Ex-soldiers storm Guatemala Congress parking lot, torch cars

Guatemala City (AFP) –


Former Guatemalan soldiers stormed the rear area of Congress on Tuesday and torched several vehicles in protest over unpaid compensation for their service during the country's civil war from 1960 to 1996.

A crowd of hundreds of protesters, some armed with sticks, machetes and others throwing glass bottles, broke through a metal gate and forcibly entered a parking lot behind the Congress building, placing chains with padlocks on several doors to prevent deputies and staff from leaving the building.

The veterans set fire to several vehicles that were parked in the lot, with local television broadcasting images of fire and plumes of smoke pouring out of the cars.

Riot police then arrived and used tear gas to disperse the crowd. At least five people were treated for minor injuries.

The Interior Ministry said on Twitter that police helped evacuate everyone from inside the Congress building.

The former soldiers were protesting over Congress' refusal to approve a bill that authorizes compensation of about $ 15,000 to each retired soldier for their service during the internal armed conflict that left some 200,000 dead and disappeared, the majority of them at the hands of the Army.

Last Wednesday, hundreds of members of organizations of former members of the Army blocked border points, the entrance to a sea port and almost two dozen stretches of roads.

The retired soldiers staged similar protests last June and August to push for ratification of the initiative, that was presented in 2019 by Felipe Alejos, a congressman recently included by the United States on a "corrupt" list.

Guatemala has a compensation law for victims of the civil war, widows and orphans, but the legislation does not include members of the armed forces.