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Honduras reaches deal with striking truckers, protests persist

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Honduras reaches deal with striking truckers, protests persist
Members of the military police remove a barricade during a protest against the government of Honduras' President Juan Orlando Hernandez, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera   -   Copyright  JORGE CABRERA(Reuters)
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TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Honduran authorities reached a deal on Thursday with striking truckers, whose protests had caused disruptive fuel shortages, but demonstrations against President Juan Orlando Hernandez that caused two deaths overnight persisted in the capital.

There was widespread unrest on Wednesday evening in Tegucigalpa, including looting, after members of a Honduran riot police tasked with keeping order withdrew to their quarters to pressure the government for improved benefits.

“We’ve just finished a long but productive meeting with representatives from the cargo transport sector, and agreements have been reached on their principal demands,” Hernandez said in comments broadcast on local television.

Trucking companies have been striking for an increase in what they can charge for moving freight since Monday.

Protests against Hernandez, an ally of the United States, have been building in recent weeks over planned reforms that his critics argue will lead to privatisation of public health and education services in the Central American country.

Unrest continued on Thursday and military police evicted protesters who had set up barricades and burnt tyres on a southern access road to the capital, as well as from a downtown boulevard, said security ministry spokesman Jair Meza.

Meza added there were ongoing roadblocks in the southern region of Choluteca and in Colon on the Atlantic Coast, where containers from a unit of the U.S. Dole Food Company were attacked a few weeks ago.

During Wednesday’s unrest 17 people suffered bullet wounds, two of whom two died at the HEU university hospital in Tegucigalpa, said Laura Schoenherr, a hospital spokeswoman.

Hernandez said in a statement he was calling up a defence and security council made up of top civilian and military officials to keep roads open and protect private property.

(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Editing by Dave Graham and Lisa Shumaker)

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