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article imageHonduras to mark coup anniversary with anti-government protest

By Noe LEIVA (AFP)     Jun 28, 2019 in World

Thousands of Hondurans will take to the streets Friday in the latest mass demonstration against President Juan Orlando Hernandez, under whose watch gang violence and corruption have made the country the epicenter of Central American migration to the United States.

Officially being held to mark the 10th anniversary of the coup d'etat which overthrew leftist president Manuel Zelaya, the now-opposition leader has called on his supporters to use the occasion to pile pressure on Hernandez.

Honduras has been rocked by more than a month of protests, initially by striking doctors and teachers unions to protest controversial health and education decrees.

When some units of the police joined truckers on strike last week, the government called the army onto the streets.

Zelaya told AFP that 10 years after the June 28, 2009 coup that deposed him, protesters "are on the streets today against privatization" of the health and education sector and to call on Hernandez to resign.

Zelaya's Liberty and Refoundation Party announced that Friday's commemoration would pay tribute to those killed by police repression of the protests amid rising tensions.

The 66-year-old opposition leader said the country was facing its biggest crisis since the coup that deposed him.

- Protesters killed -

Anti-government protests intensified last week when three protesters were killed in clashes with security forces.

On Monday, military police opened fire on students at the National Autonomous University in Tegucigalpa who were calling for Hernandez's resignation, wounding at least five.

"Since 2009, the United States is supporting a militarized government that represses protest," Zelaya told AFP.

Former leftist president Manuel Zelaya was deposed in a 2009 coup after he sought constitutional cha...
Former leftist president Manuel Zelaya was deposed in a 2009 coup after he sought constitutional change to allow him to run for re-election

"The dictatorship has to leave sooner rather than later. There is a massive level of protest in the country," he said.

Meanwhile President Hernandez -- who is due to step down at the end of his second four-year term in January 2022 -- went on television late Tuesday to reject calls for his resignation and insist he would complete his mandate.

"I'm going to do the work until the last day of this mandate," he said.

Hernandez was elected to a second term in 2017 amid widespread allegations of fraud, which sparked protests in which 22 people died, according to the United Nations.

Former president Porfirio Lobo, elected in the first post-coup polls, says Honduras is in a worse state than it was in 2009.

"There is a new ingredient in the crisis. There is hatred in the people," he said.

"Eight out of 10 young people not only do not support the president, they hate him," said Lobo, a member of Hernandez's National Party.

Lobo said the government has been unable to address the economic problems and unemployment that have prompted tens of thousands of Hondurans to migrate, joining caravans going north to the United States.

Honduras's powerful Catholic bishops have hit out strongly at the government's handling of the recent crisis, saying in a statement after their recent congress: "Enough!"

The bishops said that further mishandling of the country's problems "could plunge Honduras into a very difficult crisis to overcome."

In their statement they said "the high cost of living, crime and violence, unemployment, serious shortcomings in the health and education systems and corruption" were key concerns of Hondurans.

Victor Meza, head of the Documentation Center of Honduras, a rights NGO, said such a statement was unthinkable even a few months ago.

Meza warned that Hernandez is "increasingly weak within his own party and the greater the weakness, the greater the dependence on the actors who support him -- the United States and the armed forces."

"Ungovernability, that can be measured by levels of social conflict, is on the rise," he said.

- 'Banana Republic' -

Zelaya was deposed in a Congress-backed coup after he sought constitutional change to allow him to run for re-election.

He had also alarmed the right wing opposition by seeking closer ties with oil-rich Venezuela's leftist leader Hugo Chavez.

High school students clash with riot police during a protest to demand the resignation of Honduran P...
High school students clash with riot police during a protest to demand the resignation of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez

Looking back on the early morning of June 28, 2009, Zelaya said soldiers arrived at his house and removed him at gunpoint after subduing his two guards.

He was expelled to Costa Rica, only to return months later in an unsuccessful bid to reclaim the presidency.

"After the kidnapping, the military left me in Costa Rica," said Zelaya.

"They treated me like a dog. What a fate for a president of a poor country, that became a third world country, that became a Banana Republic!"

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