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Updated 08/31/2007

Honduras News in Review - August 27, 2007

1. Special security force will protect justice officials

2. New commission will follow investigations of forced disappearances

3. Amnesty International criticizes unsafe environment for rights activists in Honduras

4. Colleagues blame organized crime in death of lawyer

5. Union leader shot

6. Garífuna leaders criticize government’s failure to investigate claims of murder, other crimes

7. More than 100 Hondurans have died in 2007 en route to United States

8. Investigation of 128 gang member deaths closed indefinitely

9. Proposed law seeks to curb glue addiction in street children

10. Honduran Congress passes forest law

11. Medical school graduates accuse health officials of discrimination

12. Honduras will not receive international budget assistance  

1. Special security force will protect justice officials

The Honduran National Congress announced on Aug. 13 the creation of a special-agent security force to protect justice officials from being targets of organized crime. The announcement came in the wake of the Aug. 7 murder of San Pedro Sula Judge Alba Leticia Bueso, who was shot by unknown assailants. Bueso sentenced drug traffickers, police, murderers and other violent offenders, and her colleagues believe her death was directly related to her work. Since Bueso’s murder, at least 10 judges have asked to be relieved of their duties because they have received death threats from organized crime elements. In addition, Honduran police uncovered a plan to assassinate a judge, a prosecutor and a government official in Tegucigalpa. All three were linked to a kidnapping case currently being investigated. Congress is expected to approve 10 million lempiras ($529,000) for the new security force. [La Tribuna, 8/8/07, El Heraldo, 8/9/07; La Tribuna, 8/13/07; La Prensa, 8/14/07]

2. New commission will follow investigations of forced disappearances

An interinstitutional commission consisting of lawyers, forensic investigators, lawmakers and representatives from human rights groups met for the first time to discuss forced disappearances in Honduras. The commission will follow the investigations of some 200 unsolved cases of forced disappearance with the ultimate goal of determining who is responsible for each respective disappearance. The commission’s activities will be supported by the government of Argentina.  [El Heraldo, 8/10/07]

3. Amnesty International criticizes unsafe environment for rights activists in Honduras

A delegation from Amnesty International met with the Human Rights Commissioner, Public Ministry officials and special prosecutors, among others, to discuss the human rights situation in Honduras. The international organization expressed concern over the lack of protection for human rights defenders. Esteban Beltrán, director of AI’s Spanish section, said journalists, environmentalists and human rights activists in Honduras ran a high risk of threats, kidnapping, defamation, assaults and even murder. The organization provided six case studies including the death of lawyer Dionisio Diaz Garcia and the beating, arbitrary detention and rape of LGBT rights activist Donny Reyes. AI urged Honduran officials to develop a national action plan designed to protect human rights defenders. [La Tribuna, 8/6/07; Hondudiario, 8/7/07; El Heraldo, 8/8/07; El Heraldo, 8/8/07; Hondudiario, 8/8/07]

 

4. Colleagues blame organized crime in death of lawyer

A San Pedro Sula lawyer and university professor was found shot to death in his office on Aug. 1. Witnesses saw two unknown mean wearing caps enter the office of Carlos Villar Rosales; neighbors subsequently heard the sound of gunshots and saw the two men escape in a car parked nearby. Villar Rosales survived an attempt on his life 10 years earlier and was assaulted and robbed six months ago. According to an associate, Villar Rosales stopped taking criminal cases several years ago and focused on civil cases because of fears of reprisals from organized crime. His colleagues believe he was killed because of his justice work. [La Tribuna, 8/2/07]

5. Union leader shot

On Aug. 21 the president of the National Energy Enterprise Union, Dagoberto Tejeda, was shot in the leg by four unknown armed men. Tejeda was in his home with his family when the men entered, took a few belongings and asked which of the family members was Dagoberto Tejeda before shooting him in the leg. Tejeda believes he was targeted because of his work as a union leader. [El Heraldo, 8/23/07] 

6. Garífuna leaders criticize government’s failure to investigate claims of murder, other crimes

Representatives of the ethnic Garífuna community met with a Public Ministry official to demand a response to the numerous complaints the community has filed over the years, including claims of murder, kidnapping, land invasion, destruction of natural resources and discrimination. Garífuna leaders say their community is not known for putting pressure on the government, but the community is tired of government inaction and would consider taking the law into its own hands if complaints are not addressed. [El Heraldo, 8/9/07]

7. More than 100 Hondurans have died in 2007 en route to United States

According to the Honduran foreign ministry, 108 Hondurans died outside of the country from Jan. 1 to July 31 of this year. Most of those who died were en route to or in the United States. This statistic represents a 9 percent decrease from the same period in 2006. The number of amputees outside of the country also fell from eight in 2006 to seven in 2007. The ministry said the majority of deaths and amputations are from being hit by trains in Mexico. Nearly 20,000 Hondurans have been deported from the United States in 2007, a number that is expected to reach 30,000 by year’s end. In 2006, 25,430 Hondurans were deported from the United States. [El Heraldo, 8/21/07; La Prensa, 8/21/07; El Heraldo, 8/23/07] 

8. Investigation of 128 gang member deaths closed indefinitely

The office of the Honduran human rights prosecutor announced it would close its investigation into the deaths of 128 gang members during a fire in the San Pedro Sula prison after the Supreme Court of Justice issued a stay of proceedings in the case, halting the trial indefinitely. Elías Canaca, the former director of the prison, was charged in the case. Human rights officials said it is still possible for family members to appeal the case to different national and international institutions. [Hondudiario, 8/22/07]

9. Proposed law seeks to curb glue addiction in street children

The Honduran National Congress is discussing a bill that would penalize the sale and distribution of inhalants to street children. Homeless children and adolescents frequently purchase highly addictive inhalants such as shoe glue from unscrupulous vendors. The new law aims to prevent glue and other inhalant addiction, which often stunts growth and inhibits other normal development in children and adolescents. The law would regulate the sale of inhalant products and would penalize vendors with prison sentences of five to 10 years and fines between 50,000 and 500,000 lempiras ($2,650 to $26,500).  [El Heraldo, 8/2/07; El Heraldo, 8/7/07]

10. Honduran Congress passes controversial forest law

After eight years of discussion, the Honduran National Congress passed the controversial Forest, Protected Areas and Wildlife Law, which will dissolve the current Honduras Forestry Corporation and create the new Conservation and Forest Development Institute, an independent body appointed by the president, as well as a National Forest Council as well as regional and local councils. The new law contains specific regulations related to logging, forest conservation and the wildlife protection. President Zelaya is expected to approve the law. [El Heraldo, 8/3/07]

 

11. Medical school graduates accuse health officials of discrimination

More than 50 Honduran graduates of the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba submitted a formal complaint before the human rights prosecutor, charging four government health officials of abuse of authority and discrimination. According to the complaint, the health ministry issued a resolution restricting graduates of the Cuban school who are working in public hospitals from having contact with graduates of the National Autonomous University of Honduras and warned the graduates of the Honduran school that they would be penalized if they violated the order. [El Heraldo, 8/17/07]

 

12. Honduras will not receive international budget assistance

Honduras will not receive some $90 million in “budget assistance” from international financial institutions, according to anonymous international consultants and government officials. The official reason behind the denied assistance is that Honduras has not met conditions established by the International Monetary Fund. IMF officials are concerned by the deficits of the embattled state energy and telecommunications agencies and by the Zelaya administration’s inability to “clean up” those agencies. Some officials say there is also concern over the administration’s inefficient strategy to combat poverty and corruption as well as concern over human rights abuses. [Hondudiario, 8/17/07]