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Updated 08/16/2005

Honduras News in Review—August 15, 2005

1. Honduras may increase criminal penalties for minors following death of DEA agent

2. Honduras among most violent Latin American countries

3. Reforms increase penalties for commercial sexual exploitation of minors

4. Human rights commissioner criticizes foreign political consultants

5. WTO bars EU tariff increases on banana exports from Latin American countries

6. World Food Program raises funds for food in Honduran public schools

1. Honduras may increase criminal penalties for minors following death of DEA agent
The Supreme Court of Honduras is considering changes to the country’s Code of Childhood and Adolescence at the request of the National Congress, which passed changes to the code on Aug. 2. Porfirio Lobo Sosa, congressional president and presidential candidate, presented the changes days after a 13-year-old gang member allegedly shot and killed a DEA agent who was training police in the country. According to officials, the agent was killed during a botched robbery attempt at a tourist site. The gang member, known as El Chelito, has a long criminal history and has escaped from youth detention several times. The proposed changes to the country’s legal code include increasing possible jail time for minors from eight to 15 years. Minors could spend part of their time in a youth rehabilitation center, and then transfer to adult jails when they reach 18 years of age. Crimes that would merit the maximum 15 years include homicide, rape, kidnapping, drug trafficking, and belonging to a gang. The National Congress declined to approve other proposed changes to the code, including lowering the age at which a youth can be tried as an adult. Such a change would involve withdrawing from the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. [
El Heraldo, 8/3/05; La Prensa, 8/4/05]
 

2. Honduras among most violent Latin American countries

There is a violent death every three hours in Honduras, according to information released Aug. 8 by the country’s national security secretary. Thus far in 2005, there have been 1,468 reported homicides in the country, down 15.6% from the same period last year. Officials say they have found victims tortured, decapitated and bullet-ridden. Since 2001, there have been 14,000 deaths, around 3,000 every year. Security officials blame the problem on young gang members, or mareros. There are an estimated 40,000 gang members in Honduras alone. The United Nations considers Honduras, along with El Salvador and Colombia, among the most violent countries in Latin America. [Associated Press, 8/8/05] 

3. Reforms increase penalties for commercial sexual exploitation of minors

A new draft bill before the Honduran Congress would raise the penalty for buying sexual services from a minor to 15 years in prison. If passed, the bill will reform the country’s Children’s Code to impose stricter penalties for those involved in the commercial sexual exploitation of children. According to the nonprofit childcare agency Casa Alianza, at least 10,000 minors are sexually exploited in Honduras, mostly along the tourist corridor from the Bay Islands to San Pedro Sula. The reforms would increase prison time from a maximum of five to a maximum of eight years for involvement in child pornography, and trafficking of minors would bring a penalty of six to nine years. The penalties could be increased in aggravated cases, for example, if the exploited minor is younger than 15 years of age. The reforms have broad support in Congress and the Supreme Court and are expected to pass. [La Prensa, 8/10/05] 

4. Human rights commissioner criticizes foreign political consultants

Honduran Human Rights Commissioner Ramon Custodio criticized foreign political consultants who, he said, are bringing corrupt practices to the Honduran presidential election. Hondurans will elect a president this year, and the campaign has turned ugly in recent months as the candidates began hurling personal insults at one another. The two frontrunners, José Manuel "Mel" Zelaya Rosales of the Liberal Party and Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo Sosa of the National Party, both are employing campaign consultants from outside of Honduras. Custodio said these foreign consultants are not welcome in Honduras, and he called on the candidates to stop insulting one another and focus on issues important to the Honduran people, such as poverty reduction and fuel prices. The consultants’ names have not been disclosed. [La Tribuna, 8/11/05] 

5. WTO bars EU tariff increases on banana exports from Latin American countries

The World Trade Organization ruled on Aug. 1 against the European Union in arbitration between the EU and nine Latin American countries, including Honduras. The WTO ruled that the EU’s proposed tariff increase on bananas from Latin America was too high. The increase would have been from $90 to $278 per ton, an increase that the WTO said would unfairly restrict access to the EU market. Honduran Foreign Secretary Mario Fortin called the ruling a “great success for Honduras.” [EFE News, 8/1/05; Agence France Presse, 8/2/05] 

6. World Food Program raises funds for food in Honduran public schools

A television and radio marathon organized by the World Food Program raised $11.3 million for an anti-hunger program in the public schools of Honduras. The money, along with additional contributions from foreign governments, will provide meals for children who attend public schools. In addition to alleviating the hunger of malnourished children, officials believe the school food program will also prevent parents from sending their children to work instead of to school. Sixty-four percent of the population of Honduras lives in poverty and 45% live in extreme poverty. Officials estimate that one in 10 school-aged children is malnourished. [EFE News, 8/1/05] 

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