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Updated 05/02/2006

Honduras News in Review—May 2, 2006

1. Former officer accused of illegal detention and murder now acting as government security advisor

2. Rights group calls on Honduras to investigate human rights violations from the 1980s

3. Human rights commissioner calls on government to clean up police

4. Inter-American Press Society launches campaign against impunity

5. Residents demand closure of mine, citing health problems

6. Forest protection effort has closed 583 clandestine sawmills

7. New agreement sets up forest monitoring system

8. President Zelaya pitches development projects to funders

9. Forest troops to receive training in public relations

10. Only 6% of eligible Hondurans have applied for TPS extension in U.S.

11. World Bank will investigate land administration project’s effect on ethnic minorities

12. Garífuna community celebrates 209 years in Honduras

13. Disabled persons march in Tegucigalpa to demand rights 

1. Former officer accused of illegal detention and murder now acting as government security advisor

The Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) has denounced the Ministry of Security for contracting a former officer of the notorious military intelligence Battalion 3-16 as an advisor. Retired Capt. Billy Fernando Joya Amendola is accused of the illegal detention and murder of several civilians in the 1980s, when he was a member of Battalion 3-16. The military unit was responsible for numerous cases of forced disappearance, torture and murder. COFADEH sent a letter to President Manuel Zelaya insisting that his administration cease all contracts with Joya. [COFADEH letter, 4/6/06; Proceso Digital, 4/19/06; read more about Billy Joya and efforts to prosecute Honduran human rights abusers] 

2. Rights group calls on Honduras to investigate human rights violations from the 1980s

The Center for Justice and International Law denounced the government of Honduras for failing to investigate human rights violations by the Honduran military in the 1980s. The organization reminded the government of its responsibility to punish those responsible, and it encouraged the government to provide reparations to torture survivors and victims’ families, as mandated in a ruling of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights. [Hondudiario, 4/16/06] 

3. Human rights commissioner calls on government to clean up police Honduran Human Rights Commissioner Ramón Custodio has called on President Manuel Zelaya to immediately purge police forces of dishonest and corrupt officers and those who torture or mistreat citizens. Custodio criticized the lack of crime prevention and inadequate investigations, and the apparent practice of extrajudicial execution. He said the current public insecurity has become a national emergency. [EFE News, 4/25/06] 

4. Inter-American Press Society launches campaign against impunity

Following the assassination of photojournalist Jorge Aguirre in Venezuela, the Inter-American Press Association has launched a campaign to end impunity for the murderers of journalists in Latin America. Representatives of the organization say that many investigations into the assassinations of journalists are characterized by negligence, apathy and irregularities that ultimately lead to impunity. The IAPA’s campaign will include publishing all information relative to each case, including the journalist’s story and information on the criminal investigation process. In addition, the campaign will obtain signatures to give to authorities in each country to encourage them to bring the murderers and intellectual authors of the crime to justice. [La Prensa, 4/19/06; IAPA press release, 4/7/06] 

5. Residents demand closure of mine, citing health problems

Residents from the communities of El Porvenir and San Ignacio, north of the Honduran capital, are demanding the expulsion of the Canadian mining company Entremares, which operates in the area. Hundreds protested outside the company headquarters in San Ignacio on April 25, and they said they would take more drastic measures such as blocking highways if the government does not close the mine. Entremares uses open-pit mining to extract gold, silver and zinc, and the process uses chemicals such as arsenic, lead and mercury. Surrounding communities have complained of health problems including sores on the skin and hair loss. Residents also complain that cattle are aborting during pregnancy and dying at higher rates. The government has sent in a medical team to examine those affected and will also take water, soil, plant and animal toxicity samples. [La Prensa, 4/25/06; El Heraldo, 4/27/06] 

6. Forest protection effort has closed 583 clandestine sawmills

The Honduran Armed Forces announced that they have shut down 583 ad-hoc illegal sawmills in the country, mostly in the heavily logged departments of Olancho and Gracias a Dios. The majority of the illegal sites used manual tools such as axes and saws, but they also found 35 clandestine sawmills that used more sophisticated equipment. Since the military operation began, the Armed Forces has also seized eight million square feet of illegally logged wood as well as five vehicles, one boat and three chainsaws. Around three dozen offenders have been detained. A reforestation effort is expected to begin soon, with a goal of planting five million trees around the country this year. [El Heraldo, 4/24/06] 

7. New agreement sets up forest monitoring system

The national commissioner for human rights and the Honduran Corporation for Forest Development have signed an agreement intended to reduce illegal logging and the violence surrounding it. The agreement will set up an Independent Forest Monitoring System that ensures laws are being applied correctly. Monitoring will begin in departments most affected by illegal logging. [La Tribuna, 4/19/06] 

8. President Zelaya pitches development projects to funders

During an outdoor cabinet meeting on a deforested mountain, President Manuel Zelaya presented a reforestation project and an electricity development project. The president’s guests included the ambassadors from G-7 countries, and the meeting was considered a pitch to international financers for development assistance to fund the projects. The electricity project intends to channel rivers for hydroelectric power that would produce 400 megawatts of clean energy and provide electricity for residents in the department of Olancho. The estimated cost of the project is $1 billion. The reforestation project would give priority to protected zones that have been illegally logged. [Hondudidario, 4/17/06] 

9. Forest troops to receive training in public relations

The Honduran military’s Special Forces for Forest Protection will begin special training sessions in public relations and the rights of police agents. The decision comes after one military unit detained a man who was trying to set fire to a forested area. The man was released soon after because the soldiers had violated his civil rights. At the moment, only a police officer can arrest an individual for a crime, though soldiers can assist police if needed. [La Tribuna, 4/24/06] 

10. Only 6% of eligible Hondurans have applied for TPS extension in U.S.

Only 6.2% of Hondurans eligible for the U.S. Temporary Protection Status program have registered for the new extension. The temporary protection program allows victims of war and natural disasters to stay in the United States. Organizers believe that many of those eligible are waiting for immigration reform to pass before reenrolling. Persons eligible for the temporary program extension have until May 31 to apply. [El Heraldo, 4/25/06; El Heraldo, 4/27/06] 

11. World Bank will investigate land administration project’s effect on ethnic minorities

The World Bank has accepted a petition from the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) and will investigate the Honduran Land Administration Project, which is financed by the World Bank, and its effects on the ethnic minority Garífuna community. OFRANEH claims that black and indigenous communities were not consulted in the development of the project, and the communities’ suggestions were ignored by the government. [OFRANEH press release, 4/18/06; World Bank, Honduras: Land Administration Project) 

12. Garífuna community celebrates 209 years in Honduras

The Garífuna community is celebrating 209 years in Honduras. The first of the African-descended Garífunas arrived on the Caribbean island of Roatán on April 12, 1797, according to the Ethnic Community Development Organization. There are an estimated 400,000 Garífunas living throughout Honduras, mainly in the Caribbean coast. [EFE News, 4/17/06] 

13. Disabled persons march in Tegucigalpa to demand rights

Around 800 disabled persons marched in Tegucigalpa on April 24 to demand the rights promised them in national law. The march marked the beginning of the annual Week of Solidarity, established in 1984 to honor the handicapped. The marchers demanded the creation of a government office for persons with disabilities, as mandated by a law passed last year. They said the march was also a means to remind the Honduran population that disabled persons can work and should be given that opportunity. Of the 177,516 disabled persons in Honduras, 15,000 receive care in special centers, while the rest do not receive any type of assistance. [Tiempo, 4/25/06]


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