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Updated 11/15/2006

Honduras News in Review—November 13, 2006

1. U.N. Human Rights Committee urges prosecution of forced disappearance cases

2. Honduran Congress revives special investigation unit on the deaths of minors

3. Honduras rejoins Central American Court of Justice

4. Inter-American Commission rules petition against Honduras inadmissible

5. IDB donates $1.4 million to promote ethnic minorities’ participation in tourism

6. Dole and Standard Fruit charged with tax evasion, government to seize goods and capital

7. Labor organizations oppose legal reforms

8. Statistics show a decrease in poverty from last year

9. Seniors home receives annual human rights award

10. Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega wins Nicaraguan presidency


1. U.N. Human Rights Committee urges prosecution of forced disappearance cases

The U.N. Human Rights Committee urged the Honduran government to take steps to end impunity for perpetrators of the 183 disappearance cases reported by the Honduran human rights commissioner in 1993. The committee recommended the government modify the penal code to criminalize forced disappearance, properly investigate and prosecute the cases, and ensure that victims or their families receive “just and suitable indemnification.” The committee’s recommendations, announced Nov. 3, were part of its concluding observations on Honduras’ report of its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As one of the 159 states that are party to the international covenant, Honduras is required to submit periodic reports on its performance. The committee also called attention to the “alarming” growth of child labor and proportion of street children, and the “elevated numbers” of violent deaths of women. It recommended that Honduras amend its unnecessarily restrictive abortion law to protect the life of the mother and suggested that the government improve penitentiary conditions in the country. The report also called on the state to prevent the harassment of journalists and human rights defenders. [EFE News, 11/3/06; UN press release, 10/17/06; UN press release, 11/3/06; links to full reports (Spanish only)]

2. Honduran Congress revives special investigation unit on the deaths of minors

The Honduran National Congress has promised to include the reactivation of a special unit for the investigation of the deaths of minors in this year’s budget. The representatives insisted that Security Minister Álvaro Romero make the unit independent of the General Office of Criminal Investigation. According to human rights organizations, nearly 500 minors were murdered between January and October of 2006, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights recently ruled against Honduras in a case involving the execution of four minors, allegedly by police. The special unit, which has deteriorated because of insufficient funding, works to identify and punish those responsible for the violent deaths of minors. [La Prensa, 11/8/06]

3. Honduras rejoins Central American Court of Justice

Honduran Vice President Elvin Santos announced on Oct. 30 that Honduras has rejoined the Central American Court of Justice. The previous administration of Ricardo Maduro withdrew from the court in 2004, saying the functions of the regional body did not justify the annual fee paid by member states. Current President Manuel Zelaya signed a decree to reverse Maduro’s withdrawal the previous evening. Santos said it affirmed the government’s commitment to Central American integration. [EFE News, 10/30/06]

4. Inter-American Commission rules petition against Honduras inadmissible

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Oct. 21 sided with the state of Honduras and declared a petition filed by Miguel Ricardo de Arriba Escolá inadmissible. De Arriba, a Spanish citizen with residence in Honduras, filed a series of complaints against various state authorities, mostly concerning financial disputes. He submitted a petition to the Inter-American Commission in February 2004, claiming that the state had not decided on any of his complaints thus violating his right to justice. The commission found that de Arriba did not exhaust domestic remedies and did not adequately substantiate his charges against the state. [El Heraldo, 11/8/06; IACHR ruling]

5. IDB donates $1.4 million to promote ethnic minorities’ participation in tourism

The Inter-American Development Bank has donated $1.4 million to promote the participation of ethnic minorities in tourism in Honduras. Tourism generated $431 million in 2005 and is the third highest source of income in Honduras. Three of the most popular tourist destinations—the Copán ruins, the island and Roatán and the Bay of Tela—are characterized by high concentrations of ethnic minorities, namely Maya Chortís, Garífuna and Afro-Caribbeans. However, ethnic minorities have limited participation in the tourism industry and are often relegated to marginal service jobs. The new project will focus on forming networks of tourism businesses run by ethnic minorities and integrating these businesses into the existing tourism industry. [EFE News, 11/10/06]

6. Dole and Standard Fruit charged with tax evasion, government to seize goods and capital

The Honduran Attorney General’s Office announced it will seize goods and capital of the Standard Fruit Co., a subsidiary of U.S. transnational Dole Food Co. Inc., in order to recover $92 million that the company owes for tax evasion. The Honduran Supreme Court of Justice ordered the payment in a recent ruling in which it found Standard Fruit guilty of tax evasion in the sale of the Honduran brewery SABMiller, which was sold in two transactions in 2002 and 2005. In a separate ruling in October, the court ordered Dole to pay $38 million. A representative for the Attorney General’s Office said it would seek a judicial order to seize goods from Dole to recover those funds as well. Standard Fruit is one of two American fruit companies operating in Honduras; it has been cultivating and buying bananas there since the beginning of the 20th century. [Hondudiario, 11/10/06]

7. Labor organizations oppose legal reforms

Labor organizations in Honduras have spoken out against proposed reforms to the country’s labor laws. The proposed reforms were developed in agreements between the government and private enterprise representatives. Labor leaders said they are in favor of reform but the current proposals do not represent the best interest of workers. Labor representatives said that the proposal requiring half of all workers plus one to form a union is one of several proposed reforms that diminish their rights. [Hondudiario, 11/2/06]

8. Statistics show a decrease in poverty from last year

According to the Honduran National Statistics Institute, the national poverty rate has decreased from the previous year. Last year’s survey results showed 65.3% of the population living in poverty while the rate this year is 61.8%. An additional 68,000 people were employed in May 2006 compared with May 2005, indicating a decrease in the unemployment rate. The survey also indicated that preschool and elementary school attendance rates also increased in the last year. [El Heraldo, 11/1/06; Honduran National Statistics Institute Web site]

9. Seniors home receives annual human rights award

On Oct. 30 the Honduran White Cross received Honduras’ 2006 National Human Rights Prize for running the María Eugenia Seniors Home. The home serves 60 older adults who have been abandoned or whose families can no longer care for them. This is the first time the human rights award has been given to an institution that defends the rights of seniors. [El Heraldo, 10/30/06; EFE News, 10/31/06]

10. Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega wins Nicaraguan presidency

Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega was confirmed on Nov. 7 as the winner of Nicaragua’s presidential election. Ortega’s leftist revolutionary government ruled Nicaragua from 1985 until 1990, when he was voted out of office amid economic chaos and a U.S.-backed insurgency. He lost two subsequent presidential bids in 1996 and 2001. During his 2006 campaign, Ortega reached out to political opponents, supporting the Catholic Church on an absolute abortion ban and inviting a former right-wing Contra leader to run as his vice president. He has reassured business owners that their property and investments are safe and has promised to maintain relations with Washington. At the same time, Ortega has reached out to leftist leaders such as Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and has promised to eradicate poverty and amend labor laws. [LA Times, 11/8/06; Associated Press, 11/8/06] 

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