Thousands protest in Honduras cities following scandal

Jun 1, 2015, 2:12 PM

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A protest movement organized over social media in Honduras has led to large demonstrations in cities around the Central American country.

The protesters are upset over a scandal involving a purported multimillion-dollar embezzlement of Social Security funds, with some of the money allegedly going to finance the governing political party. Among other things, they are calling for President Juan Orlando Hernandez to resign.

“The Social Security case is the occasion that has fed up the Honduran people, and that funds from Social Security would be used to finance political campaigns has been the catalyst for this movement,” activist Gabriela Blen said Monday.

Organized via Twitter with hashtags including one that translates as “resign JOH” — a reference to the president’s initials — the movement began recently as just a couple dozen people at a torchlight vigil in the capital.

It gradually picked up steam, and thousands marched through Tegucigalpa on Friday with similarly large protests in San Pedro Sula, Siguatepeque, Choluteca and Comayagua during the weekend.

The Honduran Public Ministry has said a network led by the then-director of the Social Security Institute, Mario Zelaya, fraudulently misspent at least $120 million during the 2010-14 presidency of Porfirio Lobo.

The scheme allegedly relied on mark-ups topping 100 percent on goods and services such as medicines and pensions, with kickbacks then being paid by businesses that benefited. At least part of the money purportedly ended up in the hands of the National Party, which counts both Lobo and Hernandez as members.

National Party lawmaker Oscar Alvarez said that if money was received from businesses tied to Social Security, “it was done in good faith.”

Hernandez has said that the party “maintains its accounting on the basis of checks contributed by each member” and that those individuals are responsible for the money, not the party as a whole.

Zelaya was detained after fleeing the country. He is not related to former President Manuel Zelaya, who was seized by the Honduran military and ousted in a 2009 coup.

The 18-person Social Security board of directors, all of them appointed by Lobo, is under investigation. Two former vice ministers of the health and labor departments have also been detained.

Blen said organizers plan another march Friday to local offices of the United Nations. They will demand the creation of an international commission to investigate crime and impunity similar to a U.N. commission currently operating in neighboring Guatemala that has played a key role in uncovering graft scandals involving that country’s customs and Social Security agencies.

She said there is no direct link between the Honduras protests and similar demonstrations seen in Guatemala, but added: “Yes, of course, (they were) an inspiration.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

World News

(Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for BoF VOICES)...
Associated Press

Vivienne Westwood, influential fashion maverick, dies at 81

Vivienne Westwood, an influential fashion maverick who played a key role in the punk movement, died Thursday at 81.
1 month ago
FILE - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during his first Cabinet meeting flanked by his ...
Associated Press

Rishi Sunak: UK’s ex-Treasury chief gets his shot at PM job

LONDON (AP) — Rishi Sunak ran for Britain’s top job and lost. Then he got another shot — and the chance to say “I told you so.” The former U.K. Treasury chief was runner-up to Liz Truss in the contest to replace the scandal-plagued Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and prime minister. But Truss […]
3 months ago
Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss addresses the media in Downing Street in London, Thursday, Oct. ...
Associated Press

Truss quits, but UK’s political and economic turmoil persist

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Liz Truss quit Thursday after a tumultuous and historically brief term marred by economic policies that roiled financial markets and a rebellion in her political party that obliterated her authority. After just 45 days in office, Truss became the third Conservative prime minister to be toppled in as many […]
4 months ago
People receive medical treatment at the scene of Russian shelling, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Oct. 1...
Associated Press

Russia unleashes biggest attacks in Ukraine in months

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia retaliated Monday for an attack on a critical bridge by unleashing its most widespread strikes against Ukraine in months, a lethal barrage that smashed civilian targets, knocked out power and water, shattered buildings and killed at least 14 people. Ukraine’s Emergency Service said nearly 100 people were wounded in the […]
4 months ago
This illustration made available by Johns Hopkins APL and NASA depicts NASA's DART probe, upper rig...
Associated Press

NASA spacecraft smashes into asteroid for defense test

A NASA spacecraft rammed an asteroid at blistering speed Monday in an unprecedented dress rehearsal for the day a killer rock menaces Earth.
4 months ago
Associated Press

At least 9 killed as Iran protests over woman’s death spread

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Clashes between Iranian security forces and protesters angry over the death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody have killed at least nine people since the violence erupted over the weekend, according to a tally Thursday by The Associated Press. The scope of Iran’s ongoing unrest, the worst in […]
4 months ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Thousands protest in Honduras cities following scandal