25 hurt in protests by Honduran teachers, medical workers

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A man throws a bin at a torched police vehicle during a protest against the government of Honduras' President Juan Orlando Hernandez, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Thursday, May 30, 2019. Thousands of doctors and teachers have been marching through the streets of Honduras' capital for the last three weeks against presidential decrees they say would lead to massive public sector layoffs. (AP Photo/Elmer Martinez)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — At least 25 people were injured in Honduras on Thursday after police forcibly broke up protests by thousands of teachers and medical workers.

Red Cross doctor Marcio Moncada said demonstrators and officers were among those hurt, and all were hospitalized.

Protesters blocked main avenues in the capital, Tegucigalpa, and tried to force their way into Toncontin International Airport, south of the city. They fled after a volley of tear gas launched by officers.

The airport's administrator said in a statement that it briefly evacuated the tarmac of passengers and employees so they would not get caught up in the clouds of gas.

Three flights from Miami, Atlanta and Panama City were diverted to the city of San Pedro Sula, about 150 miles (250 kilometers) to the northwest.

An organization known as the Platform for Defense of Health and Education called the protest to demand the government revoke decrees that the group contends would lead to massive, uncompensated layoffs of public employees and the privatization of state hospitals.

Presidency official Ebal Díaz said in a news conference that "that is false. We will not privatize anything or let anyone go."

The demonstrations have been supported by students, parents and unions.

Universities and schools were closed in Tegucigalpa and other parts of the country.

In Orica, north of the capital, a man in a vehicle brandished a firearm at protesters who had blocked a highway.

In Villanueva, on the Caribbean coast, demonstrators forced a truck driver to dump the sand he was transporting onto the road, and a police car was burned by protesters after its four occupants fled.

Education Minister Arnaldo Bueso said government officials were open to dialogue with the protesters, "but they refuse to do so."

Suyapa Figueroa, president of the Medical College, said in a news conference that "the government has two masks, one that it shows in public and another that it hides, because it is prepared to privatize the hospitals and that hurts poor people."