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Updated 07/17/2006

Honduras News in Review—July 18, 2006

1. Government returns remains of two men arbitrarily executed in the 1980s

2. Human Rights Commission asks Honduras to protect Garífuna leaders

3. At least 77 women violently killed in Honduras in first half of 2006

4. Three adolescents killed in juvenile detention

5. 205 Honduran children have died violently since president took office

6. Indigenous children suffer more labor exploitation than ladino counterparts

7. Government increases soldiers’ salaries

8. Illegal logging continues despite restrictions

9. Environmental groups call for the repeal of a logging resolution

10. Honduran government suspends new mining permits

11. Teachers protest and demand salary increases

12. Salvadoran torture victims recover $300,000 in damages

13. Spanish judge issues arrest warrants for former Guatemalan leaders


1. Government returns remains of two men arbitrarily executed in the 1980s

On July 7 the Honduran Office of Forensic Medicine handed over the remains of Ángel Rolando Padilla and José Edelmiro López to their families, 25 years after their deaths. The remains were exhumed in August 2005 at the request of the Committee for the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras (Cofadeh). The bodies of Padilla and López were found on July 9, 1981, with signs of torture. They were not properly buried at the time because of fear in the community. According to Cofadeh the two men, who owned a cattle business together, were detained in an operation led by former army captain Billy Joya, and were tortured, murdered, and thrown out of a military helicopter. Cofadeh has called on the Supreme Court to punish those responsible for the murders. [Cofadeh press releases, 7/5/06, 7/6/06]

2. Human Rights Commission asks Honduras to protect Garífuna leaders

According to the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (Ofraneh), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has asked the state of Honduras to implement precautionary measures to protect the Garífuna community of San Juan Tela and has opened a case to look into possible human rights violations in the community. Community activists in San Juan Tela have been fighting to retain the rights to their communal land in the face of developers who want to use the land for tourism. Garífuna leaders have endured death threats and intimidation, and in February 2006, two members of the community were killed by the military. According to Ofraneh, the precautionary measures requested include protecting the life and integrity of community leaders, protecting ancestral community lands and suspending any judicial and administrative action that would jeopardize the community’s land rights. [Ofraneh press release, 7/10/06]

3. At least 77 women violently killed in Honduras in first half of 2006

The special prosecutor for women in Honduras, Irma Amaya, reported that at least 514 women have died violently in Honduras since 2003. At least 77 were violently killed from January to June 2006. Amaya said that the majority of the women were tortured and killed with a firearm. Women’s rights activists criticized the police, saying that they often dismiss cases as revenge or assume the murdered women are drug traffickers or gang members, thereby leaving the cases unresolved. The Central American Board of Human Rights Ombudsmen denounced the regional increase in “femicide” and announced a meeting in August to address the subject. [EFE News, 7/10/06; EFE News, 7/12/03; Hondudiario, 7/13/06]

4. Three adolescents killed in juvenile detention

Three adolescents were violently killed on July 8 in the juvenile correctional center “Renaciendo” in Tegucigalpa. Director of Casa Alianza Honduras, José Capellín, said he hopes the tragedy will not be used to further diminish children’s rights. Capellín argued that detention and punishment are not effective solutions for youth who have broken the law. Instead, integral solutions to reeducate and reintegrate adolescents into society are needed. [Hondudiario, 7/10/06]

5. 205 Honduran children have died violently since president took office

According to Casa Alianza, an average of 41 young people have died violently every month since President Manuel Zelaya took office at the end of January. The children’s rights organization attributes 25 percent of the deaths to gangs and 75 percent to unknown persons or groups. All 205 deaths in the last five months involved firearms. Casa Alianza said the authorities and society at large seem to be indifferent to violence against youth and children and complained that authorities are not taking necessary measures curb the violence. [Hondudiario, 7/7/06]

6. Indigenous children suffer more labor exploitation than ladino counterparts

According to studies by the International Labor Organization and the Honduran Federation of Tribes, labor exploitation in Honduras is worse among indigenous children than ladino children. According to the ILO, discrimination in Honduras causes indigenous children to receive smaller salaries and worse treatment than their ladino counterparts. In many cases, indigenous children’s inability to speak fluent Spanish makes it easier for employers to mistreat and abuse them. The Federation of Tribes estimates that more than 190,000 indigenous children are forced to work, sometimes under high-risk conditions. Some children begin work at only four years of age, and often under conditions of physical and psychological abuse. [El Heraldo, 7/7/06; Hondudiario, 7/7/06]

7. Government increases soldiers’ salaries

The government of Honduras implemented a salary increase for members of the armed forces, effective the week of July 9. A salary increase was approved in 2005, but the state has not had the resources to implement the increase until now. [Hondudiario, 7/7/06]

8. Illegal logging continues despite restrictions

Col. Carlos Girón, commander of the Honduran Armed Forces’ forest protection operation, announced that that illegal logging continues in the department of Olancho despite new restrictions. According to Girón, loggers have blank permission forms, signed by officials from the Honduran Forest Administration, which they fill out according to how much they have cut. He claims that the loggers are armed and have shot at army control points with machine guns. [El Heraldo, 7/13/06]

9. Environmental groups call for the repeal of a logging resolution

The National Human Rights Commission of Honduras and environmental groups have called for the repeal of a government resolution that they say could allow protected wood to be cut illegally. Resolution 236-01-2006 of the Honduran Forest Administration provides for the selling of wood seized by the armed forces. The regulation is intended to pertain only to illegally cut wood that is abandoned and then seized, but environmental advocates say it provides a loophole for loggers to cut and then buy protected wood. The Human Rights Commission and environmental groups are calling on the government to amend the law so that seized wood can be given to social projects rather than sold to loggers. [El Heraldo, 7/3/06]

10. Honduran government suspends new mining permits

The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment in Honduras has suspended all new mining permits for the remainder of 2006 and the beginning of 2007, by order of President Manuel Zelaya. Environment Minister Mayra Mejía said that suspension will continue until Congress passes a new mining law that protects the environment. A new mining law is being discussed in Congress, and environmentalists are demanding its approval as soon as possible. [Hondudiario, 7/5/06]

11. Teachers protest and demand salary increases

At least 5,000 teachers from six departments in Honduras protested in Tegucigalpa on July 4, demanding salary increases. Protestors demanded to meet with legislators, who had begun a new session that day after a month of vacation, but were refused. Despite talks with the Ministry of Education on July 12, thousands of teachers again protested in Tegucigalpa on July 13, shutting down classes in five departments. Organizers said that further strikes and protests are planned if an agreement is not reached. Teachers are currently paid 33.44 lempiras ($1.76) per hour, and they are demanding an increase of 24.02 lempiras ($1.26) per hour. However, the government has only offered hourly increases of 2.04 lempiras ($0.10) per hour. Human Rights Commissioner Ramón Custodio echoed government reasoning, saying that the state did not have sufficient funds for salary increases for teachers. Thus far, students have missed about three weeks of classes this period because of teacher protests. [Hondudiario, 7/4/06; EFE News 7/5/06; La Prensa, 7/13/06; Hondudiario, 7/13/06]

12. Salvadoran torture victims recover $300,000 in damages

The Center for Justice and Accountability has recovered $300,000 from former Salvadoran Defense Minister Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, who was found responsible along with another former defense minister, Gen. Jose Guillermo Garcia, for the torture of three Salvadoran civilians in the 1980s. A U.S. federal court found the generals responsible for torture in 2002, and, after a lengthy appeal process, the verdict was upheld by an appeals court on Jan. 6, 2006. While the money recovered is only a fraction of the $54 million awarded, it is significant in that it represents the first time that survivors of human rights abuses have actually recovered money from those responsible. The plaintiffs in the case say they intend to donate most of the money to human rights, education, environment and health projects. [CJA press release, 7/10/06; for more information: CJA, “El Salvador: Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova and Jose Guillermo Garcia”; MISF, “Fighting Impunity in U.S. Courts”]

13. Spanish judge issues arrest warrants for former Guatemalan leaders

Spanish judge Santiago Pedraz issued arrest warrants for former Guatemalan leaders linked to human rights atrocities in the 1980s. Pedraz issued warrants for eight people, including former head of state Gen. Efrian Rios Montt. Guatemalan officials must now issue local arrest warrants, which may be politically unlikely. Pedraz traveled to Guatemala to receive testimony but was blocked by appeals brought by Rios Montt and others. [Reuters, 7/7/06]


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