Saturday, September 4, 2010

Honduras Solidarity Network denounces repression against striking teachers.

Press Release
August 29, 2010
A coalition of U.S. organizations today denounced the exercise of violent repression by Honduran military and police forces against members of a striking teacher’s union at a university in Tegucigalpa. The Honduras Solidarity Network (HSN) declared that “the recent brutal attacks by government forces against non-violent protests show that there has been no reconciliation after last year’s coup d’etat, and the U.S. government’s policy of support for the current government must be changed. We call for an immediate end to the repression and human rights violations against the opposition movement”.

The group referred to military and police attacks against members of the teacher’s union, COPEMH (Colegio de Profesores de Educación Media de Honduras (Association of Secondary Teachers of Honduras)), and their supporters, which took place at The National Pedagogical University Francisco Morazan in Tegucigalpa on August 26 and 27. The union has been on strike since May, and is generally viewed as opposing the regime of Honduran President Porfirio Lobo. The HSN based its action on reports received from the human rights group COFADEH and the General Workers’ Central Federation (CGT) labor organization, and corroborated by local news from Radio Globo and eyewitness accounts that report the following:

On Friday the 27th, police and military troops surrounded the National Pedagogical University, responding to thousands of teachers and members of trade unions, peasant organizations and other organizations supportive of the teachers gathered on the university grounds. The police and military forces sprayed tear gas from trucks and beat protesters with truncheons before firing canisters of tear gas into the University grounds. As people were overcome by the gas and tried to leave, they were beaten and many detained. Among the injured were two well-known reporters from Radio Globo, one of the few independent radio stations in the country. Among those seriously affected by the gas were a number of children and pregnant women.

On Thursday, the police and military attacked the same group at a massive protest near the presidential residency in the capital city. Television stations aired video showing soldiers firing their rifles during the repressive action and police beating protesters. Four teachers from the teachers’ union were seriously injured and, according to human rights organizations in Honduras, they were denied medical care at the main public hospital in Tegucigalpa. The teachers’ union then took the men to a private medical facility.

On August 20th, four leaders of the teachers’ union were badly injured when police attacked them during a union march. The men were detained at a police station for 12 hours during which time they were denied medical care and human rights observers were refused entry to the jail to verify their condition.

Throughout the month of August the level of conflict and the human rights crisis in Honduras has deepened. Non-violent protesters in Choloma were beaten, and three members of peasant organizations in Aguan were killed. Another journalist, critical of the regime, was murdered bringing to ten the total of journalists murdered since Lobo took over in January.
Vicki Cervantes, a spokesperson for the Honduras Solidarity Network said, “The United States government continues its support for the oligarchy and Lobo in the form of aid and pressure on other governments in the hemisphere to accept the illegitimate Lobo administration. “

Meanwhile, on the ground in Honduras the opposition of the majority of Hondurans to the coup and the subsequent regimes, including Lobo’s, is growing. For the first time since 1954, Honduran trade union federations have all agreed to prepare for a general strike and nearly a million Honduran eligible voters have signed letters demanding the convocation of a constituent constitutional assembly with the peoples’ participation and leadership.

The Honduras Solidarity Network, a nationwide coalition of non-profit, human rights and educational organizations, calls for:
· an end to police and military repression of the teachers and the protesters at the university;
· the resumption of negotiations between the government and the Teacher’s Union;
· the payment of back wages and an investigation into the violation of the teachers’ human rights.

Furthermore, until the brutal repression of social movements in Honduras ends, the HSN demands that the United States Government:
a) suspend all aid to the Lobo administration
b) stop the U.S. State Department lobbying for recognition of the undemocratic government of Honduras.
c) Recognize the Honduran people’s demand for a Constituent Assembly to establish a functioning, participatory democracy.

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