Brutal Repression in Honduras Targets Teachers, Popular Resistance
Weeks of demonstrations continue against de-facto regime and its plans to privatize public education
From The Real News:
DAVID DOUGHERTY: On Wednesday, March 30, the Honduran popular resistance called for a general strike and public works stoppage while attempting to occupy universities, schools, and major thoroughfares following several weeks of mobilizations. The de facto regime of Honduran President Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo has stepped up violent police and military confrontations against demonstrators across the country in recent weeks. Today, several universities were among the various areas targeted by the regime’s military and police forces.
HEIDY ALACHAN: Right now we are at the university for the advantage of the movement. We are a group with a lot of students. We have been here for around two hours resisting the teargas bombs and police repression. We have knowledge now that their strategy is to surround the university. They have now sent reinforcements, because they already cleared much of the civic strike that was planned and carried out today with the occupation of toll roads in the north and south. So they vacated those. And right now, at this very moment, they are starting to bombard us. Our companions are running. We are attempting to resist, but the bombardment is too much. There are around 30 or 40 teargas bombs so far this morning. These are more powerful bombs. They are not like the others–way stronger than what we have seen in other marches and protests. When this gas hits us, instantly it affects the skin and respiration and you can’t walk. We’ve had to retrieve various friends who have fainted and look for a place where we can get them water.
DOUGHERTY: While the United States and many of its allies recognize the government of Pepe Lobo, the Organization of American States and most countries in the region consider the administration to be illegitimate. Lobo came to power following elections held under the illegal regime of Roberto Micheletti, who seized power in a violent military coup d’etat against democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya in June 2009. The National Popular Resistance Front, a broad coalition of social movements and political parties calling for the ouster of the coup government and the formation of a constituent assembly have since been the target of a wave of systematic state repression. Following the 2009 coup, numerous human rights abuses have been reported in Honduras, including regular cases of torture and political assassination. In 2010, Honduras became the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. According to leading Honduras human rights defender Bertha Oliva, general coordinator for the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras, state repression has intensified dramatically over the past several weeks.
BERTHA OLIVA: We are talking about absolute defenselessness against that which is opposed to the Honduran people. We are declaring defenselessness before the world, so that the world comes to our aid to demand an end to the savagery that the country is being made to live under. Now they are not just only selective and systematic attacks like those in the several months following the coup; now they are massive and systematic and in broad daylight. Faced with this, we are in a state of defenselessness because we do not have a state of law. What we have is a criminal state policy where there is no space for making complaints, receiving monetary compensation, or taking to a tribunal those who are responsible for the crimes they have committed, like torturing those who they detain, and for the beatings and excessive abuse of power and malpractice that exist in the military and police forces. Those armed forces at this moment, they are attacking unarmed people who only demand the reclamation of law. They have absolutely no way to defend themselves other than their capacity to think independently.
DOUGHERTY: The current mobilizations are being led by teachers, a core base of the popular resistance, who are struggling against the state’s efforts to privatize the Honduran public education system.
EDGAR SORIANO ORTIZ: I am in front of the Supreme Court. We are demanding the freedom of 19 teachers, both men and women who have been arrested and accused of sedition. Today, on the 30th, our struggle is a public stoppage on the national level. It is part of a process of ongoing struggle over the past two weeks, specifically involving the Gremio Magisterial teacher’s union, which is the country’s strongest, one of the associations that has most strongly held the National Popular Resistance Front together. In this sense, our struggle is to defend the teacher’s union against the Law of Municipalization being applied by the regime, which is no more than a move to dismantle the teacher’s union and begin the process of the privatization of public education. And so the students have also taken and held the national university for several weeks. Similarly, many schools are also being occupied by families with the motive of defending public education. Behind all of this there is the regime’s logic, which is to destroy the teacher’s union, and as such destroy the National Popular Resistance Front. This is a struggle against the ultra right and the oligarchy who wish not only to destroy the teachers union but also destroy the popular resistance.
DOUGHERTY: Honduran teacher and human rights defender Ilse Velasquez was killed on March 18, after a teargas canister struck her in the head during a demonstration. Many others have been wounded in confrontations with police, and there are unconfirmed reports of another death having occurred on Wednesday, March 30. This is David Dougherty with The Real News Network.