The Americas

1 Dead, 2 Injured in Protests by Honduras Teachers

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Honduras' president ordered striking school teachers back to work Friday following clashes with police that left one teacher dead and two others injured.

The teachers are demanding better conditions as well as the return of ousted former President Manuel Zelaya.

Assistant principal Ilse Velasquez, 59, died from head injuries, Hospital Escuela spokeswoman Lilia Leiva said. Velasquez worked at a school in Tegucigalpa, the capital.

Pro-Zelaya radio station Radio Globo said Velasquez was struck in the face by a tear gas grenade then hit by a police vehicle that was spraying water at protesters.

Police Chief Juan Canales said the case was under investigation and provided no other details.

Miguel Bonilla, the spokesman for President Porfirio Lobo, said her death "was not caused by police," and Channel 5 television aired video Friday showing Velasquez being hit by a civilian pickup truck, which knocked her to the pavement and then ran over her. The driver fled but later turned himself in to police.

Teachers, who began protesting Thursday, were given big pay raises by Zelaya before he was ousted in a 2009 coup and the strikers are demanding his return.

After two days of protests that blocked streets, President Porfirio Lobo's administration issued anemergency decree Friday ordering teachers back to work. The decree permits the government to fire those who disobey the order and hire temporary substitutes to replace them.

Zelaya's term ran out several months after his ouster and Lobo won the subsequent election.
Zelaya lives in the Dominican Republic and has said wants to return to Honduras, but first wants arrest warrants against him dropped. He faces charges of fraud, usurping powers and falsifying documents, which he calls politically motivated.