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Updated 07/28/2006

Honduras News in Review—July 31, 2006

1. Indigenous activist acquitted of murder charges is released from prison

2. U.S.-Honduras military base to open in eastern Honduras; Nicaragua expresses concern

3. Human Rights Commissioner condemns diver deaths

4. Maquila owners may be held responsible for worker’s death

5. Teachers’ protest blocks access to airport

6. Protestors block highway to demand end to open-pit mining

7. Honduras and Nicaragua sign environmental protection agreement

8. Congressman apologizes for racist comments

9. Business leaders encourage government to stop gas subsidies


1. Indigenous activist acquitted of murder charges is released from prison

The Council of Popular and Indigenous Civic Organizations of Honduras (Copinh) announced that Lenca activist Marcelino Miranda was released from prison on July 12. Marcelino and his brother Leonardo Miranda were acquitted of murder charges in June 2006 by the Honduran Supreme Court. The charges against them were widely recognized as reprisals for their land rights activism. Leonardo Miranda remains in prison but is expected to be released soon. [Copinh press release, 7/12/06]

2. U.S.-Honduras military base to open in eastern Honduras; Nicaragua expresses concern

The spokesperson for the Honduran military announced that Honduras and the United States are currently working on a plan to open a new military base in the Mosquitia region of eastern Honduras. The isolated region, which borders Nicaragua, is a principal drug trafficking corridor. The new base will focus on anti-drug trafficking operations. The spokesperson did not say exactly where the base would be located or when operations would begin. [EFE News, 7/17/06]

Meanwhile, the government of Nicaragua has expressed concern over the proposed base. The head of the Nicaraguan Armed Forces asked that Honduras respect agreements between the two countries that encourage balanced militaries. Honduran Defense Minister Arístides Mejía responded that the site would be used for refueling military vessels but not as a military base. [EFE News, 7/24/06; La Tribuna, 7/24/06; EFE News, 7/27/06]

3. Human Rights Commissioner condemns diver deaths

A study released July 23 by the Honduran Human Rights Commission condemned the labor environment under which divers on the Caribbean coast must work. Workers dive up to 36.58 meters in search of lobsters and shells. According to Human Rights Commissioner Ramón Custodio, more than 50 divers have died in recent years and 20 percent of divers suffer from paralysis due to decompression syndrome. The commission contributes the high number of deaths to a lack of training and adequate security measures. The Honduran Miskito Disabled Divers Association estimates there are 800 disabled divers in the Caribbean department of Gracias a Dios and that 400 divers have died within the last 10 years. A majority of divers in the area are indigenous Miskito men. The association says that many companies will not pay reimbursement for injuries. [EFE News, 7/24/06; Hondudiario, 7/24/06]

4. Maquila owners may be held responsible for worker’s death

The police are investigating the death of a young woman who worked in the Costuras Amarateca maquila outside of Tegucigalpa. Her employers may be charged with negligent homicide for their failure to assist her during a severe asthma attack that led to her death. One radio show claimed that Costuras Amarateca did not give Sara Canales permission to leave when her asthma attack started. When she was allowed to leave, the company did not assist her in getting the urgent medical care she needed. Canales left the maquila on public transportation, transferred to a taxi as her condition worsened, and died before reaching the hospital. [Hondudiario, 7/26/06]

5. Teachers’ protest blocks access to airport

On July 19, thousands of teachers from seven departments of Honduras blocked access to Tegucigalpa’s international airport, demanding an increase in salary. Teachers have been promised a salary increase since 1997, but a 2004 presidential directive released has frozen teachers’ salaries. On July 18, Congress made reforms to the law that will allow for salary increases, but teachers say this is merely one step and have promised to continue protests until their demands are met. Teachers are demanding a salary increase of $1.76 an hour, which the government says is not fiscally possible. Because of the dispute, students in Honduras will not reach the required 200 days of classes to complete the academic year. [El Heraldo, 7/19/06; Hondudiario, 7/18/06; Hondudiario, 7/19/06]

6. Protestors block highway to demand end to open-pit mining

Hundreds of protestors blocked access to the Pan-American Highway and other roads in the western part of Honduras for most of the day on July 25. They were demanding, among other things, the repeal of the Mining Law, which allows for open-pit mining. The protest was organized by the Civic Alliance for Democracy, which is led by the Catholic Church and includes other environmental and civil-society organizations. The president of the Honduran congress, Roberto Michiletti, met with church leaders the day before the protest but was unable to reach a compromise. Michiletti said that the mining law could not be repealed in its entirety. President Manuel Zelaya persuaded the protestors to leave the highways and will meet with leaders to begin negotiations on Aug. 1. [La Tribuna, 7/25/06; Hondudiario, 7/25/06; Hondudiario, 7/25/06; EFE News, 7/26/06]

7. Honduras and Nicaragua sign environmental protection agreement

Honduras and Nicaragua signed an agreement to protect a biological reserve along the border of the two countries. The agreement, known as the Heart of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, was signed on July 25 and will be supported through a $12 million donation by the Global Environment Fund. [Hondudiario, 7/25/06]

8. Congressman apologizes for racist comments

A Honduran congressman publicly apologized during a congressional session for racist comments that caused a scandal in March 2006. Congressman Miguel Angel Gámez told an online newspaper in March that he “did not like black people,” among other things. Gámez claims the comments were “misunderstood” and apologized to the Afro-Honduran community. The Community Ethnic Development Organization, which filed legal complaints against Gámez, has not commented on the apology. [EFE News, 7/19/06]

9. Business leaders encourage government to stop gas subsidies

According to the Honduran Business Board, the state cannot continue to absorb the impact of increasing oil prices by subsidizing gasoline. Doing so is unsustainable and creates a false economy, according to the board’s executive director. The subsidies create the false impression that the state, rather than the international market, has control over gas prices. The board encouraged the government to stop providing gasoline subsidies and to look for alternatives to oil. [Hondudiario, 7/19/06]


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