Honduras Congress stalls reforms after violent protests

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TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - The Honduran Congress announced on Tuesday it will suspend ratification of new health and education reforms that critics say would lead to privatization and job losses, after mass protests against the policies left three people wounded and several buildings aflame.

Marches and roadblocks continued in Honduras’ capital city for a second day on Tuesday, with some schools and hospitals halting classes and some services after teachers and medical unions called for opposition to two health and education reforms approved in Congress last week that they said would encourage privatization and job dismissals.

Officials from the government of President Juan Orlando Hernandez on Tuesday denied that the bills, which must still be ratified in Congress, would lead to such outcomes.

“We have decided to suspend and archive those laws and to invite dialogue with the leaders of the health and teaching associations, with the aim of bringing peace,” Mauricio Oliva, president of Congress, who leads Hernandez’s National Party in the chamber, told local media.

Leaders of the teachers and medical unions said they accepted the invitation for dialogue.

But they said they will maintain pressure on the government with roadblocks across the country and in Tegucigalpa’s commercial center, where supporters including high school and university students were taking to the streets.

On Monday, anti-riot police clashed with protesters, some of them hooded and armed with stones, sticks and Molotov cocktails.

At least three people were injured in the historic center of the capital and three public and one private building were partially burned down, according to the Fire Department and the Ministry of Security.

Reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa; Writing by Delphine Schrank; Editing by Matthew Lewis