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Updated 10/07/2005

Honduras News in Review—October 6, 2005

1. Supreme Court considers 1982 human rights abuse case

2. FBI investigates Chileans training in Honduras for Iraq security jobs

3. U.S. government gives 79K for Honduran security improvements

4. Attack on police unit in charge of investigating deaths of minors

5. President Maduro to pardon 1,000 inmates before January 2006

6. Protestors block highway, demand school and road improvements

7. Wal-Mart buys one third of Central American supermarket chain 

1. Supreme Court considers 1982 human rights abuse case

The Honduran Supreme Court of Justice is considering whether to uphold an appeals court decision to overturn the conviction of Juan Blas Salazar Mesa for the illegal detention of six university students in 1982. The students had been detained by agents of the National Directorate of Investigations, tortured and held in a clandestine jail for 10 days. Salazar Mesa served as the head of the National Directorate of Investigations at the time. Although he was initially charged with attempted murder, in 2003 a lower court found Salazar Mesa guilty only of the lesser charge of illegal detention and sentenced him to three years in prison. (Editor’s note: According to the most recent U.S. State Department human rights report and other sources, the sentence was four years.) That sentence was reversed on appeal, and the Public Ministry is appealing not only that reversal but also the court’s failure to try Salazar Mesa for attempted murder. [La Tribuna, 9/21/05; read more about the six university students and attempts to prosecute Juan Blas Salazar Mesa on the MISF Web site.] 

2. FBI investigates Chileans training in Honduras for Iraq security jobs

Officials from the FBI are in Honduras to investigate the presence of over 100 Chileans in training with the private security company Your Solutions. Your Solutions has been training Hondurans and Chileans, the majority ex-military, for security positions in Iraq. Problems arose when it was discovered that the company did not have the authorization to train and employ foreign citizens in Honduras. The Honduran Immigration Department gave the Chileans 72 hours to leave the country but extended the date after they were turned away by immigration authorities at the Nicaraguan border. The Chileans have been given until Oct. 6, the date the trainees were prepared to depart for Iraq, to leave Honduras. There is speculation that some of the Chileans are hired assassins or former death squad members. [La Tribuna, 9/21/05; La Tribuna, 9/22/05; La Tribuna, 9/29/05] 

3. U.S. government gives 79K for Honduran security improvements

On Sept. 27 the U.S. government, through an amendment to an existing cooperation agreement, gave over $79,000 to the Honduran Ministry of Security. The money will be used to strengthen the police corps in Honduras through logistical assistance, training and technology. [La Tribuna, 9/28/05] 

4. Attack on police unit in charge of investigating deaths of minors

The office of the Investigation Unit of the Death of Minors in San Pedro Sula was attacked in the early hours of Sept. 25. The attackers drove by the building, shooting with semiautomatic weapons. The guard on site was unharmed, but there was property damage as a result of the gunshots. Authorities believe the attack could be in retaliation for the recent arrest of a gang member accused in the deaths of several minors. A spokesperson for the unit also conceded that police officials linked to the summary execution of minors could be involved in the attack. Personnel of the investigation unit had previously received anonymous threats. [La Tribuna, 9/26/05] 

5. President Maduro to pardon 1,000 inmates before January 2006

Before he leaves office in January 2006, President Ricardo Maduro will pardon some 1,000 inmates currently in the Honduran prison system. The majority of those released will be prisoners who have shown good behavior, those with terminal diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, and prisoners with mental illnesses. Maduro assured Hondurans that neither gang members nor those who had committed serious crimes would be pardoned. There are currently at least 11,000 inmates in the Honduran prison system, 48.32% of which have not been sentenced. [Associated Press, 9/20/05] 

6. Protestors block highway, demand school and road improvements

Hundreds of protestors from Juticalpa and surrounding towns blocked a highway in the department of Olancho Sept. 26, claiming the government has ignored their repeated requests for road and school improvements, telephone lines, and electricity. One of the schools in the area, according to one of the protestors, is at nearly triple its capacity and the building itself is so dilapidated that classes are not held in the rainy season because of a dangerously unstable roof. The protestors are also demanding the reconstruction of approximately 9.6 kilometers of roads that are in poor condition. The requests have been made to various local and municipal government representatives over the past four years without response. [La Tribuna, 9/27/05] 

7. Wal-Mart buys one third of Central American supermarket chain

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced Sept. 20 the purchase of 33.3% of the shares of the Central American Retail Holding Company (Carhco). Carhco has 363 supermarkets and stores in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Wal-Mart, which up until this purchase has had no presence in Central America, could be the majority shareholder in Carhco within five years. [Hondudiario, 9/20/05] 

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