DonateNow
Stay tuned for something new!
In the coming months, MISF Media will launch a redesigned website. In the meantime, continue to check here for new editions of the "Honduras News in Review" and "Remembering 25 Years Ago" features.
Human Rights
in the Global Community
Overview
Global Bodies & Treaties
Current Issues
Human Rights–War on Terror News Update
Human Rights in Honduras
Overview
History
Current Issues
Honduras News in Review
Remembering 25 Years Ago
Search the Site:
Updated 07/15/2008

Honduras News in Review—July 1-14, 2008

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

1. Police officers sentenced for murdering environmental activists
2. Underground cistern used as jail cell in remote village
3. Sealed public records draw criticism
4. U.S. ambassador: transparency declining
5. Asset declarations missing, endangering Millennium Challenge funds
6. Experts propose solutions for ineffective poverty reduction campaign
7. Judiciary employees victims of intimidation campaign
8. Other news in brief…

1. Police officers sentenced for murdering environmental activists

On July 1 four policemen were found guilty of the December 2006 murders of Heraldo Zúniga and Róger Murillo, two environmentalists working to protect the forest in Olancha Province. The policemen, Linton Omar Cáceres Rodríguez, Rolando Antonio Tejeda Padilla, Juan José Talavera Zavala and José Arcadio Gonzáles face likely sentences of 20 to 30 years at a sentencing hearing on Aug. 15. Logging companies have devastated Olancho Province for the last 50 years with no state regulation whatsoever. In May 2006, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission warned the Honduran government that Zúniga, Murillo and other activists had had their lives threatened, and asked that they be put under police protection. The same policemen assigned to protect the environmentalists turned out to be their assassins. The men were shot in the back as they were raising their hands in a sign of surrender. “He was killed for the forest,” said Victorino Meza, Murillo’s father, making it clear his suspicion of the killers’ motives. [Revistazo, 7/2/08
; EFE Latino, 7/1/08; Cofadeh, 7/1/08]

2. Underground cistern used as jail cell in remote village

On July 11, the Human Rights Ministry announced its investigation of an underground cistern being used as a police holding cell in the remote village of Villa Vieja, calling its conditions inhumane. Human Rights Prosecutor Suyapa Vásquez conducted the investigation after an anonymous tip-off from a person who had spent the night there and said he had been hit and screamed for help in vain for many hours. The cell, which floods during rainy periods, had evidently been used for many years, holding as many as five inmates at a time, often overnight, before they were transferred to the metropolitan jail. The Ministry is continuing its investigation to unearth the suffering incurred, as well as other possible violations by local authorities in the matter. [La Tribuna, 7/12/08]


3. Sealed public records draw criticism

On July 7 the organization Reporters Without Frontiers issued a statement denouncing as "abusive" the Institute for Public Access of Information’s (IAIP) apparent practice of routinely approving requests for 10-year seals on various government documents. Since the Jan. 21 passage of the Freedom of Information Law, the IAIP has sealed more than 30 documents, including federal budgets, public contracts, pay for certain public officials and even tax details on certain soft drink, liquor and cigarette producers, in some cases claiming national security was at stake. The National Anti-Corruption Council (CNA) has denounced these actions as illegal and contrary to the Freedom of Information Law, which they are meant to monitor and IAIP is meant to carry out. Reporters Without Frontiers also pointed to article 13 of the Inter-American Human Rights Convention, to which Honduras is a signatory, which specifies that such restrictions should be rare exceptions, not regular practice. “State funds are public, and should be properly accounted for,” said the CNA’s Rolando Sierra. [La Prensa, 7/8/08]

4. U.S. ambassador: transparency declining
 

In a speech on July 9, outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Charles Ford said transparency in the country was declining despite government efforts. Ford spoke at an appreciation ceremony sponsored by the presidency and the Association of Municipalities, adding that reversing this situation will be a major challenge for the country. He also advocated for increased decentralization, a campaign that has seen little tangible improvement in his three-year tenure despite some recent projects. “It’s very important to promote more effective local government,” he said. [La Prensa, 7/10/08]

5. Asset declarations missing, endangering Millennium Challenge funds

More than 40 percent of government officials nationwide—some 6,000 individuals—failed to submit a sworn asset declaration by the April 30 deadline, as required by law, according to a list published by the nation's Superior Audit Council on July 2. This tally puts at risk the monies from the Millennium Challenge Grant, which ties international aid to a number of benchmarks, including transparency regarding officials’ assets. The asset declaration is a requirement of any public official with a monthly salary of at least 30,000 lempiras (approximately U.S. $1,500); however, there has long been a culture of ignoring the law. While the law provides for moderate to severe judgment against scofflaws in this regard, including suspension without pay, a ban on standing for public office and fines up to 1 million lempiras (approximately $53,000), the Superior Audit Tribunal has opted for shaming the officials with a public list before taking official sanctions. Among those named are Vice President Elvin Santos, First Lady Xiomara Castro de Zelaya and, ironically, Juan Ferrera, head of the National Anti-Corruption Council. [La Prensa, 7/2/08
; El Heraldo, 7/2/08; La Prensa, 7/3/08; El Heraldo, 7/4/08]

6. Experts propose solutions for ineffective poverty reduction campaign

In the second part of its investigative series on the Strategy for Reduction of Poverty, the online newspaper Revistazo talked with some experts about how best to address this systemic problem going forward. Those interviewed, including financial analysts, economists and an EU minister, all intimately involved with the program, called for a genuine comprehensive strategy of economic, educational, public health and nutritional programs, managed under a unified national policy with a separate budget and auditing that truly targets the neediest populations, aspects that are all poorly represented in the current strategy, which is rife with waste and misspending (see HNR, 7/30/08). [Revistazo, 7/10/08]


7. Judiciary employees victims of intimidation campaign

Employees of the judiciary, represented by Judges for Justice and the National Association of Officials and Public Employees of the Judiciary (Anfepj) on July 1 condemned the Supreme Court for what they deem to be retaliatory firings in response to the previous month’s salary negotiations. Among the recent firings are Miguel Angel Cruz, vice president of Anfepj, Clarisa Jiménez, secretary of the Sentencing Tribunal in San Pedro Sula and Marco Ramos Milla, employee of the First Appellate Court of Tegucigalpa. These firings occurred without any warning or hearing of grievances and took place the previous day, June 30, just before the start of the court’s summer recess. The Supreme Court had vowed during the negotiations not to take any retaliatory action against those participated in the three-week standoff. The two groups warned that this is part of a larger campaign of intimidation within the judiciary aimed at rooting out dissent in the branch. [Honduras Laboral/Comun Noticias, 7/1/08]


8. Other news in brief…

On July 10, the Center for the Research and Promotion of Human Rights in Honduras launched a news agency and web portal, called VIA Ciudadana, to distribute news on civil society groups and NGOs
[Revistazo, 7/11/08]. In light of the 10,000 Honduran children currently victims of commercial sexual exploitation, the Honduran Institute for Children and Families has redoubled its effort on stalled plan to better protect and educate vulnerable children [Hondudiario, 7/9/08]. Some 8,000 Honduran children die of malnutrition yearly, according to Unicef, which is trying to work with local groups to alleviate the problem [Hondudiario, 7/9/08].

1. Policías condenados por matar ambientalistas
[Revistazo, 7/2/08; EFE Latino, 7/1/08; Cofadeh, 7/1/08]
2. Cisterna subterránea utilizada como celda de detención en pueblo remoto
[La Tribuna, 7/12/08]
3. Restricción de datos públicos provoca crítica
[La Prensa, 7/8/08]
4. Embajador norteamericano: transparencia va decayendo
[La Prensa, 7/10/08]
5. La falta de declaración de bienes pone en peligro la cuenta del milenio
[La Prensa, 7/2/08; El Heraldo, 7/2/08; La Prensa, 7/3/08; El Heraldo, 7/4/08]
6. Expertos proponen solucionar inefectiva campaña de reducción de pobreza
[Revistazo, 7/10/08]
7. Empleados del poder judicial son victimas de campaña de intimidación
[Honduras Laboral/Comun Noticias, 7/1/08]
8. Crean agencia de noticias para la sociedad civil
[Revistazo, 7/11/08]
9. Unos 10 mil niños objeto de explotación sexual commercial
[Hondudiario, 7/9/08]
10. Más de 8 mil niños mueren al año por la pobreza: Unicef
[Hondudiario, 7/9/08]

SUBSCRIBE to the Honduras News in Review e-mail update.

Go to the HNR archive for past editions of the News in Review.