Caravan against the tollstolls

20161210_115509A road across Honduras has been under construction for a number of years. This is the main road linking Northeast Honduras with the Capitol and neighboring countries. Funding for the road comes from the “Millennium Goals’ of the World Bank/IMF. Funding for road maintenance comes from a substantial tax on the purchase of gasoline and car registrations. As the road neared completion, Honduras President Juan Orlando Obanado aka “Juan Robando,”awarded a private transnational company a concession to charge tolls on the road. Radio Progreso/ERIC (Research, Organizing and Communications Team) has been leading protests against the tolls since the inception of the contract. Today, they led a national vehicle caravan protest which we participated in.

20161210_120926This campaign against the tolls is part of a much larger struggle in Honduras against privatization and selling of concessions in all sectors including mining. Hydroelectric companies. In all, there are 800 mining concessions and 150 concessions for hydroelectric dams in the works.

dsc00249Our van joined dozens of other vehicles in Progreso heading towards Tegucigalpa and stopping at each new toll booth, but refusing to pay. We were let through without paying, so that traffic wouldn’t be stopped. Another caravan began in Tegucigalpa and heading toward Progreso/San Pedto Sula, also refusing to pay toll along the way. The vehicles were festooned with banners, with people calling out and chanting when traffic slowed and stopped, encouraging other drivers to also not pay. As the two caravans approached each other at prearranged toll plaza locations in the center of the country, the highway was blocked by a line of over 100 police in riot gear and a water cannon truck waiting in reserve, preventing all cars and trucks from passing through. The people protesting the tolls got out of their cars, and people began singing the Honduran national anthem, speeches and more singing and dancing ensued. We were asked to be human rights observers and watch all that might take place, as at the last caravan action, 4 protesters were illegally arrested. Root Causes Pilgrimage members had plenty of opportunity to get acquainted with a number of activists in addition to those Radio Progreso leaders who accompanied us. In all, it was an exuberant, inspiring, and moving scene. Eventually, the police let us pass through their line to proceed to the toll without paying. Then we turned around and passed through the toll again without paying, to head on toward our next destination in the western part of Honduras.