Tegucigalpa (AFP) – Activists blocked roads and clashed with police in Honduras on Saturday as part of nationwide protests against the contested re-election of President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
Dozens of people have been killed and hundreds jailed since Hernandez was declared the winner of the November 26 run-off election — but only after a three week stretch of often-interrupted ballot counting that stoked tensions and sparked accusations of fraud in the Central American country.
The left-wing Alliance in Opposition against the Dictatorship is heading a protest campaign insisting that the election was stolen from its candidate, former TV anchor Salvador Nasrallah.
The opposition called for a “national strike” on Saturday to focus on blocking the country’s main roads ahead of the start of the president’s new term in office on January 27.
The government has deployed police and soldiers across the country to confront protesters.
A military spokesman, Lieutenant Jose Coello, told AFP that some highways had been blocked “but they are being cleared in a peaceful manner.”
Coello said that police have confiscated tires, presumably to be set ablaze, that the protesters were carrying in their vehicles.
Protesters blocked the country’s main highway between Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula at a point about 100 kilometers (65 miles) north of the capital, local media reported.
In Tegucigalpa, police fired tear gas at protesters trying to block a road and burn tires. The demonstrators responded by hurling rocks.
Opposition leaders, including Nasralla and former president Manuel Zelaya, have called for protests to intensify for one week starting Saturday.
Hernandez has implicit backing from the United States, which is pouring millions of dollars into Honduras and neighboring Guatemala and El Salvador to improve security conditions there.
Those three countries, collectively known as Central America’s “Northern Triangle,” are the biggest source of undocumented migrants heading to the United States.