Today, the Urban Transportation Union and the Taxi Driver Association of Honduras called a general transportation strike in Tegucigalpa. The transportistas are protesting the high levels of violence and insecurity, and are demanding justice for assassinations of transportation operators that have occurred in the last few weeks.
Oscar Castillo, the President of the Taxi Driver Association of Honduras told El Heraldo, a national Honduran newspaper that taxi drivers had the moral obligation to support the bus drivers, who first initiated the strike, because violence affects the entire transportation sector. Speaking about recent deaths of transportistas, Castillo told El Heraldo, “Only us taxi drivers, they have killed 44 comrades throughout 2014, the situation that the sector is living through is unsustainable and now no one wants to work with us out of fear.”
The final straw that initiating the strike was the murder of 28-year old Javier Antonio Ortega, a driver of a small bus or rapidito as they are called in Honduras. Ortega worked on the route between the National Autonomous University (UNAH) and the neighbourhood El Carrizal and was killed on the Boulevard Fuerzas Armadas, known as the “corridor of death” because of the number of individuals working in the public transportation sector that have been killed on the road.
Traveling in public buses and collective taxis (known as colectivos) is like entering a life-death lottery. One never really knows if they will reach their final destination without being robbed, killed, deeply traumatized from seeing something horrendous or all of the above. Heck, no one is safe from potential attacks of the Military Police themselves, who shot at a passenger bus in Tegucigalpa a few weeks ago, injuring four people.
Sign reads: "Mr. President and the results of the Security Tax ... when?"
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez created the Military Police and the TIGRES, yet - as the transportation sector is stating - have not improved the security situation in the country. Under the ex-President, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, the Honduran military were sent to the streets, and 3 years later, the homicide rate still remains one of the highest in the world.
Since the Merida Initiative was launched in 2008, and later the United States’ Central American Regional Security Strategy (CARSI) was folded into the Central American Integration System (SICA)- Central American Security Strategy (CASS), the homicide rate has skyrocketed. One of the intentions of SICA-CASS is to create safer streets and citizen security in Honduras - a goal that has not been achieved through militarizing the Honduran police, creating elite hybrid police-military units, and 'cleaning-up' the Honduran police.
Today’s strike of the transportation sector is another reminder of the failure of the Honduran security strategy that receives millions of dollars of support and training from the US and Canada governments.