Guatemalans protest for second day to demand president resigns

FILE PHOTO: A Mayan indigenous man waves a Guatemala flag during a protest to demand the resignation of Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei and Attorney General Maria Porras, in San Cristobal Totonicapan, Guatemala July 29, 2021. REUTERS/Luis Echeverria

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Anti-government protesters blocked intersections across Guatemala for the second day in a row on Friday, 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.

The national protest, which started Thursday, 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 protests a day earlier drew thousands of people in the capital, though Friday's demonstrations appeared smaller.

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 it tries to apply pressure on Central American governments to end impunity and tackle corruption.

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 with 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.

(Reporting by Enrique Garcia, writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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