efe-epaTegucigalpa

Protests linked to a strike by Honduran teachers and doctors extended Friday to the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa, where masked militants burned tires in an incident that led to no casualties or arrests.

The militants piled the tires in front of the main entrance to the diplomatic mission and set them ablaze before fleeing on foot.

Firefighters arrived about 15 minutes later to extinguish flames that extended more than 5m (16ft) into the air, generating dense columns of black smoke.

While the area in front of the embassy is usually patrolled by Honduran police and members of the mission's contingent of US Marines, no security personnel were present at the time of Friday's disturbance.

The protest by doctors and teachers opposed to what they see an attempts to privatize health care and education was "infiltrated" by people bend on vandalism, a spokesman for the security ministry, Jair Meza, told reporters.

At least two demonstrators were arrested Friday in another part of the capital after they put rocks on the street to block traffic.

Around 100 protesters, many of them wearing hoods, clashed with police at a shopping center on Tegucigalpa's Central America Boulevard.

The militants set up barricades and three rocks at police, who responded with tear gas, which affected passers-by as well as the protesters, prompting area businesses to close their doors for the day.

As soon as the government revokes the education and health-care reforms, "we sit down to talk and we go back to our classrooms," striking teacher Edwin Galindo told EFE.

Though the capital was largely calm by Friday afternoon, though reports came in from the provinces of protesters' blocking highways.

Authorities have offered no evaluation regarding the extent of the strike, but most schools in urban areas have shut down, along with some hospitals.

Honduras is enduring a "state of repression," the president of the Honduran medical society, Suyapa Figueroa, told journalists Friday.

Educators and medical professionals went forward with their strike despite President Juan Orlando Hernandez's approval Wednesday night of a decree purporting to ensure that the proposed overhauls of schools and health care would not lead to privatization.

The proposed laws aim to "implement processes that lead to privatization," Dr. Ramon Lagos told EFE Thursday, the first day of the job action.

Hernandez, a rightist, began a second term as president in January 2018, two months after winning re-election in balloting that was marred by what observers from the Organization of American States and the European Union described as serious irregularities.

EFE

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