Thousands of people took to the streets on November 21st, in Guatemala, to demonstrate against the corruption and greed of the members of Congress who, amongst other things, wished to increase their meals’ allowance at the expense of child malnutrition programmes.
This piece, by Este Chep, in the Breaking the Silence blog, provides some context into the events of the weekend.
The situation in Guatemala have been quite arduous over the last few weeks, as the country reels from the devastating impacts of two major hurricanes, mostly felt in the departments of Izabal, Alta Verapaz, Quiché, Huehuetenango and parts of Zacapa and Chiquimula.
Amidst largely community-led rescue and emergency response efforts, Guatemalans woke on November 19 to the news that the national budget for 2021 had been approved by Congress the night before. As folks slept, Guatemala’s congress approved a nearly $17 billion CND budget which saw cuts of approximately $33 million CND to national nutrition programs while at the same time allocating over $65 million CND for personal meals to members of congress.
Further to this, billions of dollars were allocated for government branches including over $7 million CND to the Ministry of Communication, Infrastructure and Housing, where corruption and the “disappearance of funds” is widely known. At the same time, only 15% (~ $1.3 billion CND) of the recommended amount was allotted for the COVID-19 vaccine. Cuts were also made to the Human Rights Attorney’s Office (PDH) as well as hospitals, education, and the judiciary. The impacts of such actions fall disproportionately among Indigenous communities as well as other marginalized groups including women and children; nearly 50% of Guatemalan children experience chronic malnutrition, over 58% of the population lives below the poverty line with 79% of those being Indigenous communities. This happens in a country where 0.001% of the population own 56% of the country’s wealth.
You can read the full piece, here, in the BTS/RES website.