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Updated 05/18/2006

Honduras News in Review—May 18, 2006

1. Honduras urged to pursue criminal case against former military officer

2. Honduran congressman assassinated

3. Supreme Court decision sends accused to prison over El Porvenir prison massacre

4. Regional human rights experts to investigate Honduran prisons

5. Police announce 16 inmate deaths so far in 2006

6. Thousands march in Honduras for International Labor Day

7. Protestors demand gay and lesbian rights

8. President inaugurates new reforestation program

9. Environmentalists call off hunger strike after agreement is reached

10. Thousands protest construction of hydroelectric dam

11. Sixty-eight media professionals killed in 2005

12. Journalist association condemns attack on radio host

13. Human rights prosecutor announces investigation of lie detectors at U.S. embassy

14. National budget includes $800 million for poverty reduction     

15. Honduras and Nicaragua argue over potentially oil-rich maritime territory

16. Honduras encourages compatriots to reenroll in TPS program 

1. Honduras urged to pursue criminal case against former military officer

Almudena Bernabéu, an attorney with the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability, met with Honduran Attorney General Leonidas Rosa Bautista on May 4 to encourage him to pursue a criminal case against retired Col. Juan Evangelista López Grijalba. In March 2006, CJA won a U.S. civil case against López Grijalba, who was ordered to pay $47 million in damages for his role in four cases of torture, disappearance and extrajudicial killing in the early 1980s. Bernabéu offered the attorney general all of the evidence amassed during the U.S. civil trial. [La Tribuna, 5/5/06; El Heraldo, 5/5/06; HNR, 4/13/06] 

2. Honduran congressman assassinated

Juan Ramón Salgado Cuevas, a Honduran congressman for the Liberal Party who represented the coastal department of Colón, was assassinated on May 1. At least three men in an unmarked, red vehicle attacked Salgado with automatic weapons while he was resting in a hammock in a friend’s house in San Pedro Sula. Salgado died in the hospital later that night. While some speculate that the murder could be linked to the pervasive drug trafficking on the Atlantic coast, police say that it is too soon to speculate about a motive. [Hondudiario, 5/2/06] 

3. Supreme Court decision sends accused to prison over El Porvenir prison massacre

More than 50 people accused of participating in the massacre and fire at El Porvenir prison in April 2003 will be sent to prison following a decision by the Honduran Supreme Court. In the case of two police officials, the court rejected an appeal, thereby upholding an appellate court ruling of incarceration for the accused. According to the human rights prosecutor’s office, the sentence will be used to send 50 others to prison, among them prison guards, police and members of the military. Sixty-eight people died in the massacre from causes including suffocation, burning, bullet wounds and the impact of blunt objects. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights denounced Honduras for its delay in the case. [La Tribuna, 5/11/06] 

4. Regional human rights experts to investigate Honduran prisons

In response to requests from Honduran human rights organizations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will send a representative on May 23 to investigate whether prison conditions have improved in the country. The representative will be accompanied by other prison experts. The delegation is expected to stay in the country for about 9 days and will investigate several of the bigger prisons. [EFE News, 5/12/06] 

5. Police announce 16 inmate deaths so far in 2006

A police spokesperson announced that 16 prisoners have died thus far in 2006 in the National Penitentiary near the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. The 16th victim appeared to have committed suicide, though the majority have been killed by other inmates. On Jan. 5, a confrontation between inmates left 13 prisoners dead. [ACAN-EFE, 5/9/06] 

6. Thousands march in Honduras for International Labor Day

Tens of thousands of workers, students and other citizens participated in protests in cities around Honduras to celebrate International Labor Day on May 1. Several protests targeted DR-CAFTA, the recently passed free-trade agreement between Central America and the United States. Protestors claimed the trade agreement will increase poverty in Honduras. Others protested the increasing prices of gas and basic goods, and many demanded labor rights and an end to corruption in Honduras. The protests were also characterized by solidarity with immigrants in the United States by boycotting U.S. products for the day and wearing pieces of white clothing. [Hondudiario, 5/1/06; EFE News, 5/2/06; La Prensa, 5/2/06] 

7. Protestors demand gay and lesbian rights

A gay and lesbian rights group marked International Labor Day by protesting the discrimination they face in Honduras due to their sexual preference. The group criticized the government for not recognizing them as a legal organization and demanded an end to labor discrimination and human rights abuses against homosexuals. [Hondudiario, 5/1/06] 

8. President inaugurates new reforestation program

President Manuel Zelaya kicked off a new national reforestation program by planting three trees in an area destroyed by forest fires. The three trees are the first of an intended 10 million to be planted as part of the program. The ceremony also paid homage to a Panamanian woman who died fighting fires in the area in February. [El Heraldo, 5/4/06] 

9. Environmentalists call off hunger strike after agreement is reached

The Environmental Movement of Olancho, headed by Father Andrés Tamayo, has announced the suspension of a planned hunger strike to protest deforestation in Honduras and especially in the heavily logged department of Olancho. According to Tamayo, an average of 800 wood-laden trucks pass through the department every day. The hunger strike was suspended after an agreement was reached on May 8 between the government, loggers and environmentalists. The agreement stipulated that only 75 trucks would be permitted to pass in Olancho for 15 days. Within that time, the government’s forest office will present a new territorial plan for the department of Olancho that will include increased logging regulation. [EFE News, 5/9/06] 

10. Thousands protest construction of hydroelectric dam

Thousands of Hondurans and Salvadorans living in the western border region protested the proposed construction of a binational hydroelectric reservoir by marching in the community of San Antonio de Intibucá on May 10. The proposed damming of the Lempa River would flood nearly 70 kilometers of land between the two countries. An estimated 1,500 Honduran families, mostly poor, indigenous Lenca farmers would be displaced. The government says it is trying to reduce high energy costs by looking for alternatives to gas. [La Prensa, 5/11/06; Hondudiario, 5/11/06] 

11. Sixty-eight media professionals killed in 2005

According to a new report by Reporters without Borders, 63 journalists and five media collaborators were violently killed in 2005, and 1,300 media professionals were attacked or threatened, making 2005 the bloodiest year for the media since 1995. Seven journalists were killed in Latin America in 2005. Ramón Custodio, the Honduran human rights commissioner, noted that freedom of expression has improved in recent decades but said reporters in Honduras are still threatened and persecuted. The 2003 killing of journalist German Rivas remains unpunished. [La Prensa, 5/3/06; RWB 2006 Annual Report] 

12. Journalist association condemns attack on radio host

The Association of Honduran Journalists has denounced threats against radio talk-show host Octavio Carvajal and demanded security protection for the journalist and his family. Carvajal says that Marcelo Chimirri, the deputy manager of the Honduran telecommunications firm Hondutel, and his two bodyguards tried to attack Carvajal because of comments he made on his radio show. [La Prensa, 5/10/06] 

13. Human rights prosecutor announces investigation of lie detectors at U.S. embassy

Special Prosecutor for Human Rights Sandra Ponce has announced she is investigating allegations that government attorneys have been subject to lie detector tests by officials from the U.S. embassy. The lie detector tests are reportedly reserved for those attorneys who wish to participate in training workshops financed by the United States. [Tiempo, 5/9/06] 

14. National budget includes $800 million for poverty reduction     

On May 3 the Honduran Congress passed an 80 billion lempira ($4.2 billion) national budget that allots 15 billion lempiras (about $794 million) to finance the Poverty Reduction Strategy (ERP), designed to meet the U.N. Millennium Development Goals by 2015. However, critics contend that the majority of the funds for the ERP come from taxes on the lower economic classes and that the strategy will not be successful as long as the government taxes the poor more than the rich. A delegation from the International Monetary Fund reviewed the budget before it was sent to Congress for approval. [Hondudiario, 4/1/06; Hondudiario, 4/3/06] 

15. Honduras and Nicaragua argue over potentially oil-rich maritime territory

Milton Jiménez, the foreign minister of Honduras, announced an investigation into Nicaragua’s petroleum exploration in the Atlantic Ocean. Nicaragua has reportedly begun negotiations with foreign oil companies for exploration that may include a contested section of maritime territory. Honduras contends that Nicaragua’s territory ends at parallel 15 while Nicaragua insists its territory goes to parallel 17. Honduras is also planning to explore the contested area for oil. The International Court of Justice at The Hague will officially determine the maritime boundaries in a ruling expected between November 2006 and February 2007. [EFE News, 5/1/06; El Heraldo, 5/3/06; La Prensa, 5/4/06] 

16. Honduras encourages compatriots to reenroll in TPS program

The Foreign Ministry of Honduras has started a campaign aimed at Hondurans living in the United States, urging them to reenroll in the Temporary Protection Status program. Thus far, only 17% of eligible Hondurans have registered. U.S. officials have said that anyone who does not reenroll could be deported and that the inscription period will not be extended. Many of those eligible believe that the Senate will pass immigration reform making enrolment in the TPS program unnecessary. The Foreign Ministry will run commercials during two Honduran television programs broadcast in the U.S. encouraging Hondurans to register, and the director of foreign affairs, Francisco Martínez, will begin touring parts of the United States where Hondurans have resettled. The due date for reenrolling is June 1, 2006. [El Heraldo, 5/9/06] 

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