Guatemala VP calls on president to resign with him

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Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, left, and Vice President Guillermo Castillo, both wearing masks as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus, take part of the independence day celebrations in Guatemala City, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Guatemala’s vice president told President Alejandro Giammattei that both men should resign their positions “for the good of the country” following the approval of a budget cutting educational and health spending that caused a public outcry.

“We both resign,” Vice President Guillermo Castillo said he told Giammattei Friday. He had suggested vetoing the approved budget, firing government officials and attempt more outreach to various sectors around the country.

Giammattei had not responded publicly and Castillo did not share the president’s reaction to his proposal. Castillo said he would not resign alone.

Discontent had been building over the new 2021 budget on social media and then generated clashes with police Friday in front of the congress. A large protest march was scheduled for Saturday in the capital.

The spending plan was negotiated in secret and approved by the congress before dawn Wednesday. It also passed while the country was distracted by the fallout of two consecutive hurricanes that brought torrential rains to much of Central America.

The Roman Catholic Church leadership in Guatemala called on Giammattei to veto the budget Friday.

“It was a devious blow to the people because Guatemala was between natural disasters, there are signs of government corruption, clientelism in the humanitarian aid,” said Jordan Rodas, the country’s human rights prosecutor. He said the budget appeared to favor ministries that have historically been hotspots of corruption.

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