Guatemalan president bans most protests for 15 days
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — The president of Guatemala on Tuesday banned most protests for two weeks, arguing they have been spreading the coronavirus.
President Alejandro Giammattei’s Cabinet approved the decree and it will go into effect Wednesday.
Protesters in recent weeks have demanded Giammattei’s resignation, saying the government has mismanaged the coronavirus pandemic and botched efforts to get vaccines. There have been delays in shipments of Russia’s Sputnik vaccine, even though Guatemala paid half up front.
It is the latest of more than a dozen decrees that Giammattei has issued to temporarily limit constitutional rights, and even Vice President Guillermo Castillo says enough is enough.
“We need states of vaccination, not a state of emergency,” Castillo told The Associated Press. “Rather than limiting constitutional rights, what the government should do is get more vaccines.”
The president’s office said open-air demonstrations by people wearing face masks and practicing social distancing will be allowed, but police may break up any protest if they judge it violates any of those rules or presents a public health risk.
The measures also include a night-time ban on alcohol sales starting at 6 p.m., and a ban on driving without a face mask.
A crowd of about 300 protesters gathered Saturday in the main square of the capital to demand the resignation of Giammattei, and on Monday banners appeared on several streets in Guatemala City demanding he go.
Referring to the protests, Giammattei said: “These people are spreading the virus and causing more problems. That is what they want and they are spreading it through a series of illegal demonstrations.”
Giammattei signed a deal in April for 16 million doses of the two-dose Russian vaccine, and paid 50%, or almost $80 million, up front. But only about 550,000 Sputnik doses have arrived so far.
About 1.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine have been donated by the United States. But with just over 2 million doses, Guatemala doesn’t have nearly enough for its 17 million people.
So far, Guatemala has registered about 320,000 coronavirus cases and 9,721 COVID-19 deaths.