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Updated 12/19/2006

Honduras News in Review—December 19, 2006

1. Human rights lawyer assassinated
2. Judges receive death threats
3. Honduras passes access-to-information law
4. Honduras target of 30 complaints before Inter-American Human Rights Commission
5. Honduran rights group says Pinochet trial should continue despite his death
6. Mining company accused of contamination to leave Honduras
7. Leaking barge causes environmental disaster
8. Hundreds of troops form part of operation “Secure Christmas”
9. More than 1.5 million Hondurans do not have safe water, according to UNDP report
10. Fertility rates have decreased in Honduras, according to national study
11. Gender inequality damages children’s well-being, according to UNICEF
 

1. Human rights lawyer assassinated
Human rights lawyer Dionisio Díaz García was assassinated by two gunmen on Dec. 4 in Tegucigalpa. Díaz García worked for the Association for a Just Society (ASJ) and had filed several lawsuits against two private security companies for human and labor rights violations. One week before his death, Díaz García received a text message with a death threat written in English. Human rights groups called for a swift investigation and punishment of those responsible. The groups also called for protection for four journalists, also with ASJ, who worked on exposés of the security companies. All four journalists have been threatened and intimidated. [EFE News, 12/5/06; EFE News, 12/6/06; Hondudiario, 12/6/06; COFADEH urgent-action e-mail, 12/6/06]
 

2. Judges receive death threats
According to the president of the Supreme Court of Justice in Honduras, Vilma Morales, at least three judges have been receiving death threats from groups connected to drug trafficking and organized crime. For security reasons, Morales did not reveal the identities of the threatened judges nor did she describe the nature of the threats. According to police spokesman Leonel Sauceda, the threats stem from cases the judges are working on. He said the Ministry of Security was assigning police to protect the judges. [EFE News, 12/6/06; Hondudiario, 12/6/06]

 
3. Honduras passes access-to-information law

The Honduran Congress on Nov. 23 passed the Transparency and Access to Public Information Law, which establishes an independent body to process requests for government information. The application of the law will be delayed for one year to allow government institutions to reform to meet the law’s requirements. Honduras is the sixth Latin American country to pass such a law. [International Freedom of Expression Exchange announcement]

 
4. Honduras target of 30 complaints before Inter-American Human Rights Commission

According to Honduran Human Rights Prosecutor Sandra Ponce, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is reviewing 30 complaints against the state of Honduras, most of which deal with issues of judicial access. Ponce said that the state needed to strengthen internal protection mechanisms in 2007 so that citizens will not have to turn to international institutions. [Hondudiario, 12/5/06]

 
5. Honduran rights group says Pinochet trial should continue despite his death
The Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) has asked President Manuel Zelaya not to send condolences to the Chilean military for the death of Augusto Pinochet on Dec. 10. Thousands of people were disappeared and tens of thousands tortured during Pinochet’s reign as military dictator of the South American country from 1973 to 1990. COFADEH also called for continuing the judicial process against Pinochet for crimes against humanity despite his death. The human rights group asked that Zelaya publicly condemn the judicial process that impeded Pinochet’s judgment. [EFE News, 12/11/06; EFE News, 12/12/06]

 
6. Mining company accused of contamination to leave Honduras
The mining company Entremares has announced it will cease operations in Honduras. A company spokesperson said the closure is due to a lack of legal guarantees, but according to unofficial sources, Entremares has been unable to withstand pressure from environmental groups that accuse the company of contaminating natural resources and harming the health of local residents. Entremares uses open-pit mining to extract gold, silver and zinc, and the process uses chemicals such as arsenic, lead and mercury. Studies conducted on persons living near the Entremares mine in Valle de Siria, which began operations in 2000, showed that 80 percent of the population had skin diseases, 59 percent had neurological disorders and 28 percent had respiratory problems. [Hondudiario, 12/13/06; background info: HNR, 5/2/06, 6/9/06; 9/18/06]

 
7. Leaking barge causes environmental disaster
A barge that ran aground more than 16 years ago in the northeastern Bay of Trujillo has begun to leak asphalt into the marine ecosystem. While government agencies debate whether to sink or refloat the barge, the contamination of the coastal areas is getting worse. Some government officials had proposed selling the 6,000 barrels of asphalt, but the Department of Housing, Transportation and Public Works said the material was deficient. Meanwhile, marine turtles and fish in the area have been found covered in asphalt. [El Heraldo, 12/6/06; El Heraldo, 12/8/06]

 
8. Hundreds of troops form part of operation “Secure Christmas”
The Ministry of Defense announced that 1,000 military police troops will be out in the streets, primarily in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, to respond to social disturbances during the Christmas holiday season. The “Secure Christmas” operation, which will run through the first days of 2007, is part of “Operation Thunder,” a security initiative that began in August 2006. [El Heraldo, 12/6/06; El Heraldo, 12/7/06]

 
9. More than 1.5 million Hondurans do not have safe water, according to UNDP report
At least 1.5 million Hondurans do not have access to potable water, according to the United Nations Development Program Human Development Report 2006, “Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis.” Poor people living in rural and marginal urban areas have the greatest difficulty accessing safe water. Every year, 1.8 million infants die from diarrhea, a number that could be drastically reduced with access to clean water. The report says that installing a flush toilet or a cistern in a household increases the probability that a child will reach his first year of life by 60 percent. The report confirms that poor people pay 5 to 10 percent more per liter of water than their wealthier counterparts who are connected to water networks. Poor households in Honduras spend an average of 10 percent of their income on water. The study concludes that increasing competition for water is one of the most serious threats to sustainable human development in the world. [El Heraldo, 12/14/06; El Heraldo, 12/14/06; UNDP report 2006]

 
10. Fertility rates have decreased in Honduras, according to national study
The overall fertility rate in Honduras has decreased from 4.4 to 3.3 children per woman, according to the National Survey of Demography and Health. The study found that women in rural areas of Honduras have an average of 4.1 children while those in urban areas have 2.6. Women from rural areas, women with low education levels and poor women were all less likely to use contraception. According to the study, only half of all births in the last five years were planned. Fifty-eight percent of mothers reported that they did not want more children. Researchers in the study visited 21,201 households in 16 of Honduras’s 18 departments from Oct. 30, 2005 to May 11, 2006. [EFE News, 12/13/06]

 
11. Gender inequality damages children’s well-being, according to UNICEF

Gender inequality is one of Latin America’s biggest challenges, according to UNICEF’s recent report, “The State of the World’s Children 2007.” UNICEF contends that eliminating gender discrimination and promoting women’s autonomy would have profound and positive consequences for the well-being of children in Latin America. The report urges governments to work toward equality in three spheres: the home, the workplace and politics. [EFE News, 12/11/06; “The State of the World’s Children 2007”]


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