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Updated 09/26/2005

Honduras News in Review—September 26, 2005

1. Honduras asks U.S. to stop deporting Hondurans affected by Katrina

2. Maya-Chortís shut down Copán archeological park

3. Anti-Castro militant Carriles allegedly entered Honduras under FBI protection

4. Honduran labor leader assasinated

5. President Maduro visits O.A.S. and U.N., meets with U.S. officials

6. Study shows deteriorating human rights in Central America

7. Following massive protests, gas prices are lowered in Honduras

8. Protestors block highway, demand basic services

9. IMF completes evaluation of Honduran economy

10. Public Defender’s Office seeks to release prisoners with mental illness

11. Study shows 62% of Honduran men are machista

1. Honduras asks U.S. to stop deporting Hondurans affected by Katrina
The vice minister of foreign relations in Honduras, Juan Alberto Lara Bueso, confirmed that a government delegation would go to the United States to ask the government to stop deporting Hondurans affected by Hurricane Katrina. When it was revealed that many Honduran hurricane victims were taken by immigration authorities, others refused to go to shelters for humanitarian assistance for fear of being deported. All five Central American presidents have asked that the United States not use the tragedy as a means of mass deportation. [La Tribuna, 9/6/05; EFE News, 9/6/05] 

2. Maya-Chortís shut down Copán archeological park

On Sept. 15 some 2,500 indigenous Maya-Chortís ended a six-day blockade of the Copán ruins in western Honduras. The Mayan ruins at Copan are a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Honduras’ most important tourist locations. The group took over the archaeological park to protest the government’s failure to comply with a 1997 agreement to purchase 14,000 hectares of land, valued at $6 million, for ethnic Chortís. Thus far, the government has spent only $1 million. The group also demanded that some proceeds from the Copán Ruins be used for social projects in the Chortí community. The Honduran Board of Private Business Owners criticized the government’s “passive attitude and tolerance” of the situation and had called for a forced evacuation. However, government officials reached a peaceful compromise, agreeing to provide an additional $1 million for land purchase. Ethnic Chortís have shut down the park four times since 1998, most recently in June 2005. [ACAN-EFE News, 9/13/05; Hondudiario, 9/14/05; EFE News, 9/16/05] 

3. Anti-Castro militant Carriles allegedly entered Honduras under FBI protection

In August 2004 anti-Castro militant Posada Carriles entered Honduras under an assumed identity with the help of the FBI, according to former Honduran immigration director Ramon Romero. Carriles is best known as the alleged mastermind of the 1976 mid-air bombing of a Cuban airliner that left from Venezuela and killed 73 people, and for his attempted assassination of Fidel Castro in 1997. Romero claims the U.S. embassy in Honduras pushed to have him imprisoned because he was opposed to letting Carriles into the country last year. Romero, who was imprisoned and subsequently freed, is on trial for alleged smuggling of passports. Carriles is currently in immigration limbo in the United States. Venezuela has asked for his extradition in order to be tried for the airliner bombing, but the United Stats is not likely to comply. [Honduras This Week, 9/12/05] 

4. Honduran labor leader assasinated

Labor leader Francisco Cruz Galeano was murdered Sept. 11 in Ojo de Agua, a town about 60 miles north of Tegucigalpa. Cruz was the regional head of the General Workers Confederation in the departments of Intibuca and Comayagua. The perpetrators shot Cruz and an unidentified friend as they exited a bar, killing Cruz instantly and seriously wounding his companion. So far there have been no arrests. [Associated Press, 9/12/05; read more about attacks on Human Rights Defenders in Honduras] 

5. President Maduro visits O.A.S. and U.N., meets with U.S. officials

Honduran president Ricardo Maduro traveled to the United States the week of Sept. 12 for a meeting of the Organization of American States, to meet with U.S. officials including Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte and Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, and to attend the United Nations’ 60-year anniversary meeting in New York. During his speech to the O.A.S., Maduro criticized the regional organization for not doing more to help small non-oil producing countries, such as those in Central America, during the current gas crisis. He also recounted the achievements of his administration, which will end in January 2006, and claimed that gang activity in Honduras has decreased by 60% since he took office. Maduro has implemented a “Mano Dura” (hard hand) policy with regard to gangs, under which a person can be arrested for being associated with gang members or having a gang tattoo. The Honduran president also asked U.S. officials for a moratorium on the deportation of illegal Hondurans affected by Hurricane Katrina. [Hondudiario, 9/12/05; AP, 9/13/05; AFP, 9/13/05] 

6. Study shows deteriorating human rights in Central America

According to a study presented at the first Regional Meeting of Human Rights Defenders, democracy and human rights are deteriorating in Central America because of the socioeconomic situation caused by neoliberal policies in the region. The study, which was based on interviews with human rights defenders in Central American countries, claimed that anti-terrorism, anti-narcotic and anti-gang policies posed a new and serious threat to human rights defenders in the region. The report decried a recent increase in the intimidation and defamation of human rights defenders and cited the assassinations of defenders in Honduras and Guatemala. In addition, protesters, specifically those opposed to the Central American Free Trade Agreement, have been dealt with harshly. The study also showed decreasing international funding for human rights organizations in recent years. [ACAN-EFE News, 9/6/05] 

7. Following massive protests, gas prices are lowered in Honduras

In a special session, the Honduran Congress returned national gas prices to where they were before a 16-lempira increase on Sept. 3, which had raised the price of a gallon to about $4.50. The government claimed that the increase was due to the closure of several oil refineries in the Gulf of Mexico following Hurricane Katrina. The increase of gas prices caused massive protests throughout the country, namely in the capital of Tegucigalpa, where taxi drivers blocked roads and brought the city to a standstill for two days. On Sept. 7 the government announced a 7.18-lempira decrease and, later that night, Congress approved a return to pre-Sept. 3 prices. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, fragile Central American economies have experienced record increases in gasoline prices, and Honduras currently has the highest gas prices in the region. [EFE News, 9/7/05; Diario La Prensa, 9/8/05; Hondudiario, 9/8/05; Diario La Prensa, 9/8/05] 

8. Protestors block highway, demand basic services

On Sept. 12 hundreds of protestors armed with machetes, rocks, sticks, and guns took over a major highway in western Honduras for 12 hours. The protestors represented about 35,000 inhabitants of 34 rural communities in the departments of Santa Barbara and Copán. Riot police were sent to the scene, but there was no major confrontation and only one man was injured by police. The protestors were demanding schools, electricity, road improvements, health centers, more resources for the National Agricultural Institute, which assists rural farmers, and at least one telephone in each community. Mediation between the protestors and the government resulted in an agreement to meet on Sept. 23 to discuss the protestors’ demands. [Tiempo, 9/13/05; La Tribuna, 9/13/05] 

9. IMF completes evaluation of Honduran economy

A mission from the International Monetary Fund completed a two-week economic evaluation of Honduras on Sept. 6 and determined that the country is “producing favorable results.” According to the IMF team, 2004 showed a strong economic recuperation, which has recently slowed because of the high cost of gas and a decrease in agricultural production. In the first quarter of 2005, the economy received $700 million from Hondurans living in the United States. The country’s adherence to international economic formulas led, in part, to the forgiveness of 60% of the country’s external debt. Human Rights Commissioner Ramón Custodio López denounced the IMF as a credit agency that shows no sympathy for poor people and opposes measures to reduce poverty. [Hondudiario, 9/3/05; ACAN-EFE News, 9/6/05] 

10. Public Defender’s Office seeks to release prisoners with mental illness

The Public Defender’s Office has announced it will try to release at least 100 mentally ill inmates from various prisons throughout Honduras. Eidelman Mejía, deputy director of public defense, said Honduran law indicates that persons presenting mental illnesses must be kept in psychiatric hospitals, not with the general criminal population. Mejía said the state must build a psychiatric hospital specifically for those convicted of criminal activity, since existing psychiatric hospitals do not want to risk having dangerous patients. [La Tribuna, 9/7/05] 

11. Study shows 62% of Honduran men are machista

According to a study by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Carribean, 62% of Honduran men are machista. Machismo is the Spanish word for traditional, patriarchal values that appoint men as authority figures at the top of the family pyramid, while relegating women to a passive and dominated role. The study revealed three masculine worldviews in four Central American countries: the first, machista; the second, a modern view that includes equality between the sexes and a more involved paternity; and the third, a transitional belief system somewhere in between the two. According to the study, which was conducted in Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, 50.67% of the men interviewed had machista worldviews. Honduras had the highest level of machismo (62.42%) while Costa Rica had the lowest (39.10%). The study showed that men with lower education levels were more likely to have traditional, machista views. In addition, men over 50 years of age and men who lived in rural areas were more likely to be machista. [Hondudiario, 9/14/05]

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