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Updated 04/09/2007

Honduras News in Review—April 9, 2007

1. Former death squad leader dies following attack in his home
2. Honduran attorney general receives death threats and considers exile
3. Protest turns violent as citizens demand infrastructure improvements
4. Group reports 40 violations of freedom of speech in 2006
5. Commission discusses “unbalanced” media
6. Trade deficits up one year after CAFTA

1. Former death squad leader dies following attack in his home
A former commander of the notorious Honduran military-intelligence unit Battalion 3-16, who was allegedly responsible for human rights abuses during the 1980s, died on March 28, five days after he was shot in his home. According to witnesses, four armed men entered the house of retired Col. Marco Tulio Ayala Vindel on March 23 and assaulted one of his nieces. When Ayala Vindel responded to the woman’s calls for help, the assailants shot him in the chest and fled. Ayala Vindel was immediately taken to the hospital but ultimately died of complications from his injuries. The incident was first believed to be a common break-in and assault in a city that is suffering from a surge in crime; however, officials are now investigating the possibility that this was a deliberate attempt to eliminate Ayala Vindel because the assailants took nothing from the home. Ayala Vindel also served as the last director of the National Investigations Directorate before the military-police division was dissolved in 1994, and he held other positions within the Honduran government. [El Heraldo, 3/24/07; Tiempo Digital, 3/24/07; La Tribuna, 3/28/07]

2. Honduran attorney general receives death threats and considers exile
Human Rights Commissioner Ramón Custodio López confirmed on March 30 that Attorney General Leonidas Rosa Bautista has been receiving death threats. Rosa Bautista reportedly has been receiving constant death threats, via phone, against himself and his family. Custodio declined to discuss the subject in depth, but said Rosa Bautista has considered leaving the country as a result of the threats, which he believes are coming from organized crime or another powerful group. [El Heraldo, 3/30/07]

3. Protest turns violent as citizens demand infrastructure improvements
Protestors from 15 towns in the departments of Copán and Santa Bárbara blocked a western highway in Honduras for 38 hours before an agreement with the government was reached. According to protestors, authorities promised improvements in health care, education and highways months ago, but nothing has been done. Protestors took the highway in the early morning of March 26, and that night, the protest turned violent. Police used tear gas and protestors fired shots. According to the police, some agents received bullet wounds. Protestors say that one man, Porfirio Hernández, disappeared during the encounter. The minister of security signed an agreement with the protestors that appointed a coordinator to head a monitoring committee. The coordinator, minister of the presidency Yani Rosenthal, will meet with protest leaders to review their requested projects. [La Prensa, 3/28/07]

4. Group reports 40 violations of freedom of speech in 2006
The Committee for Free Expression in Honduras (C-Libre) released its National Report on the Right to Information and Freedom of Expression 2006. The group reported around 40 violations of free speech and the right to information. The worst violation in 2006, according to the report, was the murder of lawyer Dionisio Diaz Garcia, who was representing four journalists. C-Libre said the passage of a new transparency law in 2006, while imperfect, was a step in the right direction. [Tiempo Digital, 3/29/07; C-Libre Annual Report 2006]

5. Commission discusses “unbalanced” media
The National Telecommunications Commission of Honduras is holding a series of meetings to discuss what President Manuel Zelaya described as unbalanced print media. The president has suggested that media outlets should report positive stories and avoid stories that hurt the image of Honduras. Commission President Rassel Tomé said the media should give less space to violence and other negative aspects of Honduras. He said the meetings were not an attempt to directly regulate content but rather an effort to promote greater awareness within the media. [Hondudiario, 4/3/07]

6. Trade deficits up one year after CAFTA
One year after the Central American Free Trade Agreement entered into force, Honduras reported a larger trade deficit with the United States. According to data released by the Honduran National Institute of Statistics, imports from the United States increased while Honduran exports to the United States decreased. U.S. imports to Honduras rose from $1.7 billion in 2005 to $2.1 billion in 2006. In the same time period, exports from Honduras to the United States decreased to $979,000 from $1.65 billion in 2005. [Hondudiario, 4/2/07]

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