Guatemalans protest for second day against corruption

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Anti-government protesters once more blocked intersections across Guatemala for the second day in a row as calls intensified for President Alejandro Giammattei and the attorney general to step down after the ousting of a top anti-corruption official.

Demonstrators blocked access to the Chixoy bridge in western Guatemala and the Los Ingenieros thoroughfare, a route that leads to Mexico. Other protests were taking place on the outskirts of the capital Guatemala City.

Friday’s demonstrations appeared smaller than protests a day earlier that drew thousands of people in the capital.

The national protest was organized on social media by indigenous, social and student groups to denounce Attorney General Maria Porras’ dismissal last week of anti-graft fighter Juan Francisco Sandoval as head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity.

The move prompted a backlash from the United States, which has publicly backed Sandoval. U.S. officials said they would pause some cooperation with Guatemala’s attorney general as Washington applies pressure on Central American governments to end impunity and tackle corruption.

In a show of support for Sandoval, a senior official from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Mark Feierstein, met with Sandoval and posted photos of their meeting on Twitter.

“United States urges the Guatemalan Government to reinstate Sandoval as chief prosecutor against corruption,” tweeted Feierstein, principal adviser to the USAID administrator.

Sandoval, who left Guatemala last weekend, said on Twitter Thursday evening that the protests showed Guatemalans “demonstrating with deep democratic convictions and indignation against the onslaught of corruption, arbitrariness and abuse of power.”

Sandoval claimed he was fired after trying to investigate cases that implicated Giammattei in corruption, including an incident where a Russian businessman allegedly delivered bags of cash to the president in some way linked to the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine. Giammattei this week strongly denied all the claims.

Photo: Guatemalan citizens participate in a mobilization that blocks the Inter-American highway, during a call for a national strike against the Government, in San Cristobal, Totonicapan, Guatemala. EPA-EFE/Esteban Biba