldiers burst into congress after staging protests in Guatemala City.

Analysis:

The retired soldiers demanded compensation for their services in the army during Guatemala’s long civil war (1960-1996). They had staged protests in the capital and erected roadblocks on several days over the course of the last two weeks, before deciding to take more direct action by invading congress. At least 10 police officers and four journalists were injured during the disturbances.

  • The military veterans entered congress shortly after the session began, but only 12 of the 160 deputies were present and they took refuge in their offices. The protesters, who were armed with machetes, sticks, and stones, set fire to various offices in the building, and several cars and motorcycles. Deputy Luis Fernando Pineda Lemus of Movimiento Semilla put out an appeal for help on social media.
  • More than 200 anti-riot police staged an operation to regain control of congress using tear gas, driving out the veterans some three and a half hours after they entered the building, and securing the perimeter. The police managed to evacuate around 100 people from the building, including the deputies and the energy and mining minister, Alberto Pimentel, who was also present at the time.
  • Invasions of congress have grown much more common under President Alejandro Giammattei’s government. In November 2020 hundreds of protesters broke into congress and set part of the building ablaze, expressing opposition to a budget they claimed overlooked the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, and calling upon Giammattei to resign.

Looking Ahead: The demands of the military veterans are currently being considered by the defence, finance, and human rights congressional commissions and they are planning to make a payment of Q120,000 (US$15,500) to each military veteran (or relatives if they have passed away) in four annual instalments. Giammattei promised to compensate the war veterans during his election campaign in 2019, but next January will mark the halfway point of his four-year term and they have yet to receive anything from the government.

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