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Updated 02/26/2007

Honduras News in Review—February 26, 2007

1. 30,000 march against corruption in Honduras

2. Nearly 500 youth violently killed in Honduras in 2006

3. Two gang members convicted for 2004 bus massacre

4. Loggers block highway to protest logging prohibition

5. Honduras asks United States for T.P.S. extension

6. Guatemalan police officers accused of killing Salvadoran congressmen

7. Nobel winner becomes Guatemala’s first female indigenous presidential candidate

1. 30,000 march against corruption in Honduras

Tens of thousands of Hondurans marched in Tegucigalpa on Feb. 10 to protest corruption and demand transparency. Protest leader Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez said the march “showed the world that the Honduran people love peace, want truth and justice and that corrupt people in this country are few.” Organizers estimate that 30,000 people participated in the march. The National Anti-Corruption Council said that Honduras loses at least $526.3 million annually to corruption. The event was marred, however, by allegations that the Liberal Party paid some 2,000 people to participate in the march. The marchers were paid in hopes that President Manuel Zelaya would not be booed when he spoke. Zelaya promised to enforce the recently passed Transparency Law. [EFE News, 2/10/07; La Prensa, 2/13/07]

2. Nearly 500 youth violently killed in Honduras in 2006

Casa Alianza of Honduras reported that 494 youth, defined as those 22 years of age and younger, were violently killed in 2006. Seventy-eight percent of those killed were between the ages of 18 and 22. Most of the murders took place in or near urban areas, with 43 percent around the capital of Tegucigalpa and 24 percent in the country’s second largest city, San Pedro Sula. Most of the victims were male. Although only 10 percent of the victims were female, their bodies showed signs of cruelty such as sexual abuse and torture. There were 19 more deaths in 2006, the first year of President Manuel Zelaya’s administration, than in 2005. [Hondudiario, 2/20/07; EFE News, 2/21/07]

3. Two gang members convicted for 2004 bus massacre

Two of the four gang members accused of a 2004 bus massacre in San Pedro Sula were found guilty of murder, attempted murder, illegal arms possession and unlawful association. Juan Carlos Miralda and Darwin Ramírez will likely face stiff sentences, but there was insufficient evidence to convict Wilson Gómez and Oscar Mendoza. The alleged intellectual author of the crime, gang leader Juan Bautista Jiménez, was found hanged in prison weeks after the massacre. All were members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang. On Dec. 23, 2004, several gang members boarded a San Pedro Sula bus and began shooting, killing 28 people, including six children, and wounding 29 others. The prosecutor said the case remains open because other perpetrators have not been identified. [EFE News, 2/21/07]

4. Loggers block highway to protest logging prohibition

Drivers, workers and small businessmen in the logging industry on Feb. 12 blocked a major highway in the department of Olancho to protest the government’s prohibition of logging in certain areas of this eastern Honduras region. The prohibition, in effect since May 2006, is an attempt to stem illegal logging until adequate forest security measures can be implemented. The protesters said they have been without work since the prohibition began. After negotiations failed, the police cleared the protestors with tear gas and towed some of the 150 logging trucks that blocked the highway. No one was injured, but about 100 protestors were detained. Defense Minister Arístides Mejía said he feared that groups on both sides of the contentious issue were rearming. Both loggers and environmentalists deny that they are armed. [EFE News, 2/13/07; Hondudiario, 2/13/07; La Tribuna, 2/13/07; EFE News, 2/14/07; La Prensa, 2/14/07]

5. Honduras asks United States for T.P.S. extension

The Honduran foreign ministry has begun negotiating an extension of the Temporary Protection Status program for some 78,000 Hondurans living in the United States. Last year’s extension began on July 5 and will expire on the same date in 2007. Temporary Protection Status was given to around 80,000 Hondurans and Nicaraguans following Hurricane Mitch in 1998. [El Heraldo, 2/22/07]

6. Guatemalan police officers accused of killing Salvadoran congressmen

A Guatemalan judge ordered the detention of four police officers, including the head of the country’s organized crime unit, accused of assassinating three Salvadoran congressmen and their driver. Eduardo D'Abuisson, William Pinchinte, José Ramón González, all congressmen from the right-wing, ruling ARENA Party, and their driver, Gerardo Napoleón Ramírez were found on Feb. 19 roughly 40 kilometers from Guatemala City, shot and burned to death. The men were on their way to Guatemala City for a Central American Parliament meeting. Eduardo D’Abuisson was the son of Roberto D’Abuisson, former head of the Salvadoran military who led death squads in the 1980s and was the intellectual author of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. The four accused police officers, Luis Arturo Herrera López, José Korki López Arreaga, José Adolfo Gutiérrez and Marvin Langen Escobar Méndez, had GPS systems that put them at the scene of the crime at the time of the murders. [AFP, 2/20/07; Yahoo News, 2/20/07; EFE News, 2/22/07; EFE News, 2/23/07]

7. Nobel winner becomes Guatemala’s first female indigenous presidential candidate

Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú announced her candidacy for president in Guatemala’s general elections. Menchú’s Winaq Party will partner with the leftist Encuentro por Guatemala Party to support her candidacy. Guatemala will hold general elections in September 2007. Menchú is the first indigenous woman in the country’s history to run for president. [EFE News, 2/22/07]

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