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Updated 12/04/2006

Honduras News in Review—December 4, 2006

1. Honduras lags behind on fulfilling Inter-American Court sentences
2. Southcom gives human rights seminar for Honduran military
3. Mayan ruins could be removed from World Heritage List
4. Central American leaders vow to eradicate corruption
5. U.S. oil company top choice for Honduran gas contract
6. Women’s group says domestic violence not taken seriously in Honduran courts
7. Women march against violence
8. Protestors denounce the deaths of two community leaders
9. Rural farmers take over agriculture office
10. Annual walk promotes rights for street children

1. Honduras lags behind on fulfilling Inter-American Court sentences
A representative of the nongovernmental Center for Justice and International Law met with Honduran government authorities during the week of Nov. 13 to discuss the country’s progress in fulfilling a series of sentences handed down by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Marcia Aguiluz, who litigated three successful cases against the Honduran government in the past three years, said she was concerned that the state had not completed some of the most important aspects of the sentences, specifically actions that would help prevent further human rights abuses. Regarding the 2003 court decision in the case of Juan Humberto Sánchez, who was illegally detained and murdered in 1992, the state has not created a register of detainees as mandated by the court. In addition, Sánchez’s remains have not been returned to his family, and there is speculation they have been lost. Regarding the 2006 decision in the case of Alfredo López, a human rights activist who was illegally imprisoned for seven years on false drug-trafficking charges, the state has until January 2007 to improve prison conditions and guarantee medical attention and sanitary conditions for inmates. In the 2006 ruling on the “Four Cardinal Points” case, involving the 1995 detention and murder of four young men, the court called on the state to implement a training program for police and prison personnel on human rights, the protection of children, and the principle of equality and nondiscrimination. If Honduras fails to complete the requirements of the court sentences, it may face tougher sanctions. [La Tribuna, 11/15/06; El Heraldo, 11/15/06; more information: MISF, “Honduras’ slow road to national reparation”]

2. Southcom gives human rights seminar for Honduran military
Personnel from the U.S. Southern Command presented a human rights seminar to officers of the Honduran Armed Forces on Nov. 14 and 15 in Tegucigalpa. The purpose of the seminar, according to a military press release, was to strengthen the Honduran military on the subject of human rights and to update their knowledge of new international human rights norms. Honduran human rights organizations also participated in the seminar. [EFE News, 11/14/06]

3. Mayan ruins could be removed from World Heritage List
The Honduran government is attempting to have the Mayan Site of Copán removed from the World Heritage List in order to build an airport near the ruins. Honduran Culture Minister Rodolfo Pastor sent a letter to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which has authority over the list, requesting information about removing the site. UNESCO has expressed opposition to the proposed airport, saying that pollution and vibrations from the airplanes would damage the ruins. The organization has also said that construction of the airport would have a negative impact on “the cultural resources, traditional social networks, beliefs and values of the indigenous people.” Pastor said he did not believe the airport would cause significant damage but would increase tourism in the area. The government believes a voluntary removal from the World Heritage List would be preferable to a forcible removal, which could affect Honduras’s image. [El Heraldo, 12/106; UNESCO World Heritage Center]

4. Central American leaders vow to eradicate corruption
The Central American presidents, at an anti-corruption summit Nov. 15 in Guatemala, pledged to work to make their countries transparent and free of corruption by the year 2010. Acknowledging that corruption was the main obstacle to regional development and the eradication of poverty, the leaders signed the “Declaration for a Region Free of Corruption,” which entails implementing mechanisms that allow social audits and promote governmental transparency. [Hondudiario, 11/15/06; La Prensa, 11/16/06]

5. U.S. oil company top choice for Honduran gas contract
President Manuel Zelaya announced on Nov. 29 that the government had ranked U.S. oil company Conoco Phillips the top bidder in an international public auction to supply Honduras with gas. Once the deal is finalized, the company will supply Honduras with premium and regular gasoline, as well as diesel. The government had opened the bidding in order to reduce the domestic price of energy products, which have been supplied by Esso, Texaco and Shell for the past 80 years. According to presidential advisors, the new agreement would save the country nearly $52 million a year. At least 12 other oil companies participated in the bidding, including the state-run Petróleos de Venezuela. When Venezuela’s participation was announced, government critics charged that the public bidding was merely a front for an agreement with the leftist government of Hugo Chavez. [La Tribuna, 11/29/06; Hondudiario, 11/29/06]

6. Women’s group says domestic violence not taken seriously in Honduran courts
Members of the Women’s Movement for Peace denounced the Honduran justice system for failing to adequately address the problem of domestic violence in the country. Gladys Lanza, coordinator for the Women’s Movement, said that of the 6,628 domestic-violence suits filed in court this year, only 204 have been ruled in favor of the alleged victims. Lanza blamed the machista culture saying that Honduran judges believed “pain, submission and sacrifice are part of the condition of being a woman.” She said that judges favored the alleged perpetrators, especially if the man had influence and money, and she named several alleged abusers who hold public offices. [Hondudiario, 11/16/06; EFE News, 11/17/06; El Heraldo, 11/17/06]

7. Women march against violence
Hundreds of women marched through the streets of Tegucigalpa on Nov. 25 to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The protestors denounced the deaths of at least 500 women and girls in Honduras in the last three years and demanded an end to impunity in these cases. According to women’s groups in Honduras, 11 percent of violent deaths against women are committed by their partners and 23 percent of the murders are attributed to gangs and other organized crime. [EFE News, 11/25/06]

8. Protestors denounce the deaths of two community leaders
Around 5,000 protestors blocked a highway in the western department of Santa Bárbara, Honduras on Nov. 16 to demand justice in the deaths of a campesino leader and a church representative. According to organizers, both victims, who died violently in separate incidents, worked to support life and protect the forest. The two had received death threats prior to their murders, and protestors say other leaders have been threatened as well. The protestors left the highway after agreeing to talks with representatives of the security minister. [La Tribuna, 11/17/06]

9. Rural farmers take over agriculture office
Hundreds of campesinos occupied the offices of the National Institute of Agriculture in Tegucigalpa on Nov. 29, calling for property titles, technical assistance and the removal of judges they say are bribed by large landowners, among other demands. Similar protests occurred in other cities around the country. The protests continued on Nov. 30. The minister of agriculture and livestock, Héctor Hernández, said the government had previously reached an agreement with campesino leaders and the protests were due to a lack of communication. [La Prensa, 11/29/06; EFE News, 11/29/06; Hondudiario, 11/30/06]

10. Annual walk promotes rights for street children
Hundreds of children participated in the annual “Walk of Candles,” organized by the nonprofit Casa Alianza, to denounce violence and rights abuses against street children. At the end of the walk the children released thousands of white balloons in memory of the 3,351 youth under the age of 23 who have died in Honduras since 1998. [EFE News, 11/17/06]

 

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