Teacher and healthcare unions are leading a national strike and protests against a Thursday-passes law they say will privatize state medicine and schools.
Former president of Honduras Manuel Zelaya says the country should support the teacher and medical professional national strike Friday after Congress approved a law to privatize the nation’s teaching and healthcare systems.
The Honduran Medical Association (HMA) and Union of Public Education Employees (Siempe), among other organizations, are calling for a work stoppage Friday after the National Congress, ruled by President Juan Orlando Hernandez’ National Party (NP), voted April 25 by a raise of hands to approve the president’s Restructuring and Transformation of the National Health and Education System.
The unions and other opponents of the measure, among them the Libre Party led by the left-leaning, 2009-ousted president Manuel Zelaya, say it will lead to massive layoffs and the privatization of the country’s healthcare system. The state-run medical and pension system was already robbed of around US$350 million by Hernandez and a ring of politicians between 2013 and 2014 in order to fund the NP and the president’s 2016 campaign.
Coordinador General de @PartidoLibre, @manuelzr, convoca a la militancia a sumarse a la protesta nacional en defensa de la Salud y Educación pública y en respaldo a los trabajadores de Honduras ante la arremetida de la dictadura neoliberal. pic.twitter.com/f1nUeBYItq— Comunicación LIBRE (@PrensaLIBRE_HN) April 25, 2019
Director of the Professional Teachers Association of Honduras, Daniel Esponda, described the new law as harmful to the population.
"We will go to the National Congress to protest the approval of this measure. There is something dark in it," Esponda told local media.
teleSUR correspondent in Honduras, Gilda Silvestrucci, tweeted images of hundreds of military members blocking the streets of the capital, Tegucigalpa, early Friday morning, well before major protests began. National security forces in Honduras are infamous for their violent crackdowns of government protests.
The teachers’ union says in addition to the approval of the law, the way in which is was done, by hand vote is “embarrassing” and violates legislature voting procedures. Members of the medical union agree and say the policy is null because lawmakers didn’t follow voting protocol.
Esponda added that affected professionals were never consulted on the legislation that was introduced by the president and quickly passed by congress. "They should have consulted us first on the measure they approved. We didn’t authorize anyone to represent us (within congress)," said Esponda to local media.
The Federation of Teaching Organizations of Honduras (FOMH) is organizing protests in the country’s 18 departments.
"We declare ourselves in a permanent assembly. We call the national magisterium to be ready for the actions convened by the leadership of (FOMH) in defense of public health and education," reads a statement from the federation on Twitter.