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Updated 12/02/2008

Honduras News in Review—Nov. 15-30, 2008

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

1. Multiple politicians killed in lead-up to primary elections
2. Lucrative kidnapping wave continues unabated
3. Women’s groups launch gender-violence awareness campaign as murder rates remain high
4. Zelaya seeks to regulate media
5. Government allegedly hides poverty rates for political motives
6. Crucial transparency law component still awaits passage
7. Other news in brief…

1. Multiple politicians killed in lead-up to primary elections

A spate of apparently targeted assassinations, along with a kidnapping, hit the ranks of Honduras’ political candidates in the month before nationwide party primaries took place on Nov. 30. On Nov. 14, Julio Cesar Padilla, a candidate for the Liberal Party nomination for mayor of the northern town of Morazán, was shot down in the early morning as he was opening his clothing store for the day. Padilla was part of the faction headed by journalist Eduardo Maldonado, a candidate for the ruling Liberal Party's presidential nomination. On Nov. 18, Francisco Mejía, a candidate for the Liberal mayoral nomination for the municipality of Valladolid in Lempira department, was abducted as he was driving to a nearby community. A few days later, on Nov. 22, armed and masked gunmen attacked and killed Mario Fernando Hernández Bonilla, a Liberal congressional deputy and one of four congressional vice presidents, along with two others as they drove between campaign events. Hernández Bonilla was on a slate with Roberto Micheletti, current National Congress president and aspirant to the Liberal presidential nomination. As with the Nov. 12 killing of vice mayoral candidate Danilo Edgardo Castro Hernández in La Lima, the police claim not to have ascertained motives in any of these cases. [El Tiempo Digital, 11/16/08; Latin American Herald Tribune, 11/17/08; La Prensa, 11/18/08; La Tribuna, 11/22/08; La Tribuna, 11/23/08; All Headline News, 11/23/08; La Tribuna, 11/27/08]

2. Lucrative kidnapping wave continues unabated

More criminals have been drawn to kidnapping as a wave of this profitable crime has seized the country, according to officials with the General Directorate of Special Investigative Services. The directorate has concluded that six major kidnapping gangs run by 10 ringleaders are operating in the country, clustered mainly in the regions of Atlántida, Yoro, Danlí, Francisco Morazán and Cortés. This year to date, there have been 68 reported kidnappings, up more than 50 percent from last year’s reported 42. These figures don’t count kidnappings and ransoms paid without official involvement. Also not counted are many false reports made by a citizenry that has become somewhat paranoid about kidnapping, according to José Luis Muñoz Licona, head of the directorate. Anti-kidnapping forces are receiving training in Colombia, Muñoz Licona said. Attorney General Leonidas Rosa Bautista said the problem would be best handled by a special anti-kidnapping police force, like one created in El Salvador in recent years, attached to the Attorney General’s office. Recent kidnapping victims include a three-year-old boy taken by force from his parents’ car on Nov. 26, whose ransom is 10 million lempiras (US$529,000), and a two-year-old boy who was killed on Nov. 15 because his parents couldn’t afford the 1.5 million lempiras (US$79,000) ransom. [El Tiempo, 11/16/08; La Tribuna, 11/17/08; La Tribuna, 11/18/08; El Heraldo, 11/19/08; La Tribuna, 11/26/08]

3. Women’s groups launch gender-violence awareness campaign as murder rates remain high

The Center for Women's Rights and the Center for Women's Studies-Honduras on Nov. 18 initiated a campaign to bring attention to "femicide" in Honduras, a country with one of the world's highest homicide rates. So far this year 171 women have been killed and 90 percent of those cases have gone unpunished, representatives of the groups said in a press conference to launch the campaign. According to statistics from the Center for Women's Rights, 1,254 women have been murdered since 2001, and the Public Prosecutor for Crimes Against Women said that 79 percent of women die at the hands of men with whom they had a relationship. The campaign, which runs till Dec. 10, includes public marches, talks, and a meeting with congressional officials. [La Tribuna, 11/18/08; La Tribuna, 11/18/08]

4. Zelaya seeks to regulate media

Citing misinformation, the glorification of “a culture of death,” and a conspiracy among media owners, President Manuel Zelaya announced on Nov. 17 that he would seek to regulate the media through legislative means and that National Congress President Roberto Micheletti would support him in doing so. Zelaya indicated that he could use antigang and anticonspiracy laws to go after media owners who distort the truth or “[promote] murderers and kidnappers, instead of supporting the police.” He similarly criticized a recent Supreme Court decision to turn over Channel 8, which had been a government-controlled television station, to a private media interest. Zelaya made it clear that he was criticizing media ownership and not reporters. [Hondudiario, 11/17/08]

5. Government allegedly hides poverty rates for political motives

An executive order prevented the National Institute of Statistics from revealing that the nation’s poverty rate had increased 2.5 percent for the first part of 2008 over the previous period, according to an anonymous source inside the institute. The survey is regularly released in September but was delayed, the source said, so as not to negatively affect the November primaries, in which the government backed current National Congress President Roberto Micheletti for the presidential nomination. In addition, release of the data might have disrupted plans for a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank to fund the new Ministry of Social Development. Several agencies that rely on the timely release of the information reportedly received only excuses and evasions when they inquired about the results of the survey. The institute now says the survey should be out no later than Dec. 15. [Revistazo, 11/28/08]

6. Crucial transparency law component still awaits passage

Toribio Aguilera, congressional deputy for the minority Social Democratic Innovation and Unity Party recently criticized the National Congress for failing to pass the Public Hearings Law, a critical addition to the Transparency Law that would require any congressional appointments to be scrutinized in public hearings. The positions whose appointments would call for such scrutiny include the attorney general and adjunct attorney general, the human rights commissioner, the Superior Electoral Tribunal and the directors for the Institute of Access to Public Information, and all major judgeships, including the Supreme Court and the Superior Audit Tribunal. Aguilera, who originally introduced the measure in Congress, accused the governing parties and the president of exerting pressure to keep the measure from being discussed and approved. Chang Castillo, a deputy from the Nationalist Party—one of the two major political parties—concurred, saying there is currently no political will to approve the measure. He added that if the will existed, Congress could easily hold these public hearings under the existing Transparency Law. [Conexihon, 11/1-15/08]

7. Other news in brief…

In its December session, the Inter-American Human Rights Court is scheduled to take up the 1995 murder of environmentalist Blanca Jeannette Kawas, whose death has heretofore gone unpunished [La Tribuna, 11/21/08]. In response to three murders and death threats made against the leaders of a campesino cooperative in Cofradía, Cortés over a land-rights dispute, international aid groups and the Honduran Anticorruption Council have pledged their support to expedite a resolution and an end to the violence [Revistazo, 11/19/08; past story: HNR, 10/15-31/08]. More than a hundred judges, prosecutors, attorneys, police, representatives of the Central American governments, civil society and donors met in Tegucigalpa Nov. 20 and 21 for the First Regional Forum on Juvenile Justice, with the goal of determining ways to improve treatment and rehabilitation of young people within the criminal-justice systems in the region [Hondudiario, 11/19/08]. The EU government has donated 14 million euros to implement a food-security program plan, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable sectors of the country [La Tribuna, 11/28/08].


1. Asesinados varios políticos en la precampaña electoral [El Tiempo Digital, 11/16/08; Latin American Herald Tribune, 11/17/08; La Prensa, 11/18/08; La Tribuna, 11/22/08; La Tribuna, 11/23/08; All Headline News, 11/23/08; La Tribuna, 11/27/08]

 2. Ola lucrativa de secuestros continúa sin parar [El Tiempo, 11/16/08; La Tribuna, 11/17/08; La Tribuna, 11/18/08; El Heraldo, 11/19/08; La Tribuna, 11/26/08]

3. Grupos feministas lanzan campaña de conciencia sobre la violencia del genero mientras que el índice de femicidio permanece alto [La Tribuna, 11/18/08; La Tribuna, 11/18/08]

4. Zelaya busca regulación de medios de información [Hondudiario, 11/17/08]

5. Gobierno supuestamente oculta índice de pobreza por razones políticas [Revistazo, 11/28/08]

6. Crucial componente de la Ley de Transparencia sigue en espera de aprobación [Conexihon, 11/1-15/08]

7. Corte Interamericana resolverá asesinato de ambientalista Jeannette Kawas [La Tribuna, 11/21/08]

8. Organizaciones Cooperantes en Honduras darán apoyo a pobladores de Cofradía [Revistazo, 11/19/08; past story: HNR, 10/15-31/08]

9. Impartirán Primer Foro Regional de Justicia Penal Juvenil en Honduras [Hondudiario, 11/19/08]

10. UE dona 14 millones de euros para implementar seguridad alimentaria [La Tribuna, 11/28/08]

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