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A Guatemalan cabinet minister abruptly resigned this week, signaling a growing split within the government over how to deal with pro-democracy protests that have stretched into their third week, Reuters reported.
Interior Minister David Napoleón Barrientos, a retired brigadier-general, resigned Monday following a shooting death near one of the roadblocks that also wounded two others.
Barrientos had said publicly that he preferred dialogue with protesters who are demanding the resignation of Attorney General Consuelo Porras over her office’s investigations into the election victory of President-elect Bernardo Arévalo, ABC News said.
Porras had urged the blockades’ removal, by force if necessary. On Monday, hours before Barrientos quit, she had called for him to be fired for failing to follow a court order to clear them.
The government, led by President Alejandro Giammattei, has deployed riot police using tear gas to disperse the protesters.
Meanwhile, Indigenous groups that initiated the protests say they will stay on the streets until Porras resigns. The protesters see the investigations as a threat to Guatemala’s democracy.
That’s because immediately after the victory of Bernardo Arévalo, who won the presidential election by a landslide in August, his party Movimiento Semilla (Seed Movement), was suspended by Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the BBC reported.
His party’s suspension has widely been viewed as an attempt to stop Arévalo, a political outsider who has campaigned against corruption, from being sworn in as planned in January.
Porras argues that Arévalo’s party was not properly registered, but critics say that she only launched her investigation after Arévalo’s strong performance in the first round of elections.