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Updated 12/16/2008

Honduras News in Review—Dec. 1-15, 2008

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

1. President announces new indemnity program for families of 1980s disappearance victims
2. Nov. 30 primaries determine major-party candidates for 2009 elections

3. Lawyer for the poor’s death commemorated

4. Church officer alleges police abuse, torture of homeless

5. Public Ministry releases data on domestic violence

6. Journalist organization alleges government repression of press

7. Central American countries meet to face economic crisis

8. Central American courts promote access to justice

9. Other news in brief

1. President announces new indemnity program for families of 1980s disappearance victims

At an event Dec. 10 at the Presidential House, President Manuel Zelaya presented an executive decree creating a National Reparations Program for the families of the 184 people disappeared during the 1980s, primarily by government forces. The program will create a National Reparations Commission consisting of an official from the executive branch, the attorney general, the minister of finance and the minister of governance and justice, among others. Zelaya promised indemnity to the families of those disappeared by the military and police in that era, saying that the country is obligated not only make to reparations, but to also apologize to the Honduran people and make sure nothing like this happens again. Berta Oliva, Cofadeh coordinator, said, “I believe that this [program] is not meant to open old wounds, but rather to serve as a reminder so history doesn’t repeat itself.” The event was part of two days of celebration on Dec. 10 and 11 commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, titled Dignity and Justice for All. [La Tribuna, 12/7/08; La Prensa, 12/11/08; Hondudiario, 12/11/08]

2. Nov. 30 primaries determine major-party candidates for 2009 elections

With the returns of the Nov. 30 primary elections in, Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo Sosa is slated to run once again as Nationalist Party presidential candidate, with the Liberal Party's “Elvincinista” movement nominee Mauricio Villeda Bermudez running as the other major-party candidate. Other smaller parties did not hold elections, as they did not have contested presidential candidacies. The Liberal presidential race had been grabbing the most media attention, in part because of a five-way race between candidate slates, but mostly because the Supreme Court and National Congress had deemed Vice President Elvin Santos—for whom the “Elvincinista” slate is named—ineligible to stand for the presidency because he had nominally acted as president when Zelaya was abroad. The Honduran Constitution bars presidents from running for reelection. Bermudez’s win gives Santos a longer time to appeal this ruling, which President Zelaya supports. The Liberal Party has won the presidency five times and the Nationalist Party twice since 1982, the modern democratic era of the country. In addition to choosing their presidential candidate, the parties chose candidates for three presidential designates (vice presidents), 128 congressmen, 20 representatives for the Central American Parliament, and 298 mayors with their respective municipal boards. The election was marked by a low turnout; only 4.3 million of Honduras' 7.3 million citizens are registered to vote, and less than a million voted. The general election will take place on Nov. 29, 2009, for a term that starts in 2010. Presidential terms are for four years. [Honduras This Week, 12/2/08; Honduras This Week, 12/2/08; Honduras This Week, 12/2/08; ConexiHon, 12/1-15/08; Honduras Laboral/COMUN Noticias, 12/3/08; Hondudiario, 12/9/08]

3. Lawyer for the poor’s death commemorated

On Dec. 4, two years to the day since the murder of lawyer Dionisio Díaz García, members of the Association for a Just Society, diplomats from the German embassy, and dedicated human rights workers of all stripes gathered to unveil a mural dedicated to the “lawyer for the poor.” Advocates called for justice in the case against those behind Díaz García’s death. While two alleged hit men were arrested on Feb. 1 of this year, ASJ representatives are still advocating an investigation to identify and prosecute those who hired the killers. Díaz García got his nickname for taking on the cases of underrepresented groups like security guards, housecleaning personnel, and fast-food workers against abuses by their employers. The mural stands meters away from the place where he was gunned down. [Revistazo, 12/4/08; Revistazo, 12/4/08; past stories: HNR, 12/19/06; MISF, 2/08]

4. Church officer alleges police abuse, torture of homeless

After a homeless man, nicknamed “Toto,” was rounded up and beaten by San Pedro Sula police on Dec. 12, Luis Alberto Cardinale, sexton at the San Pedro Sula Cathedral who tends to the area's homeless, filed a complaint against the police department. According to Cardinale, the homeless are routinely rounded up, forced to do unpaid work around the police department, beaten and sometimes tortured before being let go. “If they steal or break the law, charge them accordingly, and if they’re found guilty, send them to prison, but there is no need to torture them,” Cardinale said. He added that there are no social services to help the homeless get off the streets. For his part, Justice Superintendent José Antonio Rivera, whose charges include the police force, said he would look into the matter. [La Prensa, 12/10/08]

5. Public Ministry releases data on domestic violence

The Public Ministry reports that of the 20 complaints it receives daily, the majority involve domestic violence, according to spokesperson Lorena Cálix. According to these statistics, December tends to see an increase in reports, likely because of increased alcohol consumption and financial worries that accompany the holiday season. The total number of domestic violence reports in 2007 was about 8,000, a number that is likely to be matched or slightly exceeded in the current year. [La Tribuna, 12/4/08]

6. Journalist organization alleges government repression of press

The Honduran Reporters’ Association called upon political, economic, social, religious and military organizations to form a unified front against what it called “government attempts to silence the national press with subterfuge befitting a despotic government” in a statement released Dec. 4. The main thrust of the complaint appeared to be concerns over a lack of transparency in official proceedings and the inhibition of public debate. The association said it would submit complaints to the appropriate international bodies in an effort to expose public officials involved. [El Tiempo Digital, 12/5/08]

7. Central American countries meet to face economic crisis

At the annual Central American Integration System (SICA) summit, which took place in San Pedro Sula from Dec. 5 to 7, Central American leaders discussed how to navigate the current global credit crisis, including emergency measures for their respective banks and a possible unification of currency. The stated goal of the meetings was to work closely as a region to tackle issues of common interest. The gathered countries—Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic—agreed to create a credit fund and stimulus package to help them weather the global financial crisis, but it was not clear how this would be implemented. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega took advantage of receiving the six-month SICA presidency to decry capitalism and call for a socialist model as put forth by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas.  [Americas Society/Council of the Americas, 12/9/08; Mercopress, 12/8/08]

8. Central American courts promote access to justice

On Dec. 2, representatives of the supreme courts of Honduras and a number of other Latin American and Caribbean nations took part in a session titled “Inclusivity, Justice and Fairness for All in Latin American and the Caribbean,” sponsored by the World Bank and the Honduran Judiciary. Other judges, public defenders, university representatives, ambassadors and civil-society members also participated in the session, during which attendees shared a collection of best practices in the area of equal access to justice for vulnerable populations. The World Bank chose Honduras to host this meeting because of its modern justice system and the work its head, Vilma Morales, has undertaken to make it more so. [La Tribuna, 12/3/08]

9. Other news in brief

On Dec. 2, police apprehended eight members of a kidnapping ring in the El Porvenir neighborhood of Puerto Cortés, along with various weapons and vehicles used to perpetrate their crimes; a wave of kidnapping has seized the country this year [La Tribuna, 12/3/08; past story: HNR, 11/15-30/08]. With US$10 million in funding from Venezuela and Cuba as part of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, Honduras kicked off a literacy program that is intended to boost the literacy rate from its current 83.6 percent to 96.2 percent in 14 months. [La Tribuna, 12/9/08] The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, along with various civil-society groups, hosted the first Transsexual Conference in Honduras on Dec. 3 and 4, titled “Toward a Honduras Free of Transphobia,” with the aim of lowering barriers to access for HIV/AIDS treatment, education and work opportunities via an increased political role for the transsexual community. [Hondudiario, 12/4/08]

1. Presidente declara nuevo programa de indemnidad para familias de desaparecidos de los años 1980 [La Tribuna, 12/7/08; La Prensa, 12/11/08; Hondudiario, 12/11/08]
2. Elecciones internas del 30 de Nov. determinan candidatos de partidos mayoritarios para elecciones del 2009 [Honduras This Week, 12/2/08; Honduras This Week, 12/2/08; Honduras This Week, 12/2/08; ConexiHon, 12/1-15/08; Honduras Laboral/COMUN Noticias, 12/3/08; Hondudiario, 12/9/08]
3. Conmemoran muerte de abogado de los pobres [Revistazo, 12/4/08; Revistazo, 12/4/08; past stories: HNR, 12/19/06; MISF, 2/08]
4. Oficial eclesiástico alega abuso policial, tortura de indigentes [La Prensa, 12/10/08]
5. Ministerio Publico publica datos de violencia domestica [La Tribuna, 12/4/08]
6. Colegio periodístico alega represión gubernamental de prensa [El Tiempo Digital, 12/5/08]
7. Países Centroamericanos se reúnen para enfrentarse a crisis económica [Americas Society/Council of the Americas, 12/9/08; Mercopress, 12/8/08]
8. Cortes Centroamericanas promueven acceso a justicia [La Tribuna, 12/3/08]
9. Apresan ocho integrantes de una banda de secuestradores [La Tribuna, 12/3/08; past story: HNR, 11/15-30/08] 
10. Presidente inaugura plan de alfabetización [La Tribuna, 12/9/08]
11. Transexuales realizan congreso “Por una Honduras Libre de Transfobia”
[Hondudiario, 12/4/08]

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