Honduras: students occupy schools in "Chilean" protests

About a thousand Honduran secondary students, along with parents and teachers, protested in and around Tegucigalpa on Aug. 15 against a proposed law that they said would lead to the privatization of much of the school system. In the village of Germania, south of the capital, the protesters blocked cars trying to use a major highway leading to El Salvador and Nicaragua. There was a confrontation with the police at another site, the Avenida de las Fuerzas Armada in the east of the city; agents hurled tear gas grenades and arrested some 20 students, although the students were apparently released later. Police blocked a protest near the presidential palace, where President Porfirio ("Pepe") Lobo Sosa was meeting with teachers' representatives about the proposed law.

National Congress president Juan Orlando Hernández announced during the day that the bill, the General Law of Education, would be withdrawn and replaced with a new proposal, which he said would be arrived at by consensus. Meanwhile, the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), the main alliance of Honduran social movements, called on its members to join the student demonstrations and denounced the "savage repression" of the movement by the police.

Students have occupied some 150 public schools throughout the country over the past three weeks, and people are starting to compare the protests to the student movement in Chile, which has paralyzed the educational system there for nearly three months. According to the students, the new Honduran legislation, intended to replace a 1966 law, would end government support for education after the ninth year or when the student turns 15, forcing students to pay to finish their secondary education. Teachers unions have also opposed the government's education reform proposals; they went on strike for much of March and April, although they are apparently now negotiating with President Lobo.

The protests continued on Aug. 19 with a demonstration outside the National Congress. (Adital, Brazil, Aug. 16; La Jornada, Mexico, Aug. 16, from AFP, DPA; La Tribuna, Tegucigalpa, Aug. 19)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, August 21.

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