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Updated 03/06/2009

Honduras News in Review—Feb. 1-28, 2009

Para títulos en español con sus enlaces correspondientes ver al fondo de la página.

1. Killers of "lawyer for the poor" found guilty
2. Men convicted, sentenced for 1997 murder of son of former president Ricardo Maduro
3. Dispute over human rights reparations decree continues
4. COFADEH director Oliva threatened
5. Honduras ranked among dangerous countries for journalists
6. Military officials caught in illegal wood-trafficking scheme
7. United States funds new antinarcotics base
8. Teacher strike over, but hard feelings linger
9. Court upholds minimum wage law
10. More could use transparency law
11. Other news in brief

1. Killers of "lawyer for the poor" found guilty

Two men accused of the 2006 murder of "lawyer of the poor" Dionisio Díaz García were found guilty in a Tegucigalpa court on Feb. 27. Individual sentencing for César Damián Amador and Ramón Eusebio Solís will take place on March 18, but both are expected to receive the maximum penalty of 30 years in jail. Human Rights Prosecutor Sandra Ponce said, "The important thing is that justice has been carried out today, which is very important for defenders of human rights." The verdict came days after the public testimony of "witness Z," whose eyewitness account placed the two men incontrovertibly at the scene as the shooters. The witness was heavily protected and remained anonymous behind a grey robe and mask. [Revistazo, 2/20/09; La Prensa, 2/27/09; La Tribuna, 2/28/09; Revistazo, 2/28/09; past story: MISF, 1/22/07]

2. Men convicted, sentenced in 1997 murder of son of former president Ricardo Maduro

On Feb. 4, the Supreme Court of Justice handed down a 32-year prison sentence for Efraín Ordóñez in the kidnapping and murder of Ricardo Ernesto Maduro Andreu, son of former Honduran President Ricardo Maduro Joes. Víctor Manuel Meraz was also found guilty, but he currently fugitive, having twice escaped from prison. Maduro Andreu was found dead on April 23, 1997. [EFE, 2/4/09]

3. Dispute over human rights reparations decree continues

On Feb. 13 the Public Ministry filed a request before the Supreme Court of Justice to annul a recent executive decree creating a national reparations program for victims of human rights abuses during the 1980s. The petition cites an overreach of powers in issuing the decree and the infringement of several laws in creating the National Reparations Committee, which would oversee administration of the program. The decree has drawn criticism because it specifies only eight individuals, connected with two cases currently before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, to receive compensation. (Once established, the reparations committee would then work to study and resolve other cases.) The challenge to the decree was initiated by Tomás and Karla Patricia Nativí Pineda, whose father, disappearance victim Tomás Nativí, is one of the two named cases; they are not, however, among the named recipients because only Nativí's second wife Bertha Oliva, coordinator of the Committee for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared, and her son are part of the IAHRC case. Tomás Nativí Pineda, appearing before the Human Rights Prosecutor, said that State of Honduras already accepted responsibility for Nativí's disappearance and paid compensation to the family in 2000, thus further compensation is unnecessary. He also alleged a conflict of interest in the makeup of the National Reparations Committee because it would include a member of COFADEH, the organization that Oliva directs. In a press release, COFADEH reiterated that the decree and reparations were positive steps in resolving the plight of affected families and advancing the cause of human rights in Honduras, and charged the Human Rights Prosecutor's office with obstructing these aims. [La Tribuna, 2/14/09; El Heraldo, 2/13/09; Cofadeh, 2/14/09; Cofadeh, 2/20/09; previous stories: HNR, 1/1-15/09; HNR, 1/15/31/09]

4. COFADEH director Oliva threatened

Bertha Oliva, coordinator of the Committee for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared, received two death threats via text messages to her cell phone on Jan. 28. COFADEH said these threats could be related to the organization's recent activity in connection with the new national reparations program for victims of human rights abuses in the 1980s. COFADEH has been a strong proponent of the program, working to unite dozens of affected families in its support, while other affected families, along with the Human Rights Prosecutor, have criticized the program because it appears to give preferential treatment to certain victims, including Oliva herself. (See story above.) On Feb. 4 Amnesty International issued an alert expressing concern that Oliva's safety and those of her colleagues could be at risk. [COFADEH, 2/3/09; Amnesty International, 2/4/09; past story: HNR, 1/1-15/09]

5. Honduras ranked among dangerous countries for journalists

The International Federation of Journalists included Honduras in its yearly “blacklist” of countries where it is dangerous to be a media professional. Along with Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama and Venezuela, Honduras is among the Latin American countries in which one reporter was killed last year. With 10 such deaths, Mexico ranks as the most dangerous place in Latin America to be a journalist. Overall, 109 reporters or media professionals were killed in 2008, a decrease from 175 in 2007. In a press conference, federation President Aidan White said "impunity" is the "real threat" to journalists, because "if the authorities are indifferent, the attacks continue." White expressed concern that 2009 would be a bad year for journalists, as 10 reporters have already died this year in the line of duty. [La Tribuna, 2/5/09]

6. Military officials caught in illegal wood trafficking scheme

In the predawn hours of Feb. 18, Sgt. Luis Antonio Pérez and Cpl. Dagoberto Osorio Vásquez of the Honduran Army were arrested for transporting 4,000 board feet of mahogany wood on a military vehicle without the proper permit. Col. José Santos Reyes Argueta, director of military history, was subsequently removed from his post for alleged involvement. Reyes Arugeta claimed the wood was destined for restoration work on the Museum of Military History, but Environmental Prosecutor Aldo Santos alleged that the wood was instead being transported to Siguatepeque to build a luxurious residence for a senior military official. Santos said the wood had come from the Plantaciones del Campo company, which is not registered with the Forestry Science Institute to legally sell lumber. Reyes Argueta, who will remain temporarily discharged while an investigation is under way, has denied involvement and has not been formally charged with any crime. Sgt. Pérez and Cpl. Vásquez have been charged with illegal wood trafficking and are awaiting trial. [La Prensa, 2/20/09; La Prensa, 2/21/09; La Prensa, 2/22/09; El Tiempo, 2/24/09; El Tiempo, 2/27/09]

7. United States funds new antinarcotics base

The United States has made an initial investment of $110,000 to build an antinarcotics base in the area of La Laguna de Caratasca on the Caribbean coast of the Gracias a Dios department, adjacent to Nicaragua, according to sources at the Honduran Naval Forces. U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens and Juan Pablo Rodriguez, slated to be the commander of the unit, have laid the first stone for the project, which is due to be completed by March 2010. The Gracias a Dios department is part of a trafficking corridor through which drugs from Colombia flow to the United States. [Notimex via Listas RDS-HN, 2/6/09]

8. Teacher strike over, but hard feelings linger

A public-schoolteacher strike protesting unpaid back wages for up to 1,500 employees came to an end on Feb. 12 after delaying the start of the school year by three days. The strike was short but bitter, eliciting comments from Human Rights Commissioner Ramón Custodio calling the teachers' claims exaggerated and saying that the teachers' syndicate wanted to sow an atmosphere of fear over what amounted to 87 cases of back pay owed. Independently, Finance Vice Minister José Borjas Macis said that 2,000 teachers were owed some sort of back pay, including vacation time and Christmas bonuses, although only 300 of them were owed the entirety of their wages for 2008. Leaders of the teachers' union have filed a complaint against Custodio with the Honduran Committee for Human Rights, alleging he made false statements, including calling the teachers "terrorists," and unduly intervened in the situation. [Hondudiario, 2/11/09; Hondudiario, 2/12/09; El Tiempo, 2/13/09; La Tribuna, 2/21/09]

9. Court upholds minimum wage law

On Feb. 12 the Supreme Court of Justice rejected the National Association of Industrialists' (ANDI) motion to declare the new minimum wage increase unconstitutional. Since President Manuel Zelaya decreed the increase on Dec. 24, 2008, ANDI and other business groups have been fighting to revoke the measure, urging businesses not to comply with it. Some have closed, while others have shed jobs as a result. Labor and other left-leaning groups have praised the decree as a step toward a living wage. Still pending is the outcome of suits filed by the Honduran Council of Private Enterprise on behalf of over 300 businesses individually contesting the constitutionality of the increase. ANDI will continue to fight the measure, manager Santos Gabino Carbajal said; the association has suggested that business will shed an additional 150,000 to 200,000 jobs as a result of the increase. However, according to one observer in the field, dispute over the minimum wage is a diversion from a more fundamental problem: the timely and complete payment of wages, whatever the wage may be. [Honduras This Week, 2/10/09; La Prensa, 2/14/09; La Tribuna, 2/18/09; La Tribuna, 2/18/09; past story: HNR, 1/1-15/09]

10. More could use transparency law

A good number of media outlets are taking advantage of the Transparency and Access to Information Law, but more could be doing so, according to participants at a Feb. 12 workshop for journalists conducted by the Institute for Public Information Access. In the 18 months the institute has been operating, 1,954 information requests have been presented, 1,876 of which have been successfully processed. In addition, 46 claims have been filed against institutions that have resisted disclosing information, 56 percent of which have been resolved favorably, 11 percent partially granted, and 28 percent denied. [El Tiempo, 2/13/09]

11. Other news in brief

On Feb. 19 about 1,000 campesinos and members of human rights, labor rights and associated organizations marched for the immediate release of Isabel Morales, Carlos Maradiaga and Carlos Armando Ruíz, detained for the alleged murder of 10 people in a land dispute standoff on Aug. 3. [La Prensa, 2/19/09; Honduras Laboral, 2/09; past story: HNR, 8/1-15/09] On Jan. 31 the National Anticorruption Council, in conjunction with the journalism school at the National Autonomous University of Honduras and the NGO Democracy Without Frontiers Foundation, initiated its second diploma course in journalist techniques, aimed at training 53 journalists in governance and transparency issues. [Hondudiario, 1/31/09; past stories: HNR, 2/1-29/08; HNR, 10/1-15/08]


1. Culpables los asesinos del “abogado de los pobres” [Revistazo, 2/20/09; La Prensa, 2/27/09; La Tribuna, 2/28/09; Revistazo, 2/28/09; past story: MISF, 1/22/07]

2. Condenados hombres por asesinato de hijo del expresidente Ricardo Maduro en 1997
[EFE, 2/4/09]

3. Pelea acerca del decreto de programa de reparaciones por delitos de lesa humanidad
[La Tribuna, 2/14/09; El Heraldo, 2/13/09; Cofadeh, 2/14/09; Cofadeh, 2/20/09; previous stories: HNR, 1/1-15/09; HNR, 1/15/31/09]

4. Amenazada Oliva, directora de COFADEH
[COFADEH, 2/3/09; Amnesty International, 2/4/09; past story: HNR, 1/1-15/09]

5. Honduras entre los países mas peligrosos para periodistas
[La Tribuna, 2/5/09]

6. Oficiales militares involucrados en trafico ilegal de madera
[La Prensa, 2/20/09; La Prensa, 2/21/09; La Prensa, 2/22/09; El Tiempo, 2/24/09; El Tiempo, 2/27/09]

7. Estados Unidos financia nueva base para lucha antinarcotica
[Notimex via Listas RDS-HN, 2/6/09]

8. Huelga de maestros termina, pero quedan resentimientos
[Hondudiario, 2/11/09; Hondudiario, 2/12/09; El Tiempo, 2/13/09; La Tribuna, 2/21/09]

9. Corte apoya ley de saldo mínimo
[Honduras This Week, 2/10/09; La Prensa, 2/14/09; La Tribuna, 2/18/09; La Tribuna, 2/18/09; past story: HNR, 1/1-15/09]

10. Más podrían usar ley de transparencia
[El Tiempo, 2/13/09]

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