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Masked officers in the Honduras National Police force said they would not confront protesters. (Photo: EPA)

"We Don't Want to Repress": Police in Honduras Refuse Orders to Stamp Out Pro-Democracy Protests

"We are tired. And our job is to give peace and security to the Honduran people, not repress them. We want all Hondurans to be safe."

Jon Queally

Amid widening violence and ongoing protests, members of the Honduras National Police force—including those within the U.S.-trained units known as the Cobras—say they are refusing  to obey orders from the right-wing government of the incumbent president, Juan Orlando Hernández, who has used the security forces to crackdown on demonstrators and imposed a curfew amid allegations of voter fraud in recent elections.

"We are tired. And our job is to give peace and security to the Honduran people, not repress them. We want all Hondurans to be safe." —Member of Cobra police unit"We want peace, and we will not follow government orders – we're tired of this," a spokesperson for the police told reporters outside the national police headquarters on Monday. "We aren't with a political ideology. We can't keep confronting people, and we don't want to repress and violate the rights of the Honduran people."

On Monday night, demonstrations in the streets continued as opponents of Hernández poured into the streets with pots and pans—now with the tacit support of the police forces who had earlier been sent disperse them—as they called for transparency in the counting of votes and the ouster of the ruling party. As Reuters reports, "Some police officers abandoned their posts and joined carnival-like demonstrations that erupted across the city hours after night fell and the curfew was supposed to have begun."

While reporting indicated that police officers were also striking in order to receive better wages and treatment from their superiors, a member of the elite Cobras unit—many of whom have been trained by U.S. military operators at the infamous School of the Americas or its descendants—said there was more to their refusal than working conditions for themselves. "This is not a strike, this not about salaries or money," the officer told the Guardian. "It's that we have family. We are tired. And our job is to give peace and security to the Honduran people, not repress them. We want all Hondurans to be safe."

And as TeleSur reports:

A Honduras police officer said on the local television network, UNE,  that some officers will go on a hunger strike as they are tired of taking orders from corrupt politicians to go after innocent people, adding that they aren't machines and are tired of seeing people's blood spill. 

"We can not become violators of Human Rights, if we do it sooner or later we will pay the debt, in fact we are already paying for the violations committed by our superiors in the past, please reconsider and understand and we do not fail our noble institution," the official statement issued by the National Police stated.

From the capital city of Tegucigalpa on Tuesday, School of the Americas Watch issued a dispatch detailing the latest on the allegations of vote-rigging and the impact of recent events, including the police refusal to obey orders. It read in part:

the Coordinator of the Alliance in Opposition to the Dictatorship, Mel Zelaya, presented slides of vote tally sheets altered by the election authorities to give more votes to the current President Juan Orlando Hernandez and take votes away from the Opposition Alliance candidate Salvador Nasralla.  Each party receives tally sheets from each voting station and so the Opposition Alliance was able to compare their tally sheets with those posted by the electoral authorities and found that the electoral authorities had frequently altered the results, even creating new tally sheets to increase the number of votes for Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH as he is called) and reduce those of the Opposition Alliance.  The Liberal Party, which came in third place, is also willing to provide its copies of the tally sheets for comparison.  Salvador Nasralla declared he was requesting a meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States to present the vote tally sheets.  The Opposition Alliance’s findings suggest a major fraud operation by the electoral authorities, who are firmly aligned with US-backed President Juan Orlando Hernandez, to try to thwart a massive popular vote that roundly rejected his re-election effort.  

People in Honduras continue in the streets demanding an end to the fraud and the dictatorship of Juan Orlando Hernandez, who has consolidated power throughout the past 8 years following the SOA-graduate led 2009 coup, and ran for re-election despite the Constitutional prohibition against re-election.  Last night, once again people throughout the country chanted ‘Fuera JOH’ (get out JOH) and banged pots and pans throughout the night in a show of resistance to the curfew and suspension of constitutional guarantees.  Hernandez, whose regime continues to be financed by the United States despite the massively violent crackdown on protesters, is trying desperately to maintain his grip on power despite widespread popular rejection.  

The Platform of Popular and Social Movements of Honduras is now demanding the immediate resignation of Juan Orlando Hernandez and thousands upon thousands continue in the streets today.  The momentum is clearly on the side of the Honduran people and the fraud is becoming too obvious to deny.  As Hernandez tries to maintain power, will the US continue propping him up?  Or will it finally acknowledge how corrupt and repressive his regime is and let the Honduran people decide their own future?   

So far in 2017, the U.S. government has supplied Honduras with approximately $17.3 million in security assistance despite widespread reports of repression and corruption by the ruling government, which first came to power in 2009 in a coup which received support from the U.S. State Department under Hillary Clinton. On Monday, despite overwhelming evidence of recent voter fraud and human rights abuses, the Trump administration re-certified the Honduran government as complying with human rights protocols in order to allow the financial assistance to continue.

In its dispatch, SOA Watch called on American voters and residents to speak out against U.S. support for the Hernandez government. "Call on the US to denounce fraud and violent repression following the elections in Honduras, demand the immediate suspension of aid to Honduras, and demand accountability for the US financing of repression and murder in Honduras," the group urged.

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