This article originally appeared in Toward Freedom
Hundreds of people, many wearing medical masks, brought traffic to a standstill on an outer Tegucigalpa highway to protest the Honduran government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re hungry, they say, demanding food and support.
Military police approach the crowd, assault rifles in hand. In a chaos of shouts, the first rounds are fired. A hail of stones thrown by the protesters come thumping and scudding on the pavement.
One of the officers levels his rifle above the protesters, firing a rapid succession of shots before jumping in the police pickup and stealing down the road. It is unclear if anyone was wounded in the confrontation.
The street battle caught on video in Tegucigalpa on May 8th shows but one face of the US-backed government of Juan Orlando Hernandez’s response to the pandemic. The government is besieged by mounting accusations of corruption and drug trafficking, and the coronavirus has ushered in a rise in hunger, corruption, state violence and repression.
In the countryside, land conflicts simmer, and many activists are worried they’ll soon boil over. Over the past decade, hundreds of peasant activists have been murdered by the Honduran military, sicarios, or state-allied paramilitary groups.
Quarantine has added a macabre new chapter to those conflicts: unable to leave their home while death threats against them continue, activists have become sitting ducks.