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Updated 01/10/2006

Honduras News in Review—January 10, 2006

1. Six clandestine cemeteries discovered in Honduras

2. More than 500 Hondurans died in 2005 while trying to cross U.S. border

3. Nearly 2,000 youth killed during Maduro administration, says Covenant House

4. Honduras denies military harassment against El Salvador

5. Banana workers strike, citing labor persecution and use of harmful chemicals

6. Police agent sentenced for deaths of lawyers

7. Health officials shut down youth detention center

8. Thirty women elected to Honduran Congress

9. Minority party blocks highway, claims election fraud

10. IMF gives positive review of Honduran economic policy

11. Forty-five percent of Hondurans suffer from hunger

12. Honduran authorities criticize proposed border wall

13. Honduras first to issue Central American passport

14. DR-CAFTA implementation delayed 


1. Six clandestine cemeteries discovered in Honduras

At least six clandestine cemeteries supposedly containing the remains of victims of repression in the 1980s have been located, according to Special Prosecutor for Human Rights Aida Romero. The discovery of the cemeteries was part of a joint investigation by Romero’s office and the Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras. Although she did not specify the locations of the cemeteries, she did announce that exhumations would begin soon. At least 184 people were disappeared in Honduras during a period of political repression the 1980s and early ‘90s. Romero said the remains of at least 70 people have been exhumed since 1994, when the special prosecutor’s office and human rights organizations began investigations with the help of forensic specialists. However, the majority of the victims have yet to be identified. [EFE News, 12/21/05; read more about human rights abuses in Honduras in the 1980s] 

2. More than 500 Hondurans died in 2005 while trying to cross U.S. border

At least 505 Hondurans died and an additional 351 Hondurans were injured in 2005 while attempting to illegally enter the United States, according to government officials in Tegucigalpa. The United States deported 18,154 Hondurans in 2005, almost double the number in 2004. In the first few days of 2006, 139 Hondurans were deported from the United States. Around 100,000 Hondurans have legal residency in the United States, another 90,000 reside legally under a temporary law that will expire in July 2006, and roughly 610,000 Hondurans are there illegally. In 2005, illegal immigrants sent a total of $1.2 billion back to their families in Honduras. [La Prensa, 1/3/06; EFE News, 1/3/06; EFE News, 1/5/06]

                                                                                                                  

3. Nearly 2,000 youth killed during Maduro administration, says Covenant House

The international childcare organization Casa Alianza, or Covenant House, has denounced the nearly 2,000 violent deaths of young people in Honduras in the last four years. A report by the organization noted that during the administration of Honduran president Ricardo Maduro, 1,932 children and youth below the age of 23 were violently killed, an increase of about 90% from the previous administration of Carlos Flores (1998-2002). At least 431 young people were killed in 2005. The report expressed concern over “the growth of a culture of death and a society that has become tolerant and indifferent to the situation.” Covenant House recognized efforts made by the Maduro administration to curb the violent deaths of minors but contended that more action was needed to address the issue. [EFE News, 1/4/06]

4. Honduras denies military harassment against El Salvador

Honduran Deputy Foreign Minister Juan Alberto Lara assured the public that there has been no military harassment against Salvadoran citizens living near the border region. His comments came after public remarks by the ambassador of El Salvador in Tegucigalpa, Sigifredo Ochoa, claiming members of the Honduran military entered a border town in El Salvador and demanded money from citizens. Ochoa asked that the Honduran government maintain military posts 3 kilometers inside the Honduran border. Lara countered that this is already the permanent distance of military posts inside the border. The dispute is the latest of a series of disagreements over the demarcation of the Honduras-El Salvador border. The International Court of Justice ruled on the border limits in 1992, recognizing 300.1 square kilometers of the 437.9 square kilometers under dispute as belonging to Honduras. There are only 10.5 kilometers in the border region that have not been demarcated. [ACAN-EFE News, 12/12/05, EFE News, 12/13/05]

5. Banana workers strike, citing labor persecution and use of harmful chemicals

Citing unjust firings and the use of potentially dangerous chemicals, 400 banana farm workers in El Progreso, Honduras began a strike on Jan. 4. Workers say the Tela Railroad Company, which owns the farms, fired three workers in December, allegedly for being intoxicated. However, the workers had no past problems and were not given a warning prior to being fired. In addition, the workers claim that labor leader Gustavo Castro was suspended for 16 days without reason. Workers also object to the implementation of the use of chemically treated bags to protect the bananas, saying the chemicals have caused other workers to become sick. Executives from the Tela Railroad Company have yet to enter negotiations. [La Prensa, 1/5/06; La Prensa 1/6/06]

6. Police agent sentenced for deaths of lawyers

An agent of the General Directorate of Criminal Investigation in Honduras has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for the deaths of two lawyers in San Pedro Sula. The agent, Moisés Montoya, received two sentences of 15 years for the deaths of Jesús Castillo Alvarado and his daughter, Vanessa Castillo Osorio. Castillo Alvarado was a member of the legal team defending former Honduran president Rafael Callejas against charges of corruption. The two lawyers were shot and later found in an abandoned car near San Pedro Sula. Police said Castillo Alvarado met with Montoya hours before his death and the handcuffs found on his body belonged to Montoya. [EFE News, 12/15/05]

7. Health officials shut down youth detention center

Honduran health officials have temporarily closed the youth detention center Renacer, located 30 kilometers north of Tegucigalpa. The center was closed due to the collapse of the sewer system, which was causing bathrooms to overflow with excrement. Renacer has been the subject of recent public scrutiny after detained youth complained of being tortured. The director of the center, Silvia July, said that officers who commit abuses are transferred and that the center has established mechanisms to ensure the human rights of detained youth. [La Prensa, 12/15/05]

8. Thirty women elected to Honduran Congress

About 23% of congressional representatives elected Nov. 27 in Honduras are women. Thirty women were elected as representatives, the most in Honduran electoral history. The departments Francisco Morazán, which includes the capital of Tegucigalpa, and Cortés elected the most women in the country. [Diario La Prensa, 12/9/05] 

9. Minority party blocks highway, claims election fraud

Members of the Democratic Unification (UD) party in Honduras blocked a highway in the department of Colón from Dec. 12 to Dec. 14 in protest of the election held Nov. 27. One of the protest leaders was UD congressional representative candidate Fabio Ochoa, who claims that members of the National Party in Colón falsified voting ballots to prevent Ochoa from being elected. This particular case is one of 85 complaints being investigated by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal in Honduras. [EFE News, 12/15/05]

10. IMF gives positive review of Honduran economic policy

A team of analysts from the International Monetary Fund have completed an evaluation in Honduras, declaring that good macroeconomic policy and structural reform have produced positive results in the country. However, Agustín Carstens, a spokesperson for the IMF, warned that Honduras must control the salaries of government officials, integrate benefits and salaries of teachers and adopt a “prudent budget” for 2006. Such measures, according to Carstens, will counteract the negative economic effects of telecommunications reform and the Central American Free Trade Agreement. The IMF then extended the Honduran line of credit by $14.7 million. The loans have an annual interest rate of 0.5%. [EFE News, 12/19/05]

11. Forty-five percent of Hondurans suffer from hunger

According to a representative of the World Food Program, Willem van Milink, 45% of Hondurans suffer from hunger. Thirty-three percent of Honduran children under the age of five are chronically malnourished and, while this is the national average, the poorest parts of Honduras may have child malnutrition rates closer to 60% or 70%. Malnutrition in children under two is especially detrimental to a child’s physical and mental development, and it is difficult for children to recuperate from the negative effects of malnutrition during this stage of development. Van Milink said the WFP would focus the majority of its programs on pregnant and lactating women and on children under five, and he encouraged the new government of Honduras to focus food programs in the poorest parts of the region. [Hondudiario, 12/5/05]

12. Honduran authorities criticize proposed border wall

Mexican and Central American authorities have uniformly criticized a measure passed in the U.S. House of Representatives calling for the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Milton Jiménez, who will be the new Honduran foreign minister under president-elect Manuel Zelaya, said that the wall “endangers the dignity of immigrants as well as their human rights.” The current foreign minister, Mario Fortín, criticized the U.S. government’s emphasis on controlling the migratory flow without analyzing the causes of migration—namely, poverty. Fortín will participate in a meeting with officials from Central America and Mexico intended to produce a joint position to the proposed wall. [Hondudiario, 1/2/06; EFE News 1/3/06]

13. Honduras first to issue Central American passport

Honduras was the first country to print the new Central American passports, which were approved in March 2005 by Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Outgoing president Ricardo Maduro, who pushed the regional integration measure, will be the first to receive a new passport. The Central American passports are a first step toward increased regional cooperation and are intended to facilitate tourism and trade in the region. [EFE News, 1/3/06; Tiempo, 1/5/06]

14. DR-CAFTA implementation delayed

Although the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement with the United States was due to take effect on Jan. 1, none of the Central American countries nor the Dominican Republic have yet entered the regional agreement. The reason for the delay in most cases is that the countries must reform national laws to conform to the trade agreement. The reforms must then be submitted to the U.S. trade representative, who will assure that none of the national laws counteract the agreement. In Honduras, Congress has passed all reforms, but the executive branch has yet to approve a series of reforms dealing with the export of agricultural products to the United States. [EFE News, 1/1/06]

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