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News > Latin America

Honduras University Protests Spread, Police Threaten Crackdown

  • Student protesters leave the National Autonomous University of Honduras in Tegucigalpa on June 7, 2016 after occupying the campus for 36 hours.

    Student protesters leave the National Autonomous University of Honduras in Tegucigalpa on June 7, 2016 after occupying the campus for 36 hours. | Photo: EFE

Published 9 June 2016

Six students face charges for land usurpation after protesters occupied a campus in Tegucigalpa.

Student protest in Honduras that shut down the national public university in the capital city of Tegucigalpa earlier this week have spread to the country’s second largest city of San Pedro Sula, where students occupied university buildings on Wednesday to reject administrative decisions that they argue go against their educational rights.

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The protesters temporarily took over two buildings on the San Pedro Sula campus of the National Autonomous University of Honduras, also known as Unah-VS, to put pressure on authorities to listen to their demands and answer their questions about how the institution is spending the money they pay for various services.

According the the Honduran daily La Prensa, classes and administrative activities were not interrupted by the action.

Student protests started to heat up at the main Unah campus in Tegucigalpa last week over changes to academic regulations, including a higher minimum grade required to pass, that some students fear will impact their ability to graduate. Students have slammed the new rules as "exclusionary," according to EFE, arguing that they should not be applied.

The demonstrations, involving students from across different programs, have also raised discontent over rising fees and called for representation within the administration to ensure that the student body has a voice when it comes to proposed policy changes.

Starting on Monday, about 300 students at occupied the Unah campus in Tegucigalpa, forcing the shutting down the university for 36 hours to pressure authorities to listen to their demands. Unah was closed for over 24 hours as authorities reported that protesters had blocked access for teachers, staff, and other students, according to local media.

Police threatened to forcibly evict the students from the campus on Tuesday if they did not agree to disperse, the Honduran daily La Prensa reported. Protesters left buildings they had taken control of without police resorting to force.

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Students emerged with linked arms and their faces covered, while many carried yellow flowers. Human rights defenders met the students to accompany them as they left the campus.

Six student protesters now face charges for land usurpation, local media reported Tuesday.

According to the Honduran publication Criterio, one of the six accused does not even live in the country after fleeing persecution from university authorities last year. A second of the six facing charges does not live in Tegucigalpa and did not participate in the most recent occupation, Criterio reported Tuesday.

While the students have ended the occupation, the movement remains ongoing and have planned ongoing events to share more information about their demands and next steps.

Due to the shutdown of all activities on the campus, university authorities have announced that classes will be extended by up to 10 days this term in 20 different programs to make up for lost time, La Prensa reported.

Unah students also took to the streets last year and occupied the campus in the name of protecting their educational rights amid a months-long series of weekly marches that brought thousands of people to the streets to protest government corruption and demand the resignation of President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

Last week, police violently clashed with student protesters, but no injuries were reported.

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