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Updated 07/17/2005

Honduras News in Review—July 18, 2005

1. Police commissioner criticizes U.S. involvement in Honduras arrests

2. Police officials connected to torture and murder cases

3. Intelligence commissioner suggests link between Honduran gangs and Al Qaeda

4. Catholic Church denounces Honduras before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

5. U.S. Labor Department suppresses report criticizing labor standards in Central America

6. Honduran legislature argues over $1 million contract for energy privatization

7. Six Honduran women nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

8. Human rights ombudsman criticizes harsh policies against youth

9. Honduran Child Institute to renovate after accusations of abuse in youth centers

10. Pan American Health Organization project to help keep medication costs down

1. Police commissioner criticizes U.S. involvement in Honduras arrests
Honduran Deputy Police Commissioner María Luisa Borjas criticized the involvement of U.S. police officers in raids against gangs in the capital. Borjas complained that the officers helped capture and interrogate 25 alleged gang members without arrest warrants. She also decried the recent lack of due process for adolescents and young adults suspected of gang activity. She asked “Would the United States government allow Honduran officers to come to their country to capture criminals?” [La Tribuna (Honduras), 7/15/05] 

2. Police officials connected to torture and murder cases

On July 6, the bodies of Glenda Isolina Sánchez and Juan Antonio Licona were found outside Tegucigalpa. Both bodies showed signs of torture. The two were bodyguards for Napoleón Nazar Herrera, deputy commissioner of the national criminal investigation unit of the Ministry of Security. Nazar works against organized crime in Honduras and was the supposed target of the assassinations. Three gang members of “Mara 18” are being held in conjunction with the murders. Last week Nazar held a press conference announcing that their investigation implicated police officials as the intellectual authors of the crimes. Though he did not release the names or positions of the officials implicated, he confirmed that the gang members were directed by corrupt officials to torture and murder Nazar and those with him. The gang members mistakenly stopped the vehicle carrying only the two bodyguards, not Nazar or members of his family. [La Tribuna (Honduras), 7/14/050


3. Intelligence commissioner suggests link between Honduran gangs and Al Qaeda

During a press conference following a meeting of intelligence officials in Central America, Honduran Commissioner Jose Leandro Osorio said he “could not rule out” the existence of a link between Honduran youth gangs and the terrorist group Al Qaeda. Osorio said an investigation was in progress, but he could not discuss details. In October 2004 Honduran Security Minister Óscar Álvarez said the government was investigating allegations of “the presence of persons from the Middle East who possibly are recruiting members of the Maras and Pandillas.” [El Diario de Hoy (El Salvador), 7/15/05]

4. Catholic Church denounces Honduras before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

On July 13 the Catholic Church, through Angel Garachana Pérez, its bishop in San Pedro Sula, filed suit against the State of Honduras before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The petition denounces Honduras for failing to successfully investigate a fire in a San Pedro Sula prison that killed 107 inmates, mostly young gang members from the Mara Salvatrucha gang. No one has yet been held responsible for the incident, which took place in May 2004. Garachana also expressed frustration that hundreds of prisoners, mostly young gang members, have died and continue to die in state custody, and that the government has done nothing to improve the national prison system. [La Tribuna (Honduras), 7/15/05]

5. U.S. Labor Department suppresses report criticizing labor standards in Central America

The U.S. Department of Labor commissioned a report on labor standards in Central America and then repressed the findings for more than a year. The organization contracted in 2002 to conduct the studies, the International Labor Rights Fund, found that labor standards in Central American countries were seldom enforced, leaving workers with few avenues for complaints. In the event of a successful complaint petition, sanctions against employers were relatively weak, the study found. The report also cited safety hazards and instances in which foreign companies did not pay their workers. The Labor Department called the report “biased” with “unsubstantiated” facts and blocked the release of the reports from early 2004 until April 2005, when early drafts were released to Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich). The International Labor Rights Fund has become an opponent of CAFTA. [Associated Press, 6/29/05; New York Times, 7/1/05; parts of the report are now available on the ILRF website.]

6. Honduran legislature argues over $1 million contract for energy privatization

A bitter battle has ensued in the Honduran legislature over a consulting contract worth nearly $1 million. The contract was arranged by the Maduro administration and is subject to approval by the legislature. The consultants, a consortium of mostly U.S.-based consulting groups, are expected to provide recommendations on the restructuring the National Electric Energy Company (ENEE), with an ultimate aim of privatization. The argument among lawmakers is mainly about the cost of the consultancy. [El Heraldo (Honduras), 7/14/05]

7. Honduran women nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

Six Honduran women are among the 1,000 women nominated this year for the Nobel Peace Prize. The project is part of an organized effort to recognize women’s work in peace 100 years after the first woman won the Peace Prize. The six Honduran women nominated are Bertha Oliva, coordinator of the Committee of Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras; Istamania Pineda, president of the NGO Xibalbá, which rescues youngsters from gangs; writer Leticia Oyuela; Reina Miralda, or the Federation of Rural and Urban Women of Olancho; Maria Ester Ruiz, of the New Hope Women’s Association; and Albertina Garcia, of the National Organization of Native Lencas of Honduras. [Honduras This Week, 7/12/05; 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize Web site)

8. Human rights ombudsman criticizes harsh policies against youth

Ramón Custodio, Honduran human rights ombudsman and president of the Central American Council of Human Rights Officials, criticized harsh measures against delinquent youth in the region and called on governments to put a priority instead on delinquency prevention programs. Regional leaders meeting recently in Tegucigalpa discussed the pervasive problem of violent gangs, or maras, in the region. The participants decided on a number of measures to combat such violence, including the creation of special-forces teams, but prevention programs were not among them. Honduras, like her neighbor El Salvador, has implemented a “Mano Dura” (literally, “hard hand,” similar to zero-tolerance laws) policy towards maras, under which a youth may be detained for simply having a tattoo. Custodio contends that such policies ignore the structural causes of delinquency such as extreme poverty and a lack of employment opportunities. He encouraged regional governments to establish programs and policies aimed at strengthening families. [EFE News, 7/7/05]

9. Honduran Child Institute to renovate after accusations of abuse in youth centers

After a veritable avalanche of accusations of sexual abuse, physical mistreatment and poor conditions in its youth centers, the Honduran Child and Family Institute (IHNFA) has begun to renovate its structure and centers to prevent further abuse. The accusations began with the beating death of an adolescent in a center for at-risk youth; a youth center worker was sentenced to prison this week in conjunction with this death. Then came accusations of sexual abuse, cruel and unusual punishment, and inhumane conditions in many of IHNFA’s 55 youth centers. The institute has asked for and received economic aid from international organizations and foreign governments. The money will go toward rebuilding dilapidated centers, training personnel in child care and children’s rights, and evaluating youth center personnel. [La Tribuna, 7/12/05; La Tribuna, 7/15/05]

10. Pan American Health Organization project to help keep medication costs down

The Pan American Health Organization, in conjunction with health ministers from Central American countries and the Dominican Republic, is coordinating a project to keep the cost of medications down. The organization will coordinate the purchase of medications in bulk, thereby obtaining better prices for all of the countries. Initially, the project will only purchase medicines for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, but Honduran Health Minister Merlin Fernández said there are plans to expand the project to include other medications and even hospital supplies. [La Prensa (Honduras), 7/12/05]

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