Honduran president sends military as protests continue

At least two people were killed in overnight protests against the administration of President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

    Members of the military police prepare to remove barricades during a protest against the government of Honduras'' President Juan Orlando Hernandez, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras  [Jorge Cabrera/Reuters]
    Members of the military police prepare to remove barricades during a protest against the government of Honduras'' President Juan Orlando Hernandez, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras [Jorge Cabrera/Reuters]

    Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez on Thursday sent out the armed forces to impose order after protests against his embattled administration turned violent overnight in parts of the capital, claiming two lives.

    Speaking at the presidential palace after meeting senior security officials, Hernandez said he had ordered the military to keep roads open as well as to protect private property and the public in the troubled Central American country.

    "So the armed forces, the national police and the other defence and security forces are being deployed nationwide and will remain so," said Hernandez.

    Earlier in the day, the president said he had reached a deal with truck operators, whose strikes in pursuit of higher rates for moving freight had sparked fuel shortages.

    However, demonstrations against Hernandez persisted.

    There was widespread unrest on Wednesday evening in Tegucigalpa after members of a Honduran riot police force tasked with keeping order withdrew to their quarters to pressure the government for improved benefits.

    Protests against Hernandez have been building in recent weeks over planned reforms that his critics argue will lead to the privatisation of public health and education services.

    Honduras protests
    A demonstrator holds up a sign reading 'JOH Out', referring to President Juan Orlando Hernandez, during a protest against his government's plans to privatise healthcare and education [Jorge Cabrera/Reuters] 

    The unrest has piled more pressure on Hernandez, whose government has been increasingly unpopular since he changed rules to allow him to run for a second term in 2017. Though he won the election, it was widely criticised by international observers and opponents who say he stole the victory.

    Unrest continued on Thursday and military police evicted protesters who had set up barricades and burned tyres on a southern access road to the capital, as well as from a downtown boulevard, said security ministry spokesman Jair Meza.

    Meza added there were ongoing roadblocks in the southern region of Choluteca and in Colon on the Atlantic Coast, where containers from a unit of the US Dole Food Company were attacked a few weeks ago.

    During Wednesday's unrest 17 people suffered bullet wounds, two of whom two died at the HEU university hospital in Tegucigalpa, said Laura Schoenherr, a hospital spokeswoman.

    Hernandez responded by calling up a defence and security council to restore order in the country.

    There are at least 25,000 members of the Honduran armed forces, including military police, security experts say.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency