Uprising in Honduras

March 12, 2018

From the March-April 2018 issue of News & Letters

Protesters in Honduras consider the Nov. 26, 2017, reelection of President Juan Hernandez to be fraudulent. In the capital, Tegucigalpa, people lay down day after day to block the streets in front of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE). Others in cities and rural provinces desperately set up roadblocks of rocks or burning garbage, once bottling up the main highway between Tegucigalpa and the country’s second major city San Pedro Sula on Jan 20.

Demonstration on Jan. 27, 2018, in San Francisco in support of protestors in Honduras. Sign reads, “The people voted for change. Respect the people. JOH [Juan Orlando Hernandez] out.” Photo: Photo: Peg Hunter via Flickr.

A week before Hernandez’ inauguration to an unconstitutional second term, police killed a man when they opened fire to clear the roadblock. Over the course of three months, dozens of protesters have been killed in the streets or followed home by civilian vigilantes.

The Honduran organization Committee of Families of the Disappeared started in 1982 when Honduras was ruled by a military junta. They say upward of 1,500 people were detained in jails on charges related to political activity.

The same judges appointed by Hernandez as head of the Honduran Congress—who decided that he could run for a second term in violation of the constitutional—are in charge of signing warrants for night raids on presumed protest leaders and presiding over bond hearings of people detained.

At least 22 activists remain in jail as of Feb. 20, including Edwin Espinal. The government has so relentlessly persecuted him that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted protective measures in 2010 and 2013.


Hernandez and his National Party have used their political might to raid public pension funds and ram through unpopular concessions on behalf of major agricultural palm oil cultivators, gold mines that use an arsenic-based extraction method, and tourism companies that want land set aside for luxury self-contained ports of call.

Their projects have forcefully displaced Indigenous people, Afro-Hondurans, and small-scale farmers, by either taking away land outright or by decimating vital resources such as water. Many of these companies are international, the majority based in the U.S. and Canada, two countries that immediately recognized Hernandez as the winner.

On the night following the election, the TSE broadcast the first 57% of results, which showed Hernandez’ opponent Salvador Nasralla leading by 5%. The Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research confirmed to News & Letters that their own data analysis shows the early count was representative of not just votes from a certain geographical area, but from all over the country and from both rural and urban areas. There was a mysterious two-day delay before any more results were announced by the TSE. By that time, Hernandez was ahead by 1% and was officially announced the winner on Nov. 30, prompting widespread disbelief and fury.

The Hernandez government’s tenuous hold on power a week after this announcement was demonstrated when it imposed a 6 PM to 6 AM curfew for Honduran citizens. Protests went on in spite of it. Amazingly, on the fourth day of the curfew, a special forces unit in the Honduran military (the “Cobras”) went on strike. Almost immediately the government agreed to a settlement where the soldiers stipulated they would only return to maintain posts out in the street protecting the public, the implication being they would not be running raids and covert operations for the government.

The last time Honduras saw massive protests sustained for this many months was when military leaders deposed the former president Manuel Zelaya in a 2009 coup d’etat, handing political control to the National Party, which has held it since. But Daniel Esponda, a member of the national teachers’ union, thinks the protests happening now are even more pronounced. “He is president due to blatant electoral fraud which has brought many deaths to our country. It means the deepening of an economic model which will generate even more inequality, and definitely the inequality will lead to more violence.”

—Buddy Bell

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