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Updated 11/28/2005

Honduras News in Review—November 28, 2005

1. Former head of Honduran police unit arrested for 1982 murders

2. Honduran government begins paying settlement in children’s rights case

3. Radio journalist receives death threats, temporarily shuts down station

4. Violent deaths of Honduran youth occur daily, according to child welfare group

5. ILO helps eradicate child labor in Tegucigalpa’s trash dumps

6. Despite controversy, gas company continues expansion in coastal town

7. Political party demands assassination investigation

8. Honduran public employees strike for higher wages

9. Hundreds of Hondurans are imprisoned in U.S.

10. Honduran rights abuse case included in current Inter-American Court session

11. Honduras fails to climb in U.N. Human Development Index

1. Former head of Honduran police unit arrested for 1982 murders
Juan Blas Salazar Mesa, former head of the now-defunct National Investigations Directorate, was arrested Nov. 15 in Tegucigalpa on a warrant issued for two decades-old murders. Salazar is one of 19 government agents accused in 1996 for the kidnapping and murder of Honduran Adán Avilez and Nicaraguan Amado Espinoza in 1982. Some of the accused have been cleared by the court while others remain at large. A judicial investigation began Nov. 16, and a sentence is pending. The National Investigations Directorate, a police unit that operated within the Honduran Armed Forces, has been implicated in many of the 184 cases of political disappearance and murder in Honduras in the 1980s. The unit was shut down in 1993. [EFE News, 11/17/05, read more on efforts to prosecute human rights abusers]

2. Honduran government begins paying settlement in children’s rights case

On Nov. 9 the Honduran government signed a million-lempira check to the nonprofit Casa Alianza for the rehabilitation of children who were jailed alongside adults in the 1990s. The funds represent the first installment of a three million-lempira settlement mandated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for the former incarceration practice, a violation of children’s rights. The case had been pending since 1999. The first million lempiras will go toward implementing mental health programs in youth rehabilitation centers. The remaining settlement money will be used to improve building and infrastructure conditions in the rehabilitation centers, to hire full-time psychiatrists and for scholarships. [Diario Tiempo, 11/10/05]

3. Radio journalist receives death threats, temporarily shuts down station

According to the Committee for Free Expression (C-Libre), an organization that defends Honduran journalists, death threats and harassment have caused the temporary closure of a radio station in the western province of Lempira. It says Jaime Diaz, owner of Virtud Stereo in the town of La Virtud, has received death threats from Liberal Party leaders and that on Nov. 5 these leaders cut his electric cables with machetes and dismantled his radio antennae. Diaz’s news radio show has aired more National Party ads than Liberal Party ads because the National Party paid for more air time, according to C-Libre. Liberal Party members complained about the superior quantity and quality placement of National Party ads, demanding that Diaz return the National Party’s money. Diaz refused. [Associated Press, 11/13/05]

4. Violent deaths of Honduran youth occur daily, according to child welfare group

Honduran youth are suffering violent death at a daily rate, according to Casa Alianza, a nonprofit serving homeless youth. In the month of October alone there were 31 violent deaths of youths aged 23 or younger—at least one of which was perpetrated by a police officer—bringing the total for the year to 356. Casa Alianza urged the government to use all available resources to thoroughly investigate the murder of minors and to treat the deaths of minors by government authorities as arbitrary executions and serious situations. [Hondudiario, 11/16/05]

5. ILO helps eradicate child labor in Tegucigalpa’s trash dumps

As part of a program to eradicate child labor in trash dumps, the International Labor Organization announced that 256 minors had been rescued from trash dumps in Tegucigalpa over a 14-month period. The minors, ranging in age from five to 18, are now either in school or in work training. Honduran law allows for children 14 years and older to work, though only in safe conditions. According to the ILO, working in trash dumps is a very dangerous occupation, particularly for children. The program also involved training for economic alternatives for the parents of these children, 70 of whom have now formed a cooperative. In addition, the program provides the children with school uniforms, school supplies, and a small stipend for food. The ILO has begun a similar program in San Pedro Sula. [Hondudiario, 11/16/05]

6. Despite controversy, gas company continues expansion in coastal town

The National Chamber of Honduran Tourism (CANATURH) has presented a formal complaint against the oil company Gas del Caribe for supposed negative impacts in the northwestern coast town of Omoa. CANATURH argues that the increased construction of gas storage facilities has had a negative visual impact on the area and has damaged surrounding beaches, mangrove swamps and lagoons. The organization has called on the government to cease construction and to convene the National System of Evaluation and Environmental Impact in order to establish mitigating measures. Despite the complaint, on Nov. 8 the Leadership for Evaluation and Environmental Control (DECA) decided to allow Gas del Caribe to continue its expansion. The decision has caused controversy in Honduras because DECA issued the decision only 4 days after beginning the investigation, and two of those days were non-work days. The office of the Public Prosecutor for the Environment plans to sue the gas company for various infractions and will investigate the complaints in Omoa. [Diario Tiempo, 11/10/05; La Prensa, 11/11/05]

7. Political party demands assassination investigation

The Unity and Innovation Party, a minority political party in Honduras, is demanding a thorough investigation into the shooting death of one of the party’s leaders in Tegucigalpa. Guillermo José Mejía Suárez was killed on Nov. 2 in front of his house in the capital. Though Mejía Suárez was not a candidate in the upcoming elections on Nov. 27, he was a coordinator for the party’s youth coalition and the party’s representative on the electoral tribunal in Tegucigalpa. According to police, an investigation is in process, though no one has been detained. [ACAN-EFE News, 11/7/05]  

8. Honduran public employees strike for higher wages

The National Association of Public Employees (ANDEPH) is sponsoring a strike and demanding salary increases for the 200,000 employees of the public sector. The strike began Nov. 15 and will continue for an indefinite period. According to ANDEPH President Juan Osorto, about 20,000 workers from state hospitals and the administrative offices of public education, natural resources and finance are participating in the strike. The military is guarding the empty buildings. Osorto complained that although the government increased state salaries by $17 a month in 2000, workers have yet to see the wage increase. According to Finance Minister William Chong Wong, the state does not have money available to increase the salaries of state personnel. He added that Honduras, in which 71% of the population is poor, sees about 20 labor strikes every year. [EFE News, 11/15/05]

9. Hundreds of Hondurans are imprisoned in U.S.

According to reports from the Honduran foreign minister’s office, around 900 Hondurans are currently in U.S. jails, mostly for common crimes. This number does not include Hondurans detained for illegal entry into the country. The reports also show that there are currently four Hondurans, three of them in Texas, sentenced to death. Only one Honduran has been put to death in the United States. These numbers, which a spokesperson for the foreign minister says are typical, are being released as the case of Honduran Mario Bustillo was accepted before the U.S. Supreme Court. Bustillo’s lawyer has argued that his client was not given his rights under article 37 of the Vienna Convention, which allows arrested foreigners to seek counsel from their country of origin. [El Heraldo, 11/9/05]

10. Honduran rights abuse case included in current Inter-American Court session

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights began its new session Nov. 17 at its headquarters in San Jose, Costa Rica. The session, which involves seven cases from five different Latin American countries, will end on Dec. 2, and the sentences will be made public four months later. Among the cases on which the court will rule is the case of Honduran Alfredo López Álvarez, an indigenous Garífuna leader who was detained from 1997 to 2003 without access to communication in his native language. López Álvarez was later absolved of the crime for which he was detained. The other cases involve Brazil, Chile, Venezuela and Peru and deal with issues including arbitrary detention, forced disappearances and torture. [EFE News, 11/17/05]

11. Honduras fails to climb in U.N. Human Development Index

According to the United Nations Development Program’s 2005 World Human Development Report, Honduras failed to advance on the annual Human Development Index. The report reviewed 177 countries and considered such indicators as life expectancy rate, per capita income, education enrollment, and poverty rates in calculating placement in the Human Development Index. Honduras stagnated at 116 on the index, also its placement in 2004, surpassing only Guatemala among its Central American counterparts. Nicaragua rose to 112. According to a chief economist for the UNDP, Honduras’s position is mainly the result of a low per capita income as well as a lack of economic and equitable growth. Despite its stagnation in the index, Honduras is still considered in the medium range of human development. [Hondudiario, 11/8/05; full report] 

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