Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Honduran Violence Against Striking Teachers and Students

Honduras is in the midst of a month long general strike. The strike, spearheaded by teachers and the National Front of Popular Resistance, is protesting government repression, attacks on teachers, privatization of the public education system, and the skyrocketing cost of living. However, virtually all of Honduran society is now in resistance, including the Garifuna (Afro-Indian), peasant and indigenous communities. In March, President Lobo threatened to fire striking teachers, and has since carried out the threat on 300 of them. Several striking teachers have been killed by the police, while three high school students were killed last week in Tegucigalpa. The police routinely attack protesters with clubs, tear gas, and rubber bullets.

According to Democracy Now, the violence throughout the country has been escalating, with March being one of the deadliest on record. There has been an average of 25 women murdered each week, and over 40 murders of gays and lesbians. The homicide rate is now among the highest in the world, and four times that of Mexico, even with its epidemic of drug violence. This should be no surprise since Honduras (along with much of Central American) has grown in importance to drug traffickers, not only for its importance to smuggling, but as a place for Mexican drug lords to hide out from their government.

There are several connections between drug violence and repression of teachers and the rest of Honduran civil society. First, the same police and military that are repressing Hondurans during their protests and organizing are complicit in the drug trade.  A second connection is the President himself, Porfirio Lobo, who is in power only because the elected president, Manuel Zelaya, was ousted in a U.S. supported coup. Democracy Now reported that Lobo has just been offered $200 million from the U.S. government for the police and military to use in the drug war. However, there will be no oversight to ensure that the money and weapons are actually used to fight drug trafficking and not against civilians.

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