TEGUCIGALPA – A dozen people were injured and 59 arrested when police broke up a road-blocking protest in western Honduras by area residents who are demanding tougher regulation of the mining industry, authorities said.
Among those detained in the town of La Flecha were four Catholic priests, whose presence at the demonstration was authorized by the archdiocese of Copán and who were quickly released.
The protest began at 6 a.m. July 18, when activists blocked six different stretches of highway at various points in Honduras.
Police later said that traffic was flowing freely again within eight hours.
The police chief in Santa Bárbara province, Silvio Inestroza, told reporters that the road-clearing operation in La Flecha left four of his officers and eight protesters injured.
He said that police confiscated machetes and firearms from some of the protesters, who also used sticks and stones in a vain attempt to hold off the cops.
The Civic Alliance for Democracy, which coordinated the nationwide protests, was joined by indigenous organizations and human-rights groups in condemning “the police repression” of “peaceful” demonstrations.
In Tegucigalpa, meanwhile, delegates from the Civic Alliance reached an agreement with officials on a plan for Congress to pass a new mining bill instead of a package of amendments to the current legislation.
Those proposed amendments, according to the Civic Alliance and leftist parties, would benefit only the mining companies.
A coalition of campesino groups, environmentalists and the Catholic Church has been trying for several years to get the Honduran government to exercise more stringent over sight of the mining industry, which opponents accuse of damaging the environment while providing few economic benefits for local communities.