The Honduran people—those who haven’t yet left the country to join the many migrant caravans trying to escape extreme poverty and violence—have again taken to the streets with renewed fury against the coup-installed president Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH for short), who was fraudulently re-elected in November 2017 amid furious protests by the opposition.
This time, the protests are directed against the education and healthcare reforms passed by JOH’s government—but the protesters’ anger is also taking aim at United States, the real culprit for the president being able to hold onto power. On Friday, after the US ambassador had put out a statement urging the people of Honduras to “resolve their differences in a peaceful manner, respecting public order,” the people’s answer was delivered right to the doorstep of the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa, where a group of demonstrators set fire to a pile of tires, after which flames engulfed part of the embassy building.
This was not the only act of protest that took place during the 48-hour general strike proclaimed by the doctors and teachers after more than a month of protests. With marches and roadblocks set up in the largest cities in the country, protesters are demanding that Congress nullify the government’s decrees, which—they fear—are aiming at the large-scale privatization of public services, resulting in a wave of layoffs. Moreover, since 2009, the share of spending on education dropped from 32.9% to 19.9%, mainly due to the freezing of teachers’ salaries and the cuts in funding for school infrastructure, while health spending dropped from 14.3% to 9.7%, resulting in more difficult access to medicine and surgical supplies.
The turning point in the recent history of the country was the 2009 coup against Manuel Zelaya, after which, on two separate occasions—in 2013 and 2017—the forces fighting for democracy won at the ballot box; however, the Honduran oligarchy overturned the election results and imposed its own preferred candidate each time.
Since that fateful 2009, repression has been the only response to the people’s demands: in recent weeks, according to the protesters, at least six people have been killed and several others injured, including teachers, students and journalists—all “victims of a campaign of hate,” according to Suyapa Figueroa, the President of the Honduras Medical College, who denounced the violation of the “human right to protest.”
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