Protests over the last two months have left at least three people dead and are contributing to a growing political crisis for President Juan Orlando Hernandez. The recent 10-year anniversary of the coup that deposed President Jose Manuel Zelaya in 2009 provided a focal point for protesters, who are angry about many of the same issues — such as insecurity, poverty and a crisis of governance — that are also a factor in driving growing migration to the United States.
“These challenges make many people seek a better, more peaceful, life further north,” said Annette Idler, senior research fellow in politics and international relations at the University of Oxford.
While many Hondurans continue to leave the country in search of a new life, members of a variety of groups from across society are making their feelings known in the streets.
“The one demand that now unifies all these sectors is for the President to step down,” added Idler.
Here are some key issues behind the protests:
Crisis of democracy
Members of the Honduran opposition accuse Hernandez of changing the rules of the political system in his favor.
Reelection for a second presidential term had long been against the law in Honduras, but, after winning the 2013 election, Hernandez sparked massive protests in 2017 when he ran for a second time following a contentious 2015 Supreme Court decision scrapping the single-term limit.
Hernandez hung on to power following a widely disputed election that eroded many Hondurans’ trust in the political system due to allegations of electoral fraud.
Now protest leaders allege that Honduras is facing social unrest because the country is a “failed state,” in which institutions are not providing answers to the needs of citizens.
Anger over the 2017 election is also deepened by the role of the US in recognizing Hernandez as the winner despite grave concerns expressed by international observers. The US has a large military base in Honduras, which has led to accusations that both the current and previous US administrations are turning a blind eye to political violence and corruption in the country.
The Hernandez administration has been dogged by allegations of high-level corruption and drug trafficking, which have even implicated the President himself and his immediate family.
Hernandez has been investigated in relation to “large scale drug-trafficking” by the US, although the Honduran presidency released a statement in which they said the US Department of Justice had “found no evidence to sustain the accusations against the President and his collaborators.” His brother Antonio was arrested by US investigators on drug trafficking charges in November 2018, but he has denied the charges.
These allegations contribute to a climate of mistrust and provide another reason for ordinary Hondurans to call for Hernandez’s resignation. Although government sources have highlighted Honduran cooperation with the US in combating drug trafficking, a CNN investigation found that the country is a major transit point for Colombian cocaine trafficked through Venezuela.
With powerful figures allegedly involved in drug trafficking, claims of corruption among the political elite contribute to wider popular anger over the costs to ordinary people. And it’s not just drug smuggling. Transparency International ranked Honduras 132 out of 180 countries in its
Corruption Perceptions Index 2018, which looks at public sector corruption, and states that a failure to control corruption contributes to a crisis of democracy.