Honduras: Teachers and Students Resist Repression

Last Thursday and Friday (August 26-27), police and military violently repressed public school teachers who have taken to the streets for almost 3 weeks to demand, amongst other things, that the Pepe Lobo regime return 4 billion lempiras (or some 200 million dollars) that were taken from the National Institute of IMPREMA, an institution that manages teachers’ pension funds, after the military-oligarchic coup against President Zelaya on June 28, 2009.

The 6 teachers’ unions that form the umbrella organization FOMH — which represents 63,000 teachers nationwide — believe that the funds taken from this institution were used to fund the military regime, after the June 2009 coup headed by Roberto Micheletti and General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez that repressed and terrorized the pro-democracy movement critical of the coup and its perpetrators.

The education system in Honduras has been in crisis for the last 4 months, particularly the month of August, starting when the university students occupied the National Autonomous University (UNAH) demanding the reinstatement of 180 workers fired from their positions and the resignation of university director Julieta Castellanos.  Five fired workers still remain on hunger strike on the university grounds, some now reaching over 126 days without eating.

During the university occupation, police showed up and attempted to enter the university where they were then run off university grounds by the protesters.  The stand-off between the students and police occurred at the time when the State Department’s Maria Otero was visiting Honduras to investigate the human rights situation, an attempt once again by the United States government to paint the picture that the Lobo government is working hard to better the human rights situation in the country, a necessary condition for having Honduras readmitted into the Organization of American States (OAS).

Although the university students and the public school teachers have different immediate focuses and demands, they both claim that the form in which the Pepe Lobo’s regime is managing the teachers’ struggle in particular and the education system in general is one of the many attempts by the oligarchy and the government to privatize the public education system in Honduras.

Recognizing this threat, this massive teachers’ strike converges with and complements the ongoing struggle of the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP) as well as the preparatory stages of a mass general strike involving the three major umbrella unions — the Unitary Confederation of Workers of Honduras (CUTH), the Confederation of Workers of Honduras (CTH), and the General Center of Workers (CGT) — to which all unionized Honduran workers belong.

3 Days of Harsh Repression against the Teachers

Last Friday (August 27th), teachers were violently evicted twice from the area around the National Pedagogical University, first, when they had occupied the boulevard, and second, when teachers were regrouping and meeting inside the University.

At the university, located close to a major boulevard and across from a business shopping center, police arrived with 2 water tanks, firing more than 100 tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at the teachers and members of the resistance movement in and outside the university grounds, beating up those they chased and captured without regard for the presence of children and the public in the busy area of the city and the peaceful form in which the teachers were protesting.

From a black Toyota four-runner parked on the street in front of the university, a man opened fired at the protesters with a 9-millimeter gun.  Although no one was shot, the car was later identified as belonging to the National Congress.

Over 100 people were captured and ‘guarded’ by police against a fence outside the university.  They were later released after human rights representatives arrived and negotiated with the police.  Many teachers and resistance members, fleeing the tear gas, were trapped inside the classrooms in the university where they suffered from severe exposure to tear gas.  Over 7 people were injured from the gas and from police beatings, including a journalist from Globo TV/Radio Globo.

The day before, on Thursday, after occupying a street close to the Presidential Palace in Tegucigalpa, the teachers were violently evicted by police and military.  Six teachers were reported injured from the tear gas and wounds inflicted by the police.

These two days, last week, were the icing on the cake to the violence inflicted against the teachers movement on August 20th, when again, police and military evicted the movement and brutally beat up 3 union leaders and one teacher, all of whom were supposedly identified on the spot to the police by individuals infiltrating the marches.

Before and particularly since August 20th, the major media outlets owned by the oligarchy have continued a media campaign against the teachers’ movement to portray them as instruments of violence with no regard for children’s education and the educational system in Honduras.

At the writing of this article, the teachers are gathered in their daily assembly to discuss an agreement recently negotiated between the government negotiation team and the leaders of the teachers’ movement.  Today, the teachers will announce whether they accept the proposal or not.

Karen Spring may be contacted at spring.kj@gmail.com.  This article was first published by Rights Action on 31 August 2010.

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