Honduran teacher Ilse Ivana Velásquez Rodríguez died around noon on March 18 in a Tegucigalpa hospital from injuries she received that day when riot police and the special Comando Cobra unit attacked a demonstration of thousands of teachers in front of the National Institute of Teachers’ Social Security (Inprema). Protesters initially said Velásquez was hit in the face by a tear gas grenade and was then run over by a police vehicle. The Spanish wire service EFE later reported that she fell in the confusion when the police attacked and was hit by a vehicle belonging to a local television station; EFE said the driver, Carlos Eduardo Zelaya Ríos, turned himself in to the police that evening.
Deputy National Police Director René Maradiaga Panchamé told the media that the police were investigating the death. Maradiaga Panchamé led a unit in the notorious Battalion 3-16, a death squad active in the 1980s.
Velásquez was the assistant principal at the República de Argentina school and a founding member of the Committee of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees in Honduras (COFADEH) human rights organization. Her brother, Manfredo Velásquez Rodríguez, was disappeared in the 1980s; her sister, Zenaida Velásquez Rodríguez, is said to have been COFADEH’s first president.
The demonstration come on the third day of a strike by some 60,000 education workers who say 5,000 teachers haven’t been paid in 18 months and that the government of President Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa hasn’t complied with an agreement Lobo signed on Oct. 1 after a strike over the Inprema pension fund. The teachers also oppose a decentralization plan that they say will lead to the privatization of the public schools. Lobo has threatened to replace the strikers with temporary teachers. (National Popular Resistance Front website, March 18, March 19; Honduras Culture and Politics blog, March 18, March 19; EFE, March 19, via La Tribuna, Tegucigalpa)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 20.
See our last post on Honduras.