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Updated 08/01/2005

Honduras News in Review—August 1, 2005

1. Bloque Popular condemns paramilitary operations against activists

2. Watchdog group criticizes Reebok, NBA and NFL for Honduran sweatshop operation

3. Honduran president introduces prison reform bill

4. Covenant House denounces violent deaths of Honduran youth

5. Presidential candidate draws criticism for plan to reinstate death penalty

6. World Bank donates $8 million to combat HIV/AIDS in Central America as rates among Honduran women rise

7. Traffickers of Honduran girls arrested 

1. Bloque Popular condemns paramilitary operations against activists

The Bloque Popular, an umbrella organization consisting of 30 peasant (campesino), student, teacher and citizen groups, denounced state repression and demanded an end to both open and covert paramilitary groups run by police or intelligence officers. The group claims that in recent months, members have been tortured and imprisoned for protecting their land. They cited the assassination of campesino leader Erickson Lemus on May 24, several office raids of various groups in July, and an illegal search and seizure of documents in the house of Juan Barahona, coordinator of the Bloque Popular. A security minister confirmed that Barahona’s house had been raided as part of a delinquency investigation; Barahona has denounced the search with Human Rights Commissioner Ramon Custodio. Barahona has been one of the most vocal opponents of the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the United States. The group also cited increased violence against environmental activists in the Olancho department of Honduras. [Tiempo (Honduras), 7/18/05; EFE News, 7/18/05] 

2. Watchdog group criticizes Reebok, NBA and NFL for Honduran sweatshop operation

The National Labor Committee on July 22 condemned sweatshop conditions discovered at a factory in Naco, Honduras that is contracted by Reebok to produce NBA and NFL jerseys. The Korean-owned Hon-Soll factory pays its workers 19 cents to sew the shirts, which are then sold in stores for around $75. According to the committee’s report, “Sweating for the NBA and NFL,” employees are locked inside the factory compound, discouraged from speaking, frequently insulted, and sometimes docked three days’ pay for taking a sick day. When Reebok and Han Soll learned of the NLC investigation, they ended mandatory 13-hour shifts and obligatory overtime. They also allowed workers to unionize, a process previously blocked by firing any organizers. [National Labor Committee press release and report, 7/22/05] 

3. Honduran president introduces prison reform bill

Honduran President Ricardo Maduro has introduced a draft bill to Parliament intended to improve the Honduran prison system. If passed, the bill would create a Penitentiary Institute that would oversee the formation of a new legal framework that would manage the prison system. Maduro told reporters that the law would provide security for inmates and that it meets international human rights standards for prisons. Honduras has been criticized recently for the high number of inmate deaths in the prison system. This month, the Catholic Church filed suit with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for the deaths of 107 inmates in a prison fire in San Pedro Sula. [EFE News, 7/23/05] 

4. Covenant House denounces violent deaths of Honduran youth

Covenant House Honduras (Casa Alianza) recently denounced violent deaths of young people in Honduras. According to the organization, 236 people under the age of 23 have died violently or were executed arbitrarily in the first six months of 2005, and at least 2,764 youths have met brutal deaths since 1998. Many of the bodies of young victims show signs of violence such as execution-style shots to the head and hands tied behind backs. Most of the cases have not been solved. The organization criticized the Honduran government for failing to ensure children’s right to life and for failing to punish those responsible for the crimes. Covenant House called on the government to strengthen efforts and enact public policies to prevent further violence against young people. [La Prensa, 7/18/05; Covenant House Honduras site, English] 

5. Presidential candidate draws criticism for plan to reinstate death penalty

The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) publicly criticized president of the Honduran Congress and presidential candidate Porfirio Lobo Sosa’s vow to reinstate the death penalty in Honduras if elected. Lobo claims the death penalty will help guarantee peace and security for Honduran citizens. Honduras abolished the death penalty in 1939. CEJIL says the move would violate the American Convention on Human Rights, which states, “the death penalty shall not be reestablished in states that have abolished it.” Honduras would have to withdraw from the treaty in order to restore the death penalty. Honduras has seen a recent rise in violent crime with increased gang activity in the region. CEJIL contends that improving the justice system and eradicating impunity will do more to stem crime and increase security. [EFE News, 7/27/05] 

6. World Bank donates $8 million to combat HIV/AIDS in Central America as rates among Honduran women rise

The World Bank recently approved a donation of $8 million to combat HIV/AIDS in Central America. According to UNAIDS, an estimated 63,000 Hondurans were living with HIV by the end of 2003. Honduras has the highest incidence of HIV infections in Central America (followed closely by Guatemala), with an adult prevalence rate of almost 2%. In Honduras, the incidence of infections among women has now surpassed that of men, with 1.5 women infected for every man. One Honduran specialist, Luisa Maria Pineda, blames the culture of machismo for the increase. In such cultures, it is not unusual for married men to have various partners at any given time. The World Bank donation will be used to develop a regional laboratory that will collaborate with national laboratories to ensure access to high-quality diagnoses. [La Tribuna (Honduras), 7/26/05; La Prensa (Honduras), 7/26/05; UNAIDS on Latin America] 

7. Traffickers of Honduran girls arrested

New Jersey officials recently announced the bust of a trafficking ring that operated in Honduras and New Jersey. The arrests come after months of investigation that involved the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Labor Department and Honduran authorities. The traffickers promised waitressing jobs in the United States to adolescent women, most living in rural Honduras. After arriving, the girls, some as young as 14, were forced to work without pay in bars owned by the ringleader, Luisa Medrano. Medrano is a U.S. citizen from El Salvador. Court documents show that girls were raped, beaten, and threatened with deportation or violence against their families if they didn’t comply with demands. If found guilty, the traffickers could spend up to 20 years in prison. The United States has asked for the extradition of traffickers detained in Honduras. [EFE News, 7/23/05]


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