Riot police have clashed with protesters in Honduras after thousands of people took to the streets of the capital on Tuesday to urge President Juan Orlando Hernández to step down, days after he was forced to deny taking money from drug gangs to secure his election in 2013.
The premises of at least three businesses in the city were set on fire after protests turned violent, officials said, and riot police clashed with demonstrators while attempting to disperse the crowd with teargas and water cannons.
“The narco must go, JOH must go!” protesters chanted, using the president’s initials, as they marched through central Tegucigalpa towards congress.
A court filing was published late last week in which US prosecutors alleged that Hernández’s 2013 presidential campaign had been partly funded by money from drug traffickers.
The document filed to the US southern district court of New York said the Hernández campaign received $1.5m from “drug proceeds” that were used to bribe local officials in exchange for protection and the completion of public works.
Hernández rejected the allegations, casting himself as the victim of a smear campaign by drug gangs he had targeted, and accusing political opponents, such as ex-president Manuel Zelaya, of colluding with gangsters to discredit him.
Protesters attacked police with sticks and stones near congress after officers deployed teargas, and a Red Cross official said five people were treated for injuries.
A fire service spokesman, César Trochez, said “three commercial businesses caught fire” during the clashes, adding that the causes for the blazes were under investigation.
The demonstration against Hernández was called by the Platform for the Defense of Education and Public Health, a coalition of trade unionists and public workers that have sought the president’s removal over his plans for public services.