'Nothing to celebrate': Indigenous Guatemalans protest

Guatemala City (AFP) –


Thousands of indigenous people protested in Guatemala Wednesday -- the bicentennial of Central American independence -- denounce their exclusion from political and social life as well as government corruption.

"There is nothing to celebrate," indigenous leader Thelma Cabrera, a former presidential candidate, said at a rally in the southern Retalhuleu province.

"It has been 200 years of calamity, corruption, looting and theft here in Guatemala," she added.

The demonstrations were organized by the Codeca peasants movement to highlight the racism it says is directed at the Maya, Xinca and Garifuna peoples of Guatemala.

The government of Alejandro Giammattei had cancelled large public celebrations of the bicentennial due to the coronavirus epidemic.

But on Tuesday, it hosted a private event at the presidential palace, with a military air parade.

Many Guatemalans are angry about the money spent on these events during a global health crisis and in a country where poverty affects nearly 60 percent of the population.

In indigenous communities, the figure is even higher.

Dozens gathered in Guatemala City Wednesday, outside the palace, to denounce the government.

"The Giammattei government is a nefarious government," said march leader Carlos Chon at a protest in Coban in Guatemala's north.

Giammattei, 65, has been the target of repeated protests to call for his resignation by opponents claiming corruption, mismanagement and poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

With about 17 million inhabitants, Guatemala has recorded over 515,000 cases of Covid-19 and almost 13,000 deaths.