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Updated 07/02/2008

Honduras News in Review—June 15-30, 2008

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

1. Transparency law progress report: slow going
2. NGOs demand greater transparency in filling of Supreme Court, Public Ministry posts
3. Studies show poverty reduction program has been ineffective
4. Milton Jimenez arrested in Miami
5. In other news…

1. Transparency law progress report: slow going

The Anticorruption Council (CNA) and the Honduras Transparency Network on June 30 issued a report on the state of compliance with the country’s new transparency laws. It found that while some government agencies are making progress, some have been slower to comply. For example, of the 78 agencies covered by the laws, 11 of them still do not have Web sites. Eighty-seven percent of agencies had published their organizational structure, but 84 percent didn’t break that down by administrative unit. Seventy-six percent hadn’t published their rules, bylaws and other basic structural documents, 92 percent also hadn’t disclosed their public contracts, and 83 percent hadn’t disclosed their pay scale per position.

Sixty-five percent of agencies have freedom-of-information access offices, and 88 percent have an appointed freedom-of-information official, although only 67 percent of those officials have received special training, which averages to 10 hours per person. Organizations with the best freedom-of-information access points included the National Human Rights Commission, the Chancellery, the Office of Governance, the Education Ministry, and the Ministry of Public Works, Transportation and Housing. Those without such access points included the Presidential Residence, the National Congress and the Supreme Court. The Institute for Access to Public Information (IAIP), which runs these access points, says for their part that things are progressing well. There is a certain level of animosity between the CNA and the IAIP, which is under the CNA's supervision. The CNA has said it will be keeping a very close watch on the latter, citing multiple freedom-of-information petitions that have gone unfilled and behavior that has gone unpunished. [Conexihon, 6/15/08; El Heraldo, 6/30/08]

2. NGOs demand greater transparency in filling of Supreme Court, Public Ministry posts

One hundred fifty NGOs and other civil-society organizations kicked off a campaign on June 26 to require greater transparency in the selection of new Supreme Court judges and Public Ministry officials. In an effort to disrupt alleged negotiations between political parties in the selection of these officials, they are demanding speedy appointment of a nominating committee to draw up a slate of 45 nonpolitical legal professionals who will replace the current judges. In political circles, it is regarded as fact that the two main party heads and the president make the decisions about appointees. [El Heraldo, 6/27/08]

3. Studies show poverty reduction program has been ineffective

Two different recent studies show that Honduras' Poverty Reduction Strategy (ERP) is falling short of delivering on its promises. The first report, published by the NGO Swedish Agency for Cooperation Toward Development (ASDI) in January, maintains that the government’s initiative to reformulate its poverty-eradication plan never moved from promise to action. The plan has been mired by the politicization of fund distribution, poor targeting of the poorest regions and Honduras’ high level of national debt, which is due in part to the effects of Hurricane Mitch’s devastation in 1998. The ASDI report underlines the fact that what progress has been made in poverty reduction can’t be directly attributed to ERP social policies, but rather to a general strengthening of the Honduras economy over the period studied (2001-2007).

The second report, by the Social Forum for Honduras’ External Debt and supplemented with analysis by Honduras’ National Institute of Statistics, paints a grimmer picture, as it highlights that roughly only 30 percent of the 6.5 billion USD spent in the seven years since the ERP was launched has actually been spent on concrete poverty reduction and sustainable development projects. The rest has been spent on general budget items, predominantly at local levels, such as teacher, doctor and police salaries, as well as infrastructure repair—all important government functions, but none directly addressing poverty reduction. In total, the government’s 2001 promise to reduce poverty by 24 percent by the year 2015 stands, at its current halfway point, at a comparatively modest 4.3-percent reduction. This gain has likely been washed out by the current food-cost crisis, which has hit Honduras hard. [Hondudiario, 6/19/08; Revistazo, 6/19/08]

4. Milton Jimenez arrested in Miami

After a routine traffic stop on June 12, Milton Jimenez Puerto, former chancellor and current legal counsel to President Manuel Zelaya, was arrested in Miami, Fla. for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, according to a police report. Jimenez, who was removed from his previous position because of a drunk-driving incident on Dec. 30, 2007, was being driven to the airport by Shirly Fabiola Villalobos, a diplomatic corps employee. According to police, both were inebriated when the car was pulled over for speeding; at one point, Villalobos nearly collided with the police cruiser. Reports about the ensuing events are widely divergent. According to the report, police were detaining Villalobos when Jimenez started yelling insults at the officers, hit an officer in the leg with his car door, and resisted arrest. He was booked and spent the night in jail before posting a $1,000 bail bond, while Villalobos was released after she provided proof of her diplomatic status. Jimenez denies most of the report, saying that he was detained without incident, that he was never jailed, and that he paid a fine, not bail. Fernando Agurcia, Honduran consul in Miami, says Jimenez was jailed, but didn’t pay a fine. The possibility of a court date is unclear, with Jimenez and Agurcia saying he did not need to appear in front of a judge, while one source indicates he’s been cited to do so. Unnamed groups are calling once again for Jimenez’s resignation. Jimenez was one of six university students illegally detained and tortured in 1982. [Hondudiario, 6/13/08; Hondudiario, 6/13/08; Hondudiario, 6/13/08; Hondudiario, 6/14/08; La Tribuna, 6/15/08; La Prensa, 6/16/08; El Heraldo, 6/16/08; El Heraldo, 6/18/08]

5. In other news…

For undeclared reasons, the Sentencing Tribunal has delayed individual sentencing for those found guilty in the El Porvenir prison massacre until Aug. 11 [La Prensa, 6/18/08]. The homicide prosecutor’s office has issued a warrant for the arrest of 11 car-theft gang members for the murder of Altagracia Fuentes and her companions last month, saying they are certain it was them and that the labor leaders were randomly targeted [La Prensa, 6/27/08]. World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned that Honduras is among the 20 countries most vulnerable to the current global food crisis—second only to Haiti in Latin America—and that immediate action was required [La Prensa, 6/4/08]. The Inter-American Development Bank is working to select an outside consultant to audit corruption cases, ensuring that the corruption prosecutor’s decisions are constitutional and legal [El Heraldo, 6/4/08]. San Pedro Sula announced a second phase of its public-safety campaign, “Honduras in Peace,” which builds on momentum from a May rally with the purpose of decreasing the recent rise of violence in Honduras’ second city [La Prensa, 6/9/08].

1. Investigación del progreso de ley de transparencia: procede lentamente
[Conexihon, 6/15/08; El Heraldo, 6/30/08]

2. ONGs demandan transparencia en selección de Corte Suprema, Ministerio Público [El Heraldo, 6/27/08] 

3. Informes muestran ineficacias en plan de reducción de pobreza [Hondudiario, 6/19/08; Revistazo, 6/19/08]

4. Milton Jimenez detenido en Miami [Hondudiario, 6/13/08; Hondudiario, 6/13/08; Hondudiario, 6/13/08; Hondudiario, 6/14/08; La Tribuna, 6/15/08; La Prensa, 6/16/08; El Heraldo, 6/16/08; El Heraldo, 6/18/08]

5. Honduras entre los 20 países mas afectados por crisis alimentaria [La Prensa, 6/4/08]

6. Consultor auditara expedientes del MP [El Heraldo, 6/4/08]

7. Penas demoradas en caso El Porvenir [La Prensa, 6/18/08]

8. Once acusados por ultimar a Altagracia Fuentes [La Prensa, 6/27/08]

9. Anunciada segunda fase de campaña de seguridad [La Prensa, 6/9/08]

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