A group of seven teachers in the capital are demanding authorities release Romel Valdemar Herrera Portillo, detained Friday for allegedly taking part in setting tires on fire in front of the U.S. embassy that resulted in major flames and damage to the building. Local media shows Herrera being put into the back of a pickup truck by military-style police upon arrest.
The teachers tell Radio HRN that Herrera’s arrest “is an attack by the government” against the month-long, national teacher and medical professional protests, and that the educator is being framed for the burning.
Images and videos are circulating on Twitter of a group of young males with full masks pushing grocery carts full of old tires to the front of the U.S. embassy Friday and lighting them on fire. Honduran organizations, such as Anti-bots, a cyber security and anti-corruption organization, questions why there were no police or security in front of the typically highly-guarded embassy at the time. Just prior, these same people broke windows of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal in charge of all electoral matters in Honduras.
Un grupo de jóvenes con carreta de supermercado�� con piedras y llantas, recorrieron casi toda la ciudad quebrando vidrios de edificios como #TSE para culminar en incendio en la #EmbajadaAmericana
A group of young people with a supermarket cart with stones and tires, toured almost the entire city breaking glass of buildings like #TSE ending with a fire in front of the #EmbajadaAmericana
Manuel Zelaya, former Honduran president ousted in 2009 and leader of the left-leaning political party, Libre, tweeted images of the hooded youths saying that the perpetrators are not protesters, but “paramilitaries” sent by the administration.
“Terrorism, assassinations, looting, sabotage and vandalism are executed by paramilitaries operating from the State COUP. (False positives). This provocation today at the "Emb USA" is no exception. Attacking Libre is the purpose. A year ago it was the MARRIOT,” referring to vandalism on the major chain hotel in Tegucigalpa in January of 2018.
El terrorismo, asesinatos, saqueos, sabotaje y vandalismo, son ejecutados por paramilitares que operan desde el GOLPE de Estado. (Falsos Positivos). El agente provocador este día en “Emb USA” no es la excepción. Atacar a Libre es la finalidad. Hace un año fue el MARRIOT. pic.twitter.com/LZ4Qtfdpou
“Terrorism, assassinations, looting, sabotage and vandalism are executed by paramilitaries operating from the State COUP. (False positives). This provocation today at the "Emb USA" is no exception. Attacking Libre is the purpose. A year ago it was the MARRIOT”
Teachers, students, medical professionals and the general public have been holding nearly continuous month-long strikes across Honduras in reaction to two laws passed by Congress in late April many Hondurans says will privatize the nation’s health and education programs, and lead to mass layoffs in these sectors.
Hundreds of thousands were once again on strike May 30 and 31 in response to the President Juan Orlando Hernandez’ (JOH) implementation this past week of two executive orders, PCM-026 and PCM-027, that declare a state of emergency over the public health and education sectors, respectively, in response to the constant work stoppages and protests this month. Many just want JOH out of office after a highly controversial and internationally-recognized fraudulent 2017 presidential election that placed incumbent Hernandez back as head of state.
JOH's presidential orders are traditionally used in times of war, epidemics, or during "disturbances to peace." The decrees essentially give his administration a blank check to transform the education and public health areas and to reassign their funds.
While protests have been peaceful, national security forces have regularly cracked down on demonstrators with tear gas and pulling out weapons on the unarmed. The Honduran Platform for the Defense of Health and Education denounced these "excessive" violence and repression, saying they wouldn't dialogue until the decrees are repealed. teleSUR correspondent in Honduras, Gilda Silvestrucci, reports the president is refusing to cancel the decrees.
In a video published by HRN, the group calls for more manifestations Saturday and Sunday in front of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH).
U.S. ambassador to Honduras, Heidi Fulton, said in a statement the facility is cancelling “all visa appointments and routine services for U.S. citizens from June 3-7, 2019” due to the violent incident.