Anti-government protests continue to take place in Honduras in the wake of a coup in June 2009. The protesters are calling for the resignation of President Juan Orlando Hernández, whose government has encouraged violence against protesters. Since the coup, the people of Honduras have suffered a lack of public services, increased poverty, and violence under Hernández’s government. These conditions have contributed to a greater amount of Honduran refugees fleeing the country.
The protests became especially prominent again in April 2019 when the president introduced a reform plan that could lead to the privatization of government services like education and healthcare. The protests have also escalated in light of the coup’s tenth anniversary. Police forces recently exerted violence against protesters at the National Autonomous University in Honduras where at least four people were injured. Despite Hernández’s encouragement of violence against protesters, the United States supports his government and continues to provide aid for its efforts.
In defence of the government’s actions, according to Al Jazeera, Defence Minister Fredy Díaz stated, “The Armed Forces will be accompanying the National Police in all parts of Honduras so that our population can carry out their activities as they see fit, tomorrow and any other day.” However, the manner in which the government has chosen to carry out this mission has been criticized as overly violent. According to BBC, in response to the violent end to the recent protest at National Autonomous University, the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras for the United Nations stated that he felt “deep dismay over the consequences of the operation of the military forces.” Representatives from the United States have voiced their disapproval of recent events, despite the country’s official position of support of Hernández’s government. According to RT, Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar recently tweeted, “Today marks 10 years since the coup in Honduras. We in the U.S. must stop funding its brutality.” According to RT, President Donald Trump has even expressed interest in cutting funding for the Hernández government since Hondurans make up a large portion of migrant “caravans” that cross the U.S. border and actions of the Hernández government have led to this increased migration.
Considering the influence that the U.S. is able to wield in the international community, its support or lack thereof for the Hernández government can greatly impact the political climate in Honduras. As a general rule, the U.S. should not provide aid to governments that respond to protesters with violence and create conditions that force citizens to become refugees. Even though support of the current Honduran government can lead to economic and military advantages for the U.S., the lives of Hondurans should be granted higher importance. The rights of people to raise their voices, peacefully demonstrate, and live under a legitimate and non-oppressive government should outweigh an opportunity to prosper economically. The first step for the U.S. should be to publicly withdraw support for Hernández’s government and to condemn the violence he encourages against protesters. If Hernández’s government continues to prosper without aid, the U.S. should take what action it can to try and stop both the violence and the corruption that plague the Honduran government. The U.S. should use its influence to ensure that the Honduran people live in an environment where they are free to protest, to fairly elect their leader, and to receive government services.
On June 28, 2009, the Honduran military staged a coup d’état against President Manuel Zelaya. The National Party won the next presidential elections which took place later in 2009. During the 2013 presidential elections, Zelaya gathered the members of his Liberal Party who opposed the coup and tried to defeat the National Party with the party LIBRE. However, his efforts were unsuccessful. He lost to Hernández, the National Party candidate, who also won the 2017 presidential elections despite accusations of fraud and the violation of previously established constitutional rules governing elections. These elections sparked further protests and led to violence conducted by Hernández’s forces against Hondurans. Since the coup, the United States has supported the results of each presidential election in Honduras and continues to provide aid to Hernández, whose government has supported economic policies that favour U.S. corporations and maintained the U.S. military base in Soto Cano.
In the near future, it remains to be seen whether the protests in Honduras will continue with the same vigour after the tenth anniversary of the coup. Additionally, the events of the coming weeks will determine whether the U.S. will continue to provide aid to Hernández. The U.S. must establish where it stands on the issues in Honduras, especially if violence against protesters continues and calls for further action on the part of outsiders.