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Updated 01/31/2007

Honduras News in Review—January 30, 2007

1. Congress members, rights group protest impunity at government ceremony

2. Rights group protests placement of former death squad members in government security positions

3. Southcom commander and Honduran officials discuss defense cooperation

4. Zelaya says government will not seize transnationals’ storage facilities

5. Funding approved for “femicide” investigation units

6. Honduran Women’s Day celebrated with protests

7. Study shows maquila labor conditions cause health problems among workers

1. Congress members, rights group protest impunity at government ceremony

At a government ceremony on Jan. 20 commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Honduran constitution and honoring numerous officials, three Congress members interrupted the event when they entered the room carrying placards demanding justice for the disappearance of some 184 civilians in the 1980s. Despite the efforts of security guards and shouts from the audience, Democratic Unification Party members Silvia Ayala, César Ham and Marvin Ponce persisted in their protest, shouting that the former presidents being honored at the event—including Roberto Suazo Córdova, who held office from 1982 to 1986—had “violated the constitution.” Outside, members of the Committee of Relatives of the Detained Disappeared in Honduras protested as well, carrying placards with pictures of disappearance victims and yelling “Murderer!” as Córdova entered the National Theatre. Former head of the armed forces, Mario Raúl Hung Pacheco, reacted violently when he was subjected to similar treatment and attempted to kick some protestors. Although the Honduran government has acknowledged that the military was responsible for human rights abuses in the 1980s, it has yet to punish any military officials. [AP, 1/21/07; Hondudiario, 1/21/07; Tiempo, 1/21/07]

2. Rights group protests placement of former death squad members in government security positions

The Committee of Relatives of the Detained Disappeared in Honduras expressed their concern in a letter to President Manuel Zelaya about the appointment of former death squad members to government security positions. Salomón de Jesús Escoto Salinas, the new director of the preventive police, Napoleón Nassar Herrera, the high commissioner for the northwest zone, and René Maradiaga Panchamé, in the department of transit, were all members of Battalion 3-16, an army intelligence unit that operated as a death squad, in the 1980s. According to COFADEH, Escoto Salinas is currently under investigation for the illegal detention, kidnapping and exile of Luis Alberto Mendoza Almendárez on June 4, 2006. COFADEH believes he was part of the operation that disappeared Hans Albert Madisson and temporarily disappeared Gloria and Oscar Reyes in 1982. COFADEH reiterated its stance that persons linked to human rights violations and crimes against humanity should not be named to security positions in the government. [COFADEH email, 1/15/07; La Prensa, 1/16/07]

3. Southcom commander and Honduran officials discuss defense cooperation

The head of U.S. Southern Command, Adm. James Stavridis, met with Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and Honduran defense officials on Jan. 17 and 18 to discuss Honduran-U.S. cooperation against transnational threats like gangs and drug trafficking, and in international peacekeeping and humanitarian aid operations. Stavridis assured reporters that the United States does not have plans to install a military base in the Mosquitia, a coastal region with a high level of drug trafficking, as had been reported last year. However, a Southcom spokesman said Stavridis discussed the possibility of increasing U.S. cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking there. [AFP, 1/19/07; EFE News, 1/19/07]

4. Zelaya says government will not seize transnationals’ storage facilities

President Manuel Zelaya assured U.S. Ambassador Charles Ford that the government would only be using the facilities of the Honduran company DIPPSA to store gasoline from U.S.-based Conoco Phillips, the winner of a public auction to supply the country’s oil. The government had previously announced that it would temporarily seize the storage facilities of other transnational oil companies that have been operating in the country, causing alarm among foreign investors. Ford said that the United States supports Zelaya’s efforts to obtain gasoline at the best price but that this should be done without hurting foreign investments or violating international treaties. [Hondudiario, 1/16/07; EFE News, 1/17/07; past story: HNR, 1/16/07]

5. Funding approved for “femicide” investigation units

The special prosecutor for women in Honduras, Irma Amaya, announced the creation of special units to investigate cases of “femicide,” the killing of women. The Honduran Congress approved 16 million lempiras ($846,800) to open units in Tegucigalpa and six other cities around the country. In 2006, 171 women were killed, and there have been five deaths thus far in 2007. [El Heraldo, 1/19/07]

6. Honduran Women’s Day celebrated with protests

Feminist groups celebrated Honduran Women’s Day on Jan. 25, the day women received the right to vote in 1955. Hundreds of women marched in Tegucigalpa demanding an end to violence against women and better protection of women’s rights. According to the Center for Women’s Studies-Honduras, there was an increase in violence against women in 2006, and there were at least 586 cases of “femicide” in the last four years. The office of the special prosecutor for women received more than 20,000 domestic violence complaints in 2006. Protestors demanded an increase in the percentage of women’s participation in general elections. Current electoral law requires that at least 30 percent of candidates are women, but this requirement has not been met. [La Prensa, 1/25/07; La Prensa, 1/26/07]

7. Study shows maquila labor conditions cause health problems among workers

An occupational health study by the Honduran Women’s Collective shows that labor conditions in Honduras’ maquilas—primarily foreign-owned factories that produce goods for export—are the cause of new health concerns among young women. The study, “Work and Health: the Situation of Workers in the Honduran Maquila,” reviewed labor conditions and provided medical evaluations for workers. The investigation found that maquila workers were at risk for respiratory and skin diseases, urinary tract infections and various musculoskeletal disorders. Three cases of tuberculosis were also found. The majority of women in the maquilas work 10-hour shifts even though labor laws prohibit shifts over eight hours. Women are often given only 35 minutes to eat and some supervisors even control the number of times a woman can go to the bathroom. The report also showed that some workers are subjected to sexual harassment and other mistreatment. [El Heraldo, 1/25/07; EFE News, 1/25/07]

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