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Updated 02/13/2007

Honduras News in Review—February 13, 2007

1. Four police officers charged with murder of environmentalists

2. U.N. working group investigates disappearances from 1980s

3. U.N. committee concerned over summary executions of minors

4. New Honduran military aircraft causes controversy

5. U.S. and Central America to collaborate on anti-gang programs

6. Proposed U.S. budget cuts military funding for most of Latin America

7. Water shortages pose problems for Hondurans

1. Four police officers charged with murder of environmentalists

The office of the special prosecutor for human rights has charged four police officers with the murder of two environmental activists in the eastern department of Olancho. José Rolando Tejeda, José Arcadio González, Milton Omar Cáceres and Juan José Talavera were charged in the penal court of Catacamas with the Dec. 20, 2006 murders of Heraldo Zúniga and Róger Iván Cartagena. The two men were members of the Environmental Movement of Olancho, which has worked to combat illegal logging in the region. Leaders of the group believe the policemen were paid by loggers to commit the crime. According to the Committee of Relatives of the Detained Disappeared in Honduras, the families of Zúniga and Cartagena have been threatened, and shots were fired outside the Zúniga home on Jan. 27. [El Heraldo, 1/29/07; EFE News, 1/31/07; past stories: HNR, 1/16/07 and 1/9/07]

2. U.N. working group investigates disappearances from 1980s

After a three-day visit to Honduras, the U.N. Working Group on Enforced Disappearances expressed concern that the government has essentially given de facto amnesty to those responsible for human rights violations. From Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, the group met with government officials, nongovernmental organizations and families of the disappeared to discuss cases of forced disappearance from the 1980s. The group said it found that alleged perpetrators of grave human rights abuses, including disappearance, were not only living in freedom, but were not even under investigation, much less a sentence. The group expressed concern that not a single warrant had been issued in relation to any of the 125 open disappearance cases in its files. The special prosecutor for human rights, Sandra Ponce, said a major problem is that forced disappearance is not a crime in Honduras; therefore, investigations have centered on exhumations. Ponce assured the group that a bill is in the works that would criminalize forced disappearance with a minimum sentence of six years in prison. [El Heraldo, 1/31/07; El Heraldo, 2/2/07; Hondudiario, 2/2/07]

3. U.N. committee concerned over summary executions of minors

The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concern over the high number of disappearances and extrajudicial killings of minors in Honduras. Honduras was one 10 countries whose compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child was examined during the committee’s 44th session, which ran from Jan. 15 to Feb. 7. The committee was also concerned that neither the authorities nor society in general have responded to these murders. It suggested that the state of Honduras work to reduce the availability of weapons and educate the population against using violence in order to control youth gangs, known as “maras.” The committee recommended that the state address the root causes of the maras and invest financial and human resources in gang prevention and the rehabilitation and reintegration of gang members. [El Heraldo, 2/2/07; Committee on the Rights of the Child, 44th session web page]

4. New Honduran military aircraft causes controversy

Defense Minister Arístides Mejía announced that the United States will donate a fleet of eight civil aircraft to the Honduran Armed Forces. The planes will be used to improve surveillance in drug-trafficking and forest-protection operations. Mejía said the donation should not concern other Central American countries since the planes are not equipped with artillery. Just days after this announcement, Nicaraguan president Daniela Ortega said that Nicaragua should not continue with the destruction of its surface-to-air missiles since the United States had donated military aircraft to Honduras. The U.S. Embassy in Managua maintained that the United States did not donate aircraft; instead, Honduras used funds donated by the United States to buy the eight planes. [EFE News, 1/29/07; EFE News, 2/5/07; Yahoo News, 2/5/07; El Heraldo, 2/6/07]

5. U.S. and Central America to collaborate on anti-gang programs

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced tough new measures to combat transnational gang activity following a meeting in El Salvador with President Antonio Saca. The United States will collaborate with Central American countries to share information, detain fugitives, train police forces and increase prevention efforts. El Salvador, with the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, will establish a Transnational Anti-Gang unit to pursue gang leaders. The police chiefs of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Belize met in Los Angeles for a three-day conference on collaborative anti-gang measures.[PR Newswire, 2/5/07; EFE News, 2/6/07; El Heraldo, 2/7/07]

6. Proposed U.S. budget cuts military funding for most of Latin America

In its proposed budget for the 2008 fiscal year, released Feb. 5, the Bush administration cut military funding for all of Latin America with the exceptions of Colombia and El Salvador. However, funding remains for training and military education. A spokesperson for the Honduran Armed Forces said that they are not surprised by the cut and that the training provided by the United States is sufficient. [El Heraldo, 2/7/07]

7. Water shortages pose problems for Hondurans

Two neighboring towns in the department of Comayagua are fighting over sources of potable water. In a town hall meeting on Feb. 5, citizens of San Sebastián asked citizens of Lamaní to share water from two nearby rivers. The mayor of San Sebastián said that people were leaving the town because there is not enough water to sustain the population. The mayor of Lamaní said there is not enough water to share with neighbors. Both towns have threatened violence over control of the water. [La Prensa, 2/6/07]

In another story, authorities from the Aqueduct and Sewer System Service in Honduras announced there will be water rationing during the coming warm season. Officials have asked the population to take preventative steps such as not wasting water when washing floors, walls and windows and not using garden hoses to wash cars. They warned there would be fines ranging from 500 to 1,000 lempiras ($26.50 to $53.00) for homes and businesses that do not observe preventative measures. [La Prensa, 2/7/07]

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