Wednesday, 27 November 2013 13:10

By Sarah Blaskey and Jesse Chapman, Truthout | News

"What we want is to defend our rights and that they be respected. And the only way that our rights will be respected is to perform our duty, and our duty is to be here [protesting]," said one young man, eyes still streaming from the clouds of teargas that engulfed his school. 


Jose (name changed for security purposes) is a student of the Autonomous University in Tegucigalpa. He and a few thousand of his fellow students were tear-gassed and beaten November 26, 2013, when they peacefully demonstrated, alleging fraud in the presidential election that took place two days earlier in Honduras. 


Most of the protesters supported the newly formed, left-leaning Party of Liberty and Refoundation (LIBRE) in the elections. They say their presidential candidate, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, wife of deposed president Manuel "Mel" Zelaya, was the true winner. Their assertions of fraud are based on exit polls and numbers that were called in by table observers at all of the voting centers that projected Castro would win by a margin of up to 5 percent.


However, with 68 percent of the total votes counted at this point, the Honduran Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), charged with overseeing the elections, declared an irreversible lead for the hyper-conservative Nationalist Party, which currently runs the country. 


Students began what they say will be a series of protests against the fraudulent election results. Their protests took place in defiance of the cautionary words that Zelaya used at the LIBRE press conference Monday when he said that LIBRE supporters should take the streets only "if it is necessary."


The demonstration began outside of the university around noon, when several hundred students blocked the streets. Not long after it began, national police in riot gear arrived and forcefully pushed the students back inside the campus, using military-grade tear gas and giant batons made out of long thick pieces of hardwood. Students began throwing rocks in defense. 


Human-rights observer Franklin David Dercir said that the violence was started by the police.

"We asked [the police] to let the students express themselves freely. But before we knew it, they came from the front and from behind," Dercir said. "They surrounded us and started throwing teargas bombs. The boys obviously had to defend themselves."