As President Jimmy Morales gave a speech Friday night to celebrate Guatemala’s 197 years of independence in the Constitution square, citizens chanted the slogan “Get Out! Get Out!”
Annually on September 14, Guatemalans carry the fire of the independence in symbolic marches. This year, in the midst of a political controversy, stirred by president Morales’ expulsion of an international anti-corruption body, Guatemalans chose to celebrate independence by demanding Morales step down while protesting against corruption.
A heavy police and military presence was also condemned by citizens who were searched before being able to enter the Plaza Mayor, where celebrations took place.
— ImpunityWatch Guate (@ImpunityWatchGt) September 14, 2018
“Excessive military and police presence in civic independence acts caused indignation in Guatemala City.”
Despite state security presence, protesters carried banners calling for Morales’ resignation: “Resign Jimmy” and “Get Out Corrupted Clown,” were among the messages that were displayed.
Protests also took place outside Guatemala City. In the department of Quiche, communities replaced traditional celebrations with an anti-corruption protest.
Comunidad educativa de Primavera del Ixcán, Quiché, sustituye las antorchas y el desfile del 15 de septiembre por una marcha contra la corrupción en Guatemala. pic.twitter.com/VE3rKlcqYc
— Santiago Botón 🇬🇹 (@SantiagoteleSUR) September 14, 2018
“The Primavera de Ixcan educational community, Quiche, substitutes torches and the Sept. 15 parade with a march against corruption in Guatemala.”
Protesters have also condemned government’s militarization, demanded the continuation of the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), and voiced their concerns over a lack of public works along with budgets for public education and other services.
In late August, days after Congress began an investigation into allegations that Morales’ received illegal financing during his 2015 campaign to determine whether or not his immunity from prosecution should be lifted, the president announced his government would not renew the work visas for CICIG members. Morales also decided to ban Ivan Velasquez, head of the CICIG, from entering the country.
Investigations by the CICIG have implicated Morales and many of his close associates, including his brother and his son in cases of corruption. Morales’ son Jose Manuel and his brother Sammy are facing trial for defrauding the state in 2013.
The decision prompted a wave of sustained protests. Throughout the week Guatemalans organized demonstrations in front of Congress and in main squares to reject widespread political corruption.
Guatemalan students have also lamented the state’s abandonment of public education, the United Nations Development Program has revealed the country had lost two points in the Human Development Index, which measures levels of income, health, education, inequality, and life expectancy.