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Updated 02/06/2006

Honduras News in Review—February 6, 2006

1. Zelaya administration announces dialogue with gang members

2. U.S. attorney general encourages independent judiciary in Honduras

3. Honduran police officers often involved in drug trafficking, says official

4. Honduran military to fill “nontraditional” roles

5. Garífuna organization submits complaint before World Bank

6. Zelaya announces three new state hydroelectric projects

7. Zelaya administration to invest in reforestation

8. Over 13,000 violent deaths during Maduro administration

9. New forest law needed in Honduras, according to prosecutor

10. Eight hundred tons of trash accumulating daily in Tegucigalpa

11. Central American economies would suffer from proposed U.S. migratory reform

12. Communities still suffering from aftermath of floods

13. Report praises Honduran election efforts

14. OAS to increase membership fees 

1. Zelaya administration announces dialogue with gang members

The new administration of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who was sworn into office on Jan. 27, will begin a dialogue with gang members in the country in an attempt to reintegrate them into society, according to Minister of Security Alvaro Romero. The administration will encourage the gang members to turn in their arms and enter rehabilitation programs. Catholic bishops with experience in gang rehabilitation will be part of the process. This approach is in stark contrast to the previous administration of Ricardo Maduro, who implemented a “tough hand” policy under which a person could be arrested for merely associating with gangs. Around 2,000 accused gang members were arrested during the Maduro administration, and violence and overcrowding in the prison system has become a much-criticized issue in Honduras. [La Prensa, 1/30/06; EFE News, 1/30/06] 

2. U.S. attorney general encourages independent judiciary in Honduras

U.S. Attorney General Alberto González arrived in Honduras to attend the inauguration ceremony of president-elect Mel Zelaya on Jan. 27. González urged Honduras to work toward creating a strong, independent judiciary and to put an end to impunity for corrupt government officials. He said Honduras plays an important role in the U.S. “war on drugs” because of its geographic location, and he looks forward to working with the new administration on anti-drug trafficking initiatives. [La Prensa, 1/27/06] 

3. Honduran police officers often involved in drug trafficking, says official

The director of the Honduran antidrug department, Julián González, admitted that many of its investigations involve police officers and that weeding out corrupt agents is very difficult. Honduran police officers earn a minimum of $105 a month, making them an easy target for drug traffickers. The recent conviction of a drug trafficker in San Pedro Sula also implicated two chiefs of police. However, González insisted that his office has not been infiltrated by corrupt agents, as was seen in Guatemala, where the antidrug department chief was arrested for collaborating with narcotraffickers. [EFE News, 1/22/06] 

4. Honduran military to fill “nontraditional” roles

Honduran Secretary of Defense Arístides Mejía announced that the military will begin working in new “nontraditional” roles, such as assisting the police in combating organized crime. The armed forces are also planning to offer a new career as military police. [La Prensa, 2/2/06] 

5. Garífuna organization submits complaint before World Bank

The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) has submitted a complaint before the World Bank in relation to the Honduran Land Administration Project (PATH). The World Bank has a process by which persons can complain if they believe they have been unjustly affected by World Bank-funded projects, such as PATH. PATH, which is in charge of carrying out Honduran property laws, insists on individualizing property titles, something the Garífuna say is detrimental to their tradition of collective land ownership. The Garífuna say that as an “Afroindigenous” community, they fall under World Bank policies related to indigenous communities. [OFRANEH press release, 2/2/06] 

6. Zelaya announces three new state hydroelectric projects

Honduran president Mel Zelaya announced his administration will begin three new hydroelectric projects in the country in an attempt to move away from a petroleum-based energy economy. The announcement came after Zelaya declared a “state of emergency in the national energy system” due to the millions of dollars lost by the state energy agency. An “electronic erasure” of the accounts of clients with high bills is one of the causes of an estimated $5.2-million monthly loss for the state energy agency. The special prosecutor for corruption is looking into the case. [EFE News, 1/31/06] 

7. Zelaya administration to invest in reforestation

The new government of Manuel Zelaya has announced they will invest $15 million annually to reforest Honduras. Honduras has around 5.9 million hectares of forest, 100,000 of which is lost annually due to forest fires. [EFE News, 2/1/06] 

8. Over 13,000 violent deaths during Maduro administration

A report released Jan. 29 by the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras shows that there were 13,347 violent deaths during the administration of Ricardo Maduro. The report says that many of those killed were young people and that impunity continues to be a serious issue in Honduras. The number of violent deaths during the Maduro administration is lower than that of the previous administration of Carlos Flores, during which 15,327 people were violently killed. [EFE News, 1/30/06] 

9. New forest law needed in Honduras, according to prosecutor

Aldo Santos, the special prosecutor for the environment, has urged the Honduran Congress to move ahead with the new and currently stalled Forest Law. Prosecutors must use an outdated law from 1971 with penalties from the 1906 penal code. Those convicted of crimes such as illegal logging and forest fires face a maximum prison time of two years and a maximum fine of 500 lempiras ($26). Santos pointed out that the penalties are harsher for a person who steals 10 lempiras ($0.50). [El Heraldo, 1/31/06] 

10. Eight hundred tons of trash accumulating daily in Tegucigalpa

Authorities from the mayor’s office of Tegucigalpa have declared an emergency due to the accumulation of trash in the capital city. Collection agencies have not been picking up garbage due to a $2 million debt left by the previous mayoral administration and because of the high price of gas. Officials estimate that around 800 tons of trash is being accumulated daily. The new mayor of the city, Ricardo Alvarez, has called on various sectors of society including the army, schools and churches, to help with collecting trash in order to avoid health epidemics. [Hondudiario, 2/1/06; EFE News, 2/2/06] 

11. Central American economies would suffer from proposed U.S. migratory reform

According to representatives of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America would be hardest hit by the United States’ proposed restrictive migratory policy because of those countries’ economic dependence on remittances from immigrants. In 2005, remittances to Latin America amounted to about $41 billion, nearly half of which went to Mexico. Honduras received about $1.3 billion in remittances, nearly 16% of its GDP.  [EFE News, 1/26/06] 

12. Communities still suffering from aftermath of floods

Basic grains are expected to become scarce in several communities in the northeastern department of Colón because of massive floods from several storms during the rainy season. Community leaders say that most of their land is covered in mud, and there is no place to plant crops. Most of the communities were agricultural and an estimated 4,000 hectares of rice, corn, beans and yucca were destroyed by the floods. [La Prensa, 1/27/06] 

13. Report praises Honduran election efforts

The National Commission for Human Rights in Honduras released a special report on the elections held November 2005. The report praised national and international observers, activists from both parties, the military, the police and civil society for helping to create a calm and orderly election process. According to the commission, however, the government needed to encourage greater participation in the elections, especially among women. [Hondudiario, 1/26/07] 

14. OAS to increase membership fees

Chancellors of the Organization of American States announced that they will be meeting to discuss a new fee scale for the 34 member states. The fee scale has not been revised for 16 years, and the new scale, which will enter into force in 2007, is an attempt to alleviate the current financial problems of the regional body. Honduras, Nicaragua, and several Caribbean countries have already said they will not be able to afford an increase in fees. [Hondudiario, 1/24/06]

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