Yesterday was the inauguration of Juan Orlando Hernandez to his second term of presidency here in Honduras. For context, until recently a second consecutive presidential term was not allowed. JOH, as he is known, stacked the high court with magistrates friendly to his cause that allowed him to run again last November. And when the opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla was gaining a significant lead on election day, the electoral tribunal’s counting system mysteriously went down. And when the counting system was back online again JOH had miraculously taken the lead. Ultimately, JOH was declared the winner.
Fast forward and a delegation of 50 international ecumenical leaders (of which I am part) have come for the week surrounding the presidential inauguration. In addition to the fraud and corruption surrounding JOH, his party, and his second presidential win, there has also been a profound militarization of Honduras in recent years and a harsh repression following the fraudulent presidential elections. Suffice it to say, he is not popular.
In the days leading up to the inauguration, our delegation was pretty much “on call” to be present at demonstrations in the sense that our experiences at protest actions primarily remained peaceful. That has not been the case for Hondurans—the death toll since the election is at least 31 with injury and illegal arrests much much higher.
So, yesterday, we found ourselves by the side of the road: making friends, hearing stories, watching the cars go by and yell, “Fuera JOH!”
One group feared the possible repression from the plentiful police and military forces when their toma (road block) on the highway ended. The answer was simple: let’s walk them home. So we did. Down the muddy lane, past many African palm farms, and eventually into their small town.
On the one hand, we got them home safely. On the other hand, there were so many more protests nationwide yesterday. On the way home we stopped at another toma further down the same stretch of highway. Again, we stood at the side of the road making friends, hearing stories, watching cars go by. Watching as protest leaders again and again approached the line of security forces in riot gear to remain in communication. Eventually, as traffic dissipated and rain and darkness set in, the protest dissipated. We took the leaders of this toma with us in the bus for a distance to make sure they could not be followed by the security forces.
Unfortunately, we could not walk everyone home yesterday. I’m glad we could make a positive impact in the El Progreso area. I ask you to please pray for the Honduran people living through this political crisis and consider the ways that you can stay informed and advocate against military aid to the country.