Friday, June 24, 2016

Progreso - Fighting Against Privatization and Repression

La Voz de los de Abajo has a fact finding and accompaniment commission traveling in Honduras this week.  We arrived Wednesday and driving from the San Pedro Sula Airport to Progreso we stopped to accompany the ongoing protests against the construction of a new toll road on the highway between these two important cities in the North at the invitation of some of the activists in this movement.   Recent protests on June 4, 8 and 11 have been repressed violently with tear gas, police beating participants and journalists and the detention of protesters who have set tires on fire to help block the road.  Wednesday the number of protesters was much smaller but they still blocked the highway, facing off against at least 50 armed National Police and Cobra riot police without any violence.  Organizations supporting the protests include the CNTC Progreso, ERIC-SJ, teacher activists, LIBRE, student groups and poor peoples organizations working together in the Mesas de Indignación.  The Chamber of Commerce of Progreso is joining in now;  they called for a civic strike Thursday the 23rd  of the small business owners and Progreso's population with a public assembly to discuss and debate what to do. More than 100 small and medium businesses supported the civic action.

Since taking power in January 2014 President Juan Orlando Hernandez has intensified the campaign of privatization of public goods and the cutting of services to the people. One of these campaigns is for the privatization of the major highways through the construction of toll roads. These toll road schemes bring in revenue for the private/public partnerships (Coalianza near Tegucigalpa and DASA in the North) that build and manage them through the contracts awarded to companies and the collection of the tolls themselves.  They cause immense hardship for the population and are widely hated and protested.  The cost of a toll is around $1 for a regular private car and approximately $10 for a large truck. At the same time the alternative roads are being blocked with drainage ditches and other construction. Toll roads have been completed on the highways in and out of Tegucigalpa and between San Pedro Sula and Choluma, and more are planned on the highways in and out of Progreso. There have been many protests blocking the road and refusing to pay the tolls but now people have decided to protest to prevent the construction of new tolls.
Padre Melo on the air Radio Progreso

Radio Progreso ERIC-SJ and the Teachers movement represented
LIBRE congressman Bartolo Fuentes, City council woman Araminta Pereira

One of the organizations working to build this rebellion against privatization of the roadways in Radio Progreso, and ERIC-SJ. We visited Padre Melo during his nightly show, America Libre. He was receiving calls from the public dennouncing the tolls and he called on the social movement organizations and resistance movement to make it a national movement. He believes that it is urgent for the popular movements to strengthen these broader civic protests so that they are less vulnerable to manipulation by the government.

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