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Updated 05/07/2007

Honduras News in Review—May 7, 2007

1. Canada investigates Hondurans allegedly involved in human rights abuses
2. Forensic anthropologists begin work to identify remains of disappearance victims
3. Rights group reports 5 forced disappearances in 2006

4. United States to extend TPS program for Hondurans for 18 months
5. Rights Commissioner urges the ratification of convention on disability rights
6. Congress reestablishes mining tax
7. Protestors march on International Workers Day
8. Taxi drivers shut down capital city during protest

1. Canada investigates Hondurans allegedly involved in human rights abuses
On April 23 Honduran and Canadian authorities signed an agreement to coordinate the investigation of several Hondurans allegedly involved in forced disappearances in the 1980s who are now living in Canada. Joseph Rikhof, senior counsel for the Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Section of the Canadian Department of Justice, said his unit has completed a general investigation in Honduras. He said the agreement, signed with Honduran Attorney General Leonidas Rosa Bautista, will allow the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to conduct further investigations, with the aim of obtaining evidence to facilitate prosecution in Canadian courts. The Hondurans under investigation were not named. [El Heraldo, 4/24/07]

2. Forensic anthropologists begin work to identify remains of disappearance victims
Two Argentine forensic anthropologists on April 25 launched an investigation with the Honduran Public Ministry to identify the remains of presumed victims of forced disappearance in the 1980s. The remains currently under investigation are from nine exhumations completed since 1994. A second stage of the investigation will involve locating sites and conducting new exhumations. A spokesperson for the Honduran Public Ministry said tens of possible exhumation sites have been identified in the eastern part of the country, but he could not yet confirm any plans. The investigations are part of an agreement between Honduras and Argentina to cooperate on human rights issues. Of the 184 known cases of disappearance that occurred in Honduras during the 1980s and early ‘90s, only five victims have been identified. [EFE News, 4/24/07; Hondudiario, 4/25/07]

3. Rights group reports 5 forced disappearances in 2006
The Committee for Relatives of the Detained Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) reported five cases of forced disappearance in 2006. The disappeared include two Hondurans and three Panamanians. Campesino activist Yoro Jorge Ruiz Rosales was captured by armed men in police uniforms on June 11. In December, Elvis Zepeda Barrientos, a police officer in La Esperanza, allegedly was taken by police. Three Panamanian sailors, David Rodrigo Villalobos Balladares, Jorge Luis Villalobos Balladares and José Camilo Miranda Rosa were detained June 5 by police on the island of Roatán. According to COFADEH, the whereabouts of all five men are unknown. The special prosecutor for human rights is investigating all five cases. [El Heraldo, 5/3/07; El Heraldo, 5/4/07]

4. United States to extend TPS program for Hondurans for 18 months
The U. S. government on May 2 announced it will extend Temporary Protected Status benefits for some 78,000 Hondurans, allowing them live and work in the country for another 18 months. The announcement came a day after thousands of undocumented immigrants around the United States marched to demand legal status. Honduran citizens were deemed eligible for TPS benefits after the devastation of Hurricane Mitch in 1998. The current TPS period will expire on July 5, and the new extension—the seventh to date—will expire in January 2009. [El Heraldo, 5/2/07; Hondudiario, 5/2/07]

5. Rights Commissioner urges the ratification of convention on disability rights
Honduran Human Rights Commissioner Ramón Custodio urged the government to quickly ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol. Honduras signed the Convention on March 30. Disability rights advocates marched in Tegucigalpa to encourage ratification. Custodio estimated that 178,000 people in Honduras have disabilities, and he emphasized that these people suffer high levels of discrimination. [EFE News, 4/23/07; U.N., Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities]

6. Congress reestablishes mining tax
The Honduran National Congress reestablished a mining tax that was withdrawn four months ago after the Supreme Court of Justice declared 13 articles of the Mining Law unconstitutional. The tax requires mining companies to pay 1 percent of their monthly sales or exports to the municipality in which they are operating. Some lawmakers want to increase the tax to 4 percent and eliminate benefits and royalties historically given to mining companies. Mining law reform is currently stuck in Congress. [El Heraldo, 4/26/07]

7. Protestors march on International Workers Day
Thousands of workers marched in Tegucigalpa on May 1 to celebrate International Workers Day and demand an end to violence, an increase in salaries, land for poor farmers and an end to corruption. Protestors also expressed their rejection of the neoliberal economic model and called President Manuel Zelaya a “puppet of imperialism.” Some marchers were displeased by the presence of Patricia Rodas, president of the governing Liberal Party, and began throwing water and small objects. Rodas was not injured but left the march. [EFE News, 5/2/07]

8. Taxi drivers shut down capital city during protest
Taxi drivers shut down the city of Tegucigalpa on April 27 by blocking strategic streets in the Honduran capital. The taxi drivers were protesting high gasoline prices and the increasing prices for car parts. Protestors were forcibly removed by police after several hours. The following day, the military patrolled major thoroughfares in the capital. Honduran President Manuel Zelaya will hold talks with transportation leaders. [EFE News, 4/28/07; EFE News, 4/30/07; El Heraldo, 5/2/07]

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