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Updated 02/04/2008

Honduras News in Review—September/October 2007

1. Campesinos violently forced to vacate land
2. Assassinations lead justice workers to file human rights complaints against government
3. Journalists file free-speech rights complaint against government
4. Ethnic minority leader detained by authorities
5. Imprisoned gang leaders sign agreement in hopes of stopping violent deaths
6. International corruption list names Honduras as most corrupt in Central America
7. Migration study shows 20 percent of Honduran homes rely on remittances

1. Campesinos violently forced to vacate land
In a press release issued Oct. 11, a group of campesinos in the department of Colón denounced recent attempts to forcibly and violently remove them from land they have lived on and cultivated for the past two and a half years. Campesino leaders said that on Sept. 6, 60 armed police and military personnel came to evacuate their village, forcing most of the men to lie face down for four hours while officers burned the village. The families were not allowed to remove their belongings, and the officers burned clothes, seeds and children’s school supplies, among other possessions. The group says the officers called them “dogs” and threatened to kill them if they returned to the land. The villagers set up makeshift shacks in another area, and on Oct. 4, they were again evacuated and their shacks burned, according to the press release. The group says the land is owned by an American, Arnold Morris, who was extradited from Honduras to the United States in 2004 and is currently serving a sentence for money laundering. The campesinos vowed to continue to live on the land and harvest their fields. [press release, Movimiento Campesino del Rio Buey, 10/11/07; AP, 2/20/04]

2. Assassinations lead justice workers to file human rights complaints against government
Organizations representing judges, attorneys and other justice workers are filing a complaint against the state of Honduras before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. This is the third such complaint filed in 2007 and comes as more and more justice workers are targeted by organized crime. The arguments in the complaint cover the assassination of attorney Alejandro Arturo Navas, the attempted assassination of attorney Franklin Ismael López and death threats to the coordinator in the district attorney’s office of San Pedro Sula, Rafael Fletes. [El Heraldo, 9/19/07]

3. Journalists file free-speech rights complaint against government
The Honduran Association of Journalists filed a complaint before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the Honduran government for violations of the right to free expression. The complaint came after the head of the state-owned telecommunications firm Hondutel brought lawsuits against six television, radio and print journalists for repeating a corruption story that first appeared in Mexican media. The story implicated government officials in a $47 million fraud scandal. National and international rights groups including the Honduran human rights commissioner and Reporters without Borders have criticized the lawsuits as methods of intimidation. [El Heraldo, 10/2/07]

4. Ethnic minority leader detained by authorities
Garífuna leader Wilfredo Guerrero was arrested at his home in the early morning hours of Oct. 4 by security officials, according to the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras. In a press release, the organization said that Guerrero was arrested in a “humiliating” manner. His home and the homes of his neighbors were raided in the middle of the night and one minor was hit by an officer. Guerrero was charged with possession of an AK-47, a weapon prohibited in Honduras. After several hours of detention, Guerrero was released. [OFRANEH press release, 10/5/07]

5. Imprisoned gang leaders sign agreement in hopes of stopping violent deaths
On Oct. 10 gang leaders in the National Penitentiary of Honduras, in the presence of security ministry officials, prison officials and human rights defenders, signed an agreement promising to hand over weapons, stop violent deaths and allow prison officials to conduct inspections without resistance. There were 29 violent deaths in the National Penitentiary in the first nine months of 2007. Prisoners have handed over hundreds of weapons and three firearms. In addition, authorities have seized 10 firearms, one AK-47 and explosives. Gang leaders said they decided to sign the agreement to ease the suffering of their families who were worried for their safety, and they asked security authorities to help them find jobs so they could provide for their families. Members of the gangs Mara 18 and Mara Salvatrucha did not sign the agreement. [El Heraldo, 10/9/07; El Heraldo, 10/10/07; El Heraldo, 10/11/07]

6. International corruption list names Honduras as most corrupt in Central America
Honduras is the most corrupt country in Central America, according to Transparency International’s 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index. The index rated 180 countries and territories on a scale of zero to 10, with zero representing the most perceived corruption. Honduras scored 2.5 and placed 131, sharing that ranking with countries like Iran and Libya. Nicaragua was ranked 123, Guatemala 111, Belize 99, and El Salvador 67. Costa Rica had the least perceived corruption in the region, ranking 46. Transparency International said that poverty and corruption continue to be closely linked and encouraged poor countries to stop impunity against corrupt officials. The organization also admonished multinational corporations based in rich countries for contributing to corruption in poor countries. The Zelaya administration minimized the results, saying Honduras had the same ranking last year. A representative of the Catholic Church in Honduras said the country needed to stop making laws and start implementing them. “Once you send three or four [corrupt officials] to prison, it will set an example.” [El Heraldo, 9/27/07; Corruption Perceptions Index, 9/26/07]

7. Migration study shows 20 percent of Honduran homes rely on remittances
A Honduran study entitled "Migration and Remittances" showed that 20 percent of Honduran homes rely on remittances from family members living outside the country. Ninety percent of emigrants leave the country looking for work, and 91.4 percent live in the United States. Males make up 70 percent of Honduran emigrants and most are between the ages of 20 and 34. The United States has deported around 22,000 Hondurans in 2007. [El Heraldo, 10/1/07]

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