TEGUCIGALPA – Honduran civil society sectors, including education and healthcare, told their government on Wednesday that “enough is enough” of corruption, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis which has claimed the lives of almost 700 and infected some 26,000 people in the country.
The message to President Juan Orlando Hernandez was backed up with a convoy of vehicles that traveled across a boulevard of Tegucigalpa to protest via slogans written on the windows of vehicles, as carrying out demonstrations is not possible due to the curfew in place since March.
Corruption during the epidemic was symbolized in the parade by a blue mouse with the face of Hernandez being hunted by a huge white cat.
“Enough!” “JOH (Juan Orlando Hernandez), where is the money? (allotted for the epidemic),” “Prison for the corrupt.” “Return the money,” and “No country without health” were some of the messages written on the dozens of vehicles that paraded through the boulevard.
Some of the cars also carried blue and white Honduran flags.
The question “Where is the money?” is associated with alleged corruption in the purchase of equipment and materials, including seven mobile hospitals – two of them are set to arrive on Thursday from Turkey – which even after four months of outbreak have not been set up.
The purchase fell under Honduras Strategic Investment (INVEST-H), whose executive director until last week, Marco Bogran, is under investigation by the Public Ministry following multiple complaints from civil society sectors. They allege corruption in the acquisition, which Bogran denies.
Honduras Medical College President Suyapa Figueroa told EFE that the epidemic situation was serious, with high levels of infection among the population despite the Honduran parliament allotting a large amount of economic resources to fight the crisis.
She said hospitals lack personal protective equipment and that 16 healthcare personnel had already died from COVID-19, while many were currently off work and severely ill.
“The people are being attended in the most appalling manner that one can imagine… there are no hospital beds, no mechanical ventilators which were supposed to be bought,” Figueroa said.
She added that no one knew what happened to the personal protective equipment, mobile hospitals or the money approved to provide care for the public.
In addition, the country is currently “in a phase of high community transmission, in a state of total collapse of hospitals and we have numerous deaths which are taking place in the homes of the people because they are unable to come to a hospital; there is no capacity, not even healthcare personnel,” the HMC chief said.
The college last week proposed the formation of a senior management group where decisions will not be political and will not benefit the powerful that support the government’s decisions, but will tend to common welfare.
Chief of the College of Dental Surgeons of Honduras, Marco Garay told EFE that Wednesday’s protest was a call to the entire population to say “enough is enough of so much looting, enough of so much theft.”
“Our people are dying in health centers and they are dying in hospitals due to the lack of supplies and lack of medicines. All of our colleagues – doctors, nurses, dentists – are being infected by COVID-19. And the government is deaf and blind and does not respond to the call that we are making as guilds,” Garay said.
Vivian Rivera, a gynecologist at the Honduran Social Security Institute who also participated in the protest, told EFE that between 15 to 30 people were dying daily due to COVID-19, but the state-run National Risk Management System does not say so because it was behind schedule in PCR laboratory testing.
She added that the maternity ward of the institute in Tegucigalpa was receiving women from the city as well as others from central and eastern regions of the country, such as Siguatepeque, Comayagua and Danli, and 50 percent of the patients were COVID-19 positive.