Some 21 people were left injured and two killed after massive demonstrations that took place overnight Wednesday in several cities throughout Honduras calling for the removal of President Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH) who left the country with his wife, Ana Garcia de Hernandez late June 19.
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Since late April, demonstrations have been taking place across the country against government measures to privatize the nation's already weak education and health systems, and to demand JOH's resignation. They've been met with violent crackdowns by the militarized National Police. On Wednesday night, rather than repress protesters, many police members joined the ranks of protesters, saying they would no longer follow order to violently crack down on protesting citizens.
In a statement by the National Police, the institution said it will "not repress (people) and will respect their human rights." The national security force, known for its violent tactics against the population, apologized to the Honduran people for the damage it had done. The outfit is also demanding better working conditions and labor rights from the right-wing government.
"We affirm our support for the people since we are part of it and we benefit from the causes for which they are fighting. ... We reiterate to the government that we are not going to repress the Honduran people anymore," said a masked police officer who read a statement flanked by colleagues in a video tweeted by La Red21.
According to local media, the secretary of finance has been analyzing National Police funds since January to consider a salary increase, but no solution has been offered. The police began to strike Tuesday.
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"Honduras: police rebel against President Juan Orlando Hernandez. The agents, on board the patrols, joined the strike against the government."
Also leading the latenight protests was the Platform for Defense of Healthcare & Education (PDSE), a social movement of teachers, students, doctors and nurses who have been demanding the repeal of a national law passed in late April they said would lead to massive layoffs in both sectors. The law was later repealed along with presidential "emergency" decrees that would have taken over the health and education areas, but massive protests have continued for the removal of JOH that many in Honduras and internationally say stole the 2017 presidential elections.
In Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras and in San Pedro Sula, the country's second largest city, demonstrations turned violent when the national military police, who have remained on the job, tried to disperse groups who blocked the streets with burning tires. Honduras has as many as 14 separate state security forces.
Road and street blocks also happened in cities like El Progreso, La Lima, Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa de Copan, La Ceiba, Comayagua and Danli.
"Tegucigalpa: due to the absence of police on the streets, people burn fast food businesses."
Because of newly proposed transportation taxes, haulers have also largely stopped in Honduras, generating shortages of food, water and other vital products. This situation generated desperation and looting.
"At 9:25 p.m., Tegucigalpa continues in chaos, with looting businesses, burning property, while the police walk by without repressing protesters," Gilda Silvestrucci, Telesur correspondent reported from the capital.
Thursday morning it was reported that the presidential plane left Wednesday night for the United States and the Honduran first lady, Ana Garcia is with meeting Thursday with Kevin McAleenan, the United States acting Homeland Security Secretary.