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Updated 06/16/2006

Honduras News in Review—June 19, 2006

1. Honduras requests U.S. special forces to help combat drug trafficking

2. U.N. delegation criticizes Honduran prison system

3. Environmental activist seeks protection from Commission on Human Rights

4. More than half a million children in Honduras work

5. Medicine shortage reaches 70% in some hospitals

6. Blood shortage in hospitals is due to government debt

7. Loggers say closing forest is unconstitutional

8. Campaign against mining takes place in Central American countries

9. Reforms remove impediments to domestic violence complaints

10. Honduras receives intermediate ranking in annual human trafficking report

11. Women criticize Zelaya over failed campaign promise

12. U.N. warns Honduras is highly vulnerable to natural disasters

13. Poverty reduction funds will be redistributed

14. Hondurans receive one-month extension to file for temporary protected status  

1. Honduras requests U.S. special forces to help combat drug trafficking

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya announced that he has requested assistance from the United States to combat narcotrafficking in Honduras. Zelaya said he requested the presence of special forces in the Mosquitia region of Honduras, which is known as a drug trafficking corridor. The Honduran president made the request during a recent U.S. visit. [EFE News, 6/9/06] 

2. U.N. delegation criticizes Honduran prison system

A United Nations delegation from the High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded that Honduras “lacks an authentic penitentiary system.” A preliminary report by the delegation found that the prison system is corrupt and that prisoners are living in inhuman conditions. According to the delegation leader Leyla Zerrougui, the prisons lack necessary services such as health care, adequate food, and occupational and rehabilitation programs. Among the more than 11,000 prisoners in Honduras, around 1,800 have never been sentenced, yet some have remained in prison for as long as 10 years. Others have been absolved by the court system but remain in prison. Nearly all of the 24 prisons in the country have experienced murder, riots and other violence among inmates. The U.N. delegation will present its full report in September 2006. [Hondudiario, 6/1/06; EFE News, 6/5/06] 

3. Environmental activist seeks protection from Commission on Human Rights

The Environmental Movement of Olancho (MAO) and the Center for Justice and International Law have asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to take urgent measures to protect the lives of MAO leader Father Andrés Tamayo and other members of the environmental rights group. The request comes after recent threats against Tamayo by loggers in the department of Olancho who are frustrated by Tamayo’s success in halting logging in certain areas. Three members of MAO have been killed since 1996, and no one has been charged in any of the cases. [Adital, 6/5/06] 

4. More than half a million children in Honduras work

Hundreds of thousands of Honduran children work, Labor Minister Rixi Moncada announced during a celebration of the World Day Against Child Labor. At least 367,405 children between the ages of five and 17 are included in the country’s “economically active population” while another 320,000 children are involved in domestic and agricultural work in their homes. According to Moncada, the majority of these children do not finish primary school. Child laborers in urban areas often work in trash dumps while their rural counterparts tend to work in agriculture. Many are engaged in dangerous work in mines or sawmills. Moncada said the Labor Ministry has begun implementation of an action plan containing preventive measures based on education, along with sanctions that would impose fines of 5,000 to 25,000 lempiras.  [EFE News, 6/13/06; La Tribuna, 6/13/06] 

5. Medicine shortage reaches 70% in some hospitals

The president of the Honduran School of Medicine, Carlos Godoy, testified before the Human Rights Prosecutor’s Office that the majority of the hospitals in the country are suffering from a medicine shortage of up to 70 percent. Godoy criticized the commission appointed by the president to oversee the purchase of medicines, saying the members have not followed through to make sure medicines are getting to the hospitals. He added that there could be plenty of supplies in storage, but they haven’t arrived in the country’s hospitals. [La Tribuna, 6/13/06] 

6. Blood shortage in hospitals is due to government debt

A shortage of blood supplies in Honduras’ hospitals caused doctors to cancel scheduled surgeries and sparked fears that continuing shortages could affect blood transfusions and other emergencies. The shortages are due to debts owed to suppliers such as the Red Cross by the Honduran Ministry of Health. The Red Cross alone is owed an estimated 7 million lempiras (about $370,000). Health Minister Orison Velásquez faults the former health administration for amassing a debt of more than 450 million lempiras (about $24 million). Some health providers in San Pedro Sula called the Red Cross’ decision to cut blood supplies “inhumane.” The Ministry of Health is in talks with blood banks and others to reach a solution to the crisis.  [El Heraldo, 6/14/06; El Heraldo, 6/15/06; La Prensa, 6/16/06] 

7. Loggers say closing forest is unconstitutional

Loggers in the department of Olancho could file a series of lawsuits against the government arguing that the government’s decision to temporarily close certain parts of the forest to logging is unconstitutional. According to Deputy Director Santos Cruz of the Honduran Forest Administration, loggers argue that the decision violates labor and natural-resource exploitation laws. Cruz says that the complete closure of the forest poses a problem because of a recent plague of weevils. The Zelaya administration has formed a commission of environmentalists, loggers, religious leaders, representatives of international organizations, and government officials in order to seek solutions to tensions surrounding logging in the area. [La Tribuna, 6/12/06] 

8. Campaign against mining takes place in Central American countries

June 12 through June 17 marked the “Action Week Against Metal Mining” in Central America, an advocacy and education week led by the Guatemala-based National Indigenous and Campesina Coordination (CONIC). The campaign took place in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica and sought to educate the public on the repercussions of mining, including health and environmental damage. According to CONIC, employment opportunities offered by the mines do not compensate for the damage that mining causes. [EFE News, 6/15/06] 

9. Reforms remove impediments to domestic violence complaints

Recent reforms to the domestic violence law in Honduras now allow women to present domestic violence complaints without a lawyer present. In addition, there is no longer a fee to file a complaint with the Domestic Violence Court. The law defines domestic violence in terms of physical violence, psychological violence and sexual violence. Men are also covered by the law and may file complaints as well. The investigation process and judgments in domestic violence cases are confidential under the law. The reform was announced in the state newspaper La Gaceta on March 11. [El Heraldo, 6/6/06] 

10. Honduras receives intermediate ranking in annual human trafficking report

In its annual report on human trafficking around the world, the U.S. State Department rated Honduras’ anti-trafficking efforts a two, on a scale of one to three. The report acknowledged that Honduras made some progress in the past year by passing new laws related to trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation and by training nearly 900 people on the new laws. The report recommended that Honduras work with nongovernmental organizations to increase awareness about human trafficking and provide more protection for victims. [El Heraldo, 6/6/06; U.S. State Department, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2006 (Honduras Country Narrative)] 

11. Women criticize Zelaya over failed campaign promise

The Honduran Women’s Convergence criticized President Manuel Zelaya for failing to complete a campaign promise to integrate the Honduran Women’s Regional Agenda in his administration. According to activist Blanca Dole, the agenda contains fundamental points related to domestic violence, education and health care. Dole said that Zelaya has treated women as “second-class citizens,” and she promised to begin national protests if he does not fulfill his campaign promise by July 15. [El Heraldo, 6/13/06] 

12. U.N. warns Honduras is highly vulnerable to natural disasters

Honduras is one of the Latin American countries most vulnerable to—and least prepared for—a natural disaster, according to a report by the United Nations. Nineteen percent of the national territory is considered highly exposed to natural disasters and 56 percent of the population is considered unprotected. Storms frequently cause rockslides, mudslides, floods, loss of crops and human tragedies during the rainy season, and according to the report, a powerful natural disaster could wipe out half of the country’s gross domestic product. Many Hondurans are vulnerable because they live near rivers or on unstable land. The other high-risk Latin American countries are Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and Chile. [Hondudiario, 6/15/06] 

13. Poverty reduction funds will be redistributed

Following a World Bank study on the effectiveness of social spending in Honduras, the government will redistribute Poverty Reduction Strategy funds in an effort to reach the country’s poorest residents. According to the World Bank study, social spending in Honduras is poorly focused and does not benefit the poorest of the poor. Finance Minister Noé Pino said that funds for programs such as transportation vouchers and energy subsidies will be moved toward rural development, school food programs and education incentives. A program called the Solidarity Network, which will be managed through the office of First Lady Xiomara Zelaya, will work on redistributing poverty reduction funds on a national level. [Hondudiario, 6/11/06] 

14. Hondurans receive one-month extension to file for temporary protected status

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has extended the reenrollment period for Hondurans and Nicaraguans eligible for temporary protected status to July 3. About 45,000 of the more than 75,000 eligible Hondurans had enrolled by the initial deadline of June 1, and an additional 20,000 petitions arrived within five days of the initial deadline. The 10,000 remaining eligible individuals must send in their petitions along with an apology letter and proof of an extenuating circumstance that prevented them from enrolling on time. [EFE News, 6/6/06; El Heraldo, 6/7/06]

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