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Updated 08/13/2006

Honduras News in Review—August 14, 2006

1. Teachers protest in Tegucigalpa and walk away with victory

2. Campesinos take over farm in land dispute

3. Catholic leaders call off protests after Zelaya suspends mining permits

4. Police arrest two in illegal logging of wildlife refuge

5. Human Rights Commission denounces telecommunications project for environmental violations

6. Churches may soon take over youth rehabilitation in Honduras

7. Congress seeks reforms to Children’s Law

8. Leadership school for ethnic minorities opens in Honduras

1. Teachers protest in Tegucigalpa and walk away with victory

Tens of thousands of teachers from across Honduras blocked highways and protested in the streets of Tegucigalpa from Aug. 1 to Aug. 10. According to organizers, 40,000 teachers attended the protests to demand an increase in salary. At one point during the first week, President Manuel Zelaya said he would send a bill to Congress that would penalize protestors who blocked traffic, but he later backed away from that threat. The teachers agreed to reenter dialogue with the government, but protestors remained in the streets until a final agreement was reached on the evening of Aug. 10. The teachers walked away with most of their demands, including a contentious 24.02 lempira ($1.26) per hour salary increase over the next three years. The increase, which varies according to qualifications, will bring average teacher’s salaries to 57.46 lempiras ($3.01) per hour. Zelaya claimed that international donations would cover most the increases. The protests were largely peaceful with the notable exception of an Aug. 9 confrontation that left an estimated 30 people, including teachers, police and soldiers, wounded. The protestors tried to break a police blockade near the airport by throwing rocks, and police responded with tear gas. [El Heraldo, 7/31/06; EFE News, 8/2/06; EFE News, 8/5/06; Hondudiario, 8/9/06; El Heraldo, 8/11/06]

2. Campesinos take over farm in land dispute

A group of 400 rural farmers have taken over an African palm farm near La Ceiba owned by the company Atlantic Exporter. The campesinos took over on Aug. 9 and have been harvesting fruit. The takeover is part of a movement to pressure the government to return 35,000 hectares of land to around 2,500 rural farmers. The land was sold to companies 12 years ago under an agriculture modernization reform. The campesinos are also demanding that the government investigate the deaths of several leaders who have been killed. The most recent unresolved murder is that of Juan Ernesto López Mejía, who was killed on Jan. 20. [La Prensa, 8/11/06]

3. Catholic leaders call off protests after Zelaya suspends mining permits

Catholic leaders and environmentalists have called off planned protests after President Manuel Zelaya promised to suspend permits for open-pit mining until an agreement between the government and protestors has been reached. The two parties agreed to meet at the Presidential House on Aug. 24 in order to reach agreements regarding reforms to the Mining Law and the construction of the El Tigre hydroelectric plant. [El Heraldo, 8/2/06; La Prensa, 8/3/06]

4. Police arrest two in illegal logging of wildlife refuge

Forest inspectors in Honduras announced that 62 hectares of the wildlife refuge Cuero y Salado near La Ceiba were illegally logged. Two men were arrested following an investigation. Legal and illegal deforestation in recent decades has caused the extinction or endangerment of several species of animals, including turtles, birds, and manatees. The refuge was declared a protected area in 1986. Investigators say that the refuge will now be under permanent surveillance by security forces. [La Presna, 8/7/06]

5. Human Rights Commission denounces telecommunications project for environmental violations

The Honduran National Commission on Human Rights has condemned the Honduran Telecommunications Agency (Hondutel) for illegally logging a protected area in the department of Lempira. The area was cleared for the installation of a telephone antenna. According to an investigation by the Commission, Hondutel violated several laws and regulations regarding the protected zone. The Commission also charged the local mayor with abuse of authority for authorizing the installation project. [El Heraldo, 7/31/06]

6. Churches may soon take over youth rehabilitation in Honduras

The Honduran Congress is considering a draft bill that would shift control of youth rehabilitation centers from the government’s National Institute of Children and Family (Ihnfa) to catholic or evangelical churches. Ihnfa would retain a supervisory role but would no longer administrate youth rehabilitation centers, which have been criticized as little more than youth prisons. The change would take place before the end of 2006, and the process has financial support from Unicef, according to members of Congress. [Hondudiario, 8/7/06]

7. Congress seeks reforms to Children’s Law

The Honduran Congress in considering reforms to the Children’s Law that would reduce the age at which a young person is legally considered an adult. The law currently considers anyone below the age of 21 a minor, a standard that critics say has left many violent criminals exempt from punishment. The new reforms would set the legal adult age at 18. [El Heraldo, 8/8/06]

8. Leadership school for ethnic minorities opens in Honduras

The Community Ethnic Development Organization has opened a school in La Ceiba, Honduras, dedicated to enhancing leadership skills among Africa-descended youth living in Central America. Forty young people from Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras will begin classes in human rights, cultural history and leadership skills. [La Prensa, 8/1/06]


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