People have accused Juan Orlando Hernández, current president of Honduras, of corruption, electoral fraud and drug trafficking since his reelection in 2017. With his sudden change of the Honduran constitution that allowed him to run for two terms instead of just one, the people of Honduras have felt his corruption and repression. The lack of involvement from the government to end organized crime and gang violence and provide aid to those suffering from the poverty that affects 60 percent of the country’s population has caused hundreds of protests across the country. Although finding asylum in the United States is the reason so many Hondurans are migrating north, others are using their right to protest as their biggest weapon towards finally receiving the justice and aid that they deserve. Here are 10 facts about the protests in Honduras.
10 Facts About the Protests in Honduras
- The protests in Honduras first began through trade unions that represented doctors, nurses and teachers. The Hernandez Administration and Congress were working on an initiative to restructure the country’s health care and education systems which would have resulted in mass layoffs and privatization. These first protests led to them dropping the initiative, however. This positive result made many people believe that they could also make their voices heard. Soon protests made up of university students, the poor, ministers and their churches, civil rights defenders, land rights activists, other unions and even some branches of the police began to take place in the streets of Honduras and these have not stopped.
- Despite the many different groups of people in the streets, one common demand that all protesters share is the removal of President Hernandez from office. Cid Gallup’s recent survey showed that the president’s approval rating dropped from 61 to 36 percent since 2017. It also found that more than 80 percent of interviewees did not trust the country’s main judicial and political institutions. Many Hondurans believe that President Hernandez has been receiving money from drug cartels to not only fund his campaigns but to let drugs go through Honduras. The people see him as the main source of the corruption found in their country and believe his removal would allow them to begin to rebuild its democratic government once again.
- According to the human rights organization, CONADEH, violent protests that were post-election in mid-January 2018 led to the killing of 31 people, the wounding of 232 people and the detainment of 1,805 people. The United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed concern about the excessive use of force that the Military Police of Public Order, released by President Hernandez, have been using on the crowds of protestors. Many of them are throwing tear gas at the crowds, homes and shopping centers which not only harms the protesters but children and senior citizens in the area. The police have also gone as far as shooting into crowds with live ammunition. This type of repression that the president issued is not only putting the people of Honduras in danger but also their right to protest peacefully.
- The Military Police of Public Order is a force of around 5,000 troops who are under the control of the president. It comprises of soldiers who patrol neighborhoods as policemen and are the first to arrive at protests to break them up. Honduran human rights organizations have been calling for the dismantlement of this force since its introduction into the country’s streets due to the lack of training that the soldiers are receiving. According to the Latin America Working Group, training periods for these soldiers only last a couple of months. Unlike the Military Police of Public Order, some members of the police department and the COBRA Special Forces have refused to take action to repress their fellow citizens.
- An Amnesty International report in 2018 stated that Hondurans who authorities arrest during protests are oftentimes denied their right to due process and held in inhumane conditions. Authorities have prolonged pre-trial detention for many prisoners in attempts to suppress the formations of more protests. Authorities also seek after the leaders and activists of these protests to discourage and instill fear in fellow protesters. Authorities hold many of these prisoners in terrible conditions for months and even after their release, they still face criminal charges. Although the government is attempting to generate fear through prison time, many Hondurans refuse to be silent and continue to protest in places like the United States’ Embassy in Tegucigalpa.
- In an attempt to discredit the protesters, Security Minister Julian Pacheco Tinoco and other government officials have claimed that the people participating in the protests are drug traffickers and gang members. No government institution has followed these allegations taking measures to protect Honduran citizens from the Military Police of Public Order’s repressive actions during protests. The government human rights office, CONADEH, did report on the killings and called on authorities to avoid the use of lethal arms against protesters. It even went as far as asking the Public Ministry to investigate cases of abuse but its calls for justice did not receive any attention from the Public Ministry or the government. No investigations launched on the abusive measures that the Military Police of Public Order partook in.
- Despite the violence, deaths and abuse of power from the President’s Military Police, Hondurans continue to protest and limit their silence. From March to June 2019, at least 346 protests have occurred throughout the country. Protests can range from 40 to 50 people to a couple hundred and even thousands. The want for change in their country is greater than the fear the Miltary Police is administering. As the protests grow in numbers and people, the thirst for change also grows within the country’s people.
- Social media has become a huge tool for the protests in Honduras. Due to the large and fast reach of the internet, young protesters are able to call on fellow Hondurans and create spontaneous protests at any time of the day. Because people often believe that the government manipulates Honduras’ media due to the harassment of dozens of reporters, social media and personal networks are helping protesters create a community online. They not only set up protests but also use their platforms to share reliable news articles with one another.
- These protests have also inspired smaller groups of people such as the LGBTQ+ community. In May 2019, an LGBTQ+ march occurred in Tegucigalpa and 350 members walked through the streets asking to end the violence against the LGBTQ+ community. Since 2009, more than 300 gay and transgender people have been murdered in Honduras. Activists within the group, such as the coordinator of Lesbian Network CATTRACHAS, are also asking the Supreme Court to establish a process by which transgender people can change their name and gender on official documents while also asking for same-sex marriage to be legal. The fact that these people, who usually are victims of violence, are not afraid to protest shows how courageous they are and how determined they are to rebuild their country.
- Women are also making their voices heard in their fight for human rights despite the violent turns a protest in Honduras can take. According to the National Observer, there is one woman murdered every 16 hours in Honduras. In the first six months of 2017, there were 99 murders of women in the country. The women of Honduras ask for a country that provides security to them. More and more women are holding rallies and forming marches. Women’s groups in the country are even creating legislation that will protect them in the hope that Congress will pass them. This is yet another way that protests are having an impact on Honduras.
These 10 facts about protests in Honduras show that it is necessary to have a democratic institution to protect and serve the people. President Hernandez is continuously using his power to repress his people in the hopes of silencing them and their protests. But the people of Honduras have not let themselves be discouraged and are gaining the will to continue to fight. Protests are the biggest tool for Honduran citizens to call for change and gain the attention of the government and the rest of the world. As protests in Honduras continue, Hondurans hope to rebuild the democratic government that they deserve.
– Jannette Aguirre