Ex-soldiers protest in Guatemala to get civil war payment

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Former soldiers who are demanding they be paid a war-time bonus for serving in Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war burst onto the grounds of the country’s congress building Tuesday and set several vehicles on fire.

The protesters broke down gates leading into the building’s parking lot and torched at least three vehicles. Some of the demonstrators apparently carried machetes, and some congress employees fled over a rooftop to escape.

Legislator Carlos Barreda wrote on his Twitter account that some of his colleagues were trapped inside the building. Another legislator, Luis Fernando Pineda, wrote that the ex-soldiers set fire to offices adjoining the parking lot.

Soldiers eventually showed up to force the protesters out. The civil war pitted the army and police against leftist rebels. It ended with the signing of peace accords in 1996.

The former soldiers are demanding a bonus of about $16,000 for having served in the civil war, in which at least 200,000 people, most of them civilians, died.

The U.S.-backed army was responsible for most of the deaths, according to findings of an independent truth commission set up to investigate the bloodshed.

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