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TITLE:  HONDURAS HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                            
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


Honduras is a constitutional democracy with a President and a 
unicameral Congress elected for 4-year terms, and an 
independent judiciary headed by a Supreme Court of Justice 
(CSJ).  Liberal Party candidate Carlos Roberto Reina was 
elected President in November and took office on January 27, 
1994.  The November elections were marked by higher than usual 
absenteeism but little indication of fraud.  Deputies continued 
to be elected indirectly from a slate, based on the vote totals 
for the presidential candidate.  

The Honduran Armed Forces (HOAF) comprise not only the army, 
air force, and navy but also the national police (Public 
Security Force--FUSEP) as a fourth branch.  Credible allegations
of extrajudicial killings by members of the FUSEP, particularly 
its Directorate of National Investigations (DNI), led to 
establishment of an Ad Hoc Commission on Police and Judicial 
Reform.  It recommended creation of a new Public Ministry to 
manage every aspect of the investigative phase of criminal 
cases and a new Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DIC) to 
replace the DNI.  Congress passed enabling legislation for the 
Public Ministry in December.

The HOAF operates with considerable institutional and legal 
autonomy, particularly in the realm of internal security and 
military affairs.  The military also plays a sizable role in 
the national economy, operating numerous enterprises usually 
associated with the private sector.  In 1993 Congress passed a 
resolution restricting the jurisdiction of the military court 
system to military crimes committed by active duty personnel.  
Since then enlisted military personnel accused of crimes 
against civilians were in fact remanded to the civilian 
judicial system, although the congressional ruling has not been 
tested by an accusation against a senior military officer.

The Honduran economy is based upon agriculture, with a small 
light manufacturing sector.  Despite a relatively low inflation 
rate in the past few years, estimates for 1993 were above 
10 percent.  In 1993 real economic growth was expected to be 
about 3.5 percent.  Per capita income in 1992 was estimated to 
be $637, combined unemployment and underemployment as high as 
58 percent, and literacy only 67 percent.  The United Nations 
Development Program estimated that 74 percent of Hondurans 
lived in poverty.  

The principal human rights problems were extrajudicial killings,
arbitrary and incommunicado detentions, and torture and abuse 
of detainees.  However, reports of such abuses fell sharply 
following the establishment in March of a joint civilian-
military supervisory board to oversee the activities of the 
DNI, the agency whose officers were most frequently criticized 
for abuses.  The root cause of Honduras' human rights problems 
is the near-complete impunity before the law enjoyed by members 
of the civilian and military elite.  The weak judicial system, 
intentionally underfunded and plagued by corruption, is unable 
to press cases against the wealthy and the powerful.  Almost no 
elected official, member of the business elite, bureaucrat, 
politician, or anyone with perceived influence or connections 
to the elite was tried, sentenced, or even fined in 1993.  Some 
progress in eroding the traditional impunity of military 
officers was made with the arrest and incarceration of three 
colonels pending trial or sentencing.

National Human Rights Commissioner Leo Valladares at the end of 
December issued his preliminary report on politically motivated 
disappearances occurring between 1979 and 1989.  The report 
states that 184 individuals of various nationalities 
"disappeared" in Honduras during that period and that the HOAF 
and the former Nicaraguan Resistance were apparently 
responsible for the majority of the crimes.  Valladares called 
on the judiciary to use his report as a basis for investigation 
of these matters.  He included in his report unsubstantiated 
material from news articles dating from the 1980's which 
claimed that U.S. advisers were working with the HOAF and 
Nicaraguan Resistance in Honduras and may have known of and 
tolerated the disappearances.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

As in previous years, some members of the police and security 
forces were involved in extrajudicial killings; those 
prosecuted tended to be only from the ranks of enlisted men.  
Officers continued to enjoy impunity, despite the notable 
exception of the military officers tried and convicted in 1993 
in the Riccy Mabel Martinez case (see below).

In November five DNI agents were arrested and turned over to 
civilian judicial authorities for the torture and murder of 
narcotics suspect Jorge Alcides Medina Hernandez.  He had been 
arrested earlier and then released; when his body was found, 
investigation revealed that he had been picked up a second time 
by the DNI agents.  Authorities concluded he had been killed 
during interrogation; the fact that the DNI surrendered the 
perpetrators reflected compliance with the congressional decree 
requiring all but strictly military crimes be handled by 
civilian courts (see Section 1.e.).  After the end of the year, 
seven FUSEP agents were arrested for robbing and killing a 
Nicaraguan in mid-December.

In late January, San Pedro Sula businessman Eduardo Pina Van 
Tuyl was killed in a drive-by shooting.  A television reporter, 
Eduardo Coto, witnessed the killers fleeing the scene.  Later 
he claimed to have been threatened that day by a military 
officer who warned him not to implicate the armed forces in the 
crime.  Fearing for his life, Coto sought refuge in the offices 
of Tiempo newspaper and later fled to Spain under Spanish 
government sponsorship.  Following Coto's flight to Spain, the 
Commission for Human Rights (CODEH) alleged that he had 
identified several serving members of the armed forces as the 
perpetrators.  The home of Yani Rosenthal, editor of Tiempo, 
was bombed in what was alleged to be retaliation for having 
sheltered Coto.  Upon Coto's return from Spain in June, he 
recanted his earlier statements made through CODEH implicating 
the military personnel, and identified two common criminals, 
already in prison on unrelated charges, as having been 
responsible for the assassination.  The two persons identified 
by Coto remained in jail awaiting trial at year's end.  

In February Eli Josue Zuniga, a former member of the San Pedro 
Sula office of the DNI, alleged that the office's antinarcotics 
unit had killed Pina and committed a number of other murders 
related to the unit's involvement in drug trafficking.  Despite 
Zuniga's low personal credibility (he had been dismissed from 
the DNI for misconduct) and the fact that his information 
consisted almost entirely of hearsay, many Hondurans found 
credible his allegations that the DNI was involved in criminal 
activities, including murder and drug trafficking.  

Zuniga and others alleged that the January killings of San 
Pedro businessman Guillermo Agurcia Lefebvre and his companion, 
Lourdes Enamorado, were also perpetrated by the supposed clique 
of drug traffickers within the DNI.  Although the medical 
examiner ruled the deaths a murder-suicide, Agurcia Lefebvre-- 
who supposedly killed Enamorado before committing suicide-- 
died of two gunshots to the chest.  Agurcia Lefebvre's mother 
claimed that four police agents committed the crime and that a 
Captain Mendieta, then allegedly a member of the San Pedro Sula 
DNI, ordered the killing to cover up the unit's involvement in 
drug trafficking.  No investigation of the victim's mother's 
allegations of DNI involvement was conducted, and none of the 
five police personnel she named was indicted.  The FUSEP 
investigation resulted in detention of a common criminal and 
initiation of court proceedings against him; he remains in 
prison awaiting trial.  Mrs. Lefevbre claimed in November that 
she was removed from the list of candidates for election as 
deputy to the Central American Parliament under pressure from 
HOAF Commander in Chief Discua, owing to his annoyance with her 
continued allegations of wrongdoing by military personnel.  
General Discua denied the charge.

Also in January, Liberal Party Congressional Deputy Carlos 
Montoya was accused of killing a laborer, Juan Jose Menendez, 
who was reportedly illegally fishing on his land.  First 
reports by eyewitnesses claimed that Montoya arrived in a 
vehicle with 2 bodyguards and ordered 30 people fishing off his 
land, waving a submachine gun and firing shots in the air, one 
of which hit Menendez in the back, killing him instantly.  
Seven eyewitnesses, including Menendez' nephew, reported the 
crime to both the press and a justice of the peace.  Montoya's 
claim of self-defense does not appear credible, based on his 
own initial remarks and the eyewitness testimony; Montoya at 
first admitted shooting Menendez but called it an accident.  
Montoya later denied that he had fired any shots, claiming that 
his bodyguard had fired the fatal shot when he feared for 
Montoya's safety, although the victim appeared to be fleeing 
the scene when he was struck.

Within days, the judge who had begun to investigate the case 
was removed from office by the Supreme Court.  Although the 
judge was relieved for corruption unrelated to the Menendez 
killing (in fact, the process to remove him had begun weeks 
before), the timing of his firing caused the perception that 
the Supreme Court took the action to protect Montoya.  As a 
congressman, Montoya had enjoyed immunity from prosecution, but 
in November he failed to win reelection.  Subsequently, his 
immunity was restored in December via special legislation 
granting "Honorary Deputy" status to all former congressional 
presidents (Montoya served as president of the Congress in the 
1980's).  Montoya will thereby have immunity from judicial 
action, including with respect to the killing of Menendez, at 
least while Congress is in session.  Menendez' family protested 
the extension of immunity to Montoya.

Rural leader Cleofes Colindres Canales, a member of a 
cooperative granted land in 1980 by the National Agrarian 
Institute (INA), was murdered in November.  In July a combined 
force of FUSEP agents and military troops, acting on orders 
from INA, had forcibly removed the cooperative from the site 
and destroyed members' homes.  Colindres was organizing a move 
back to the land when he was killed, apparently with FUSEP 
involvement and perhaps in collaboration with the wealthy 
original owner of the land.  No action was taken against the 
guards or landowner, nor did it appear that the crime was being 

Soldiers from the 15th infantry battalion shot and killed 
Glenda Patricia Solorzano Medina and injured three others in 
May in Olancho when troops fired wildly at a youth seeking to 
avoid being forcibly recruited into the military.  Armed Forces 
Commander Discua publicly blamed the commander of the 15th 
battalion for the incident, whom he said had violated Discua's 
order to cease forced recruitment nationwide, pending the 
national elections.  The military promised an immediate and 
full investigation and removed and detained the battalion 
commander.  No legal action was taken against the commander or 
the soldier or soldiers involved in the incident, and the dead 
woman's mother claimed she was pressured to cease her efforts 
to bring those responsible to justice.

In December CODEH president Ramon Custodio criticized the 
failure to investigate two recent murders of former leftist 
political activists.  Roger David Torres Vallejos, who had been 
a member of the "Cinchoneros" terrorist group, was killed in 
October; Rigoberto Quezada Figueres, a former member of the 
Honduran Communist Party, was murdered in November.  Both had 
returned to Honduras under the 1991 amnesty issued by President 
Callejas for leftist opponents of the Government.  In both 
cases, police authorities called the killings the work of 
common criminals.

In July both defendants in the July 13, 1991, rape and murder 
of 18-year-old student Riccy Mabel Martinez were convicted.  
Colonel Angel Castillo Maradiaga was sentenced to 16 years and 
6 months in prison.  Of this sentence, 10 years and 6 months 
were levied for the crime of simple homicide (equivalent to 
second degree murder), and 6 years for rape.  Sergeant Santos 
Ilovares Funes was sentenced to 10 years for simple homicide.  
The family of the victim appealed the verdict and requested 
that the defendants be convicted of first degree murder.

In December Lt. Colonel Leonel Galindo Knutsen, accused in the 
May 1991 killing of five peasants at El Astillero, was 
released.  Galindo had been detained since 1991 by judicial 
military authorities, but in May 1993 his case was transferred 
to the civilian courts.  The private attorney prosecuting the 
case for the victims' families announced her intention to 
appeal Galindo's release. 

There has been no investigation or judicial followup in the 
following cases from past years:

     --The July 1992 killing of Juan Humberto Sanchez, 
allegedly by the HOAF;

     --The July 15, 1992, assassination of Rigoberto Borjas, in 
which the deposed leftist leadership of the Electrical Worker's 
Union was a prime suspect;

     --The 1992 killing of Ramon Castellon Baide, allegedly by 
the Morazanista Patriotic Front;

     --The July 1992 killing of University professor Cayo Eng 

     --The December 1991 murder of Manuel de Jesus Guerra, a 
leader of the National Central of Farm Workers (CNTC), allegedly
committed by members of the San Pedro Sula DNI unit;

     --The 1990 killings of labor leader Francisco Javier 
Bonilla Medina and student leader Ramon Antonio Briceno.  A 
suspect in Briceno's murder was arrested but was later released 
for lack of evidence.  

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances 
in 1993.

During the election campaign, when local human rights groups 
and Amnesty International continued to press for an official 
accounting of the approximately 145 claimed disappearances 
(which mainly occurred during the early 1980's under the tenure 
of former armed forces Commander General Gustavo Alvarez 
Martinez), the presidential candidates discussed suggesting 
formation of a "Truth Commission" to investigate the 
disappearances.  However, after consultation with the 
Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, the candidates concluded that any 
investigation or report should be left in the hands of the 
judiciary and the Government's Human Rights Commission.

In November National Human Rights Commissioner Leo Valladares 
announced that he was undertaking a review of the 1979-89 
disappearances and would report by the end of December.  The 
nearly 1,000-page preliminary report, entitled "The Facts Speak 
for Themselves," is a comprehensive collection of news 
articles, eyewitness accounts, and other materials related to 
the disappearances.  In announcing release of the report, Dr. 
Valladares called upon judicial authorities to use the report 
as a basis for initiating investigations.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution prohibits torture, and police and military 
authorities issued assurances that the practice had been 
stopped.  After release of the Ad Hoc Commission report and the 
creation of a civil-military board to help oversee the 
activities of the DNI, allegations of torture and abuse by that 
police agency dropped sharply.  An earlier case of alleged 
torture occurred in February, when Jose Efrain Orellano Garcia 
claimed he had been beaten and submerged in a tank of water 
before being released from detention.  

The FUSEP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is 
supposed to investigate cases of alleged torture and to 
recommend sanctions for police agents found guilty of such 
abuse.  However, neither the FUSEP General Command nor the OPR 
is empowered to mete out punishment for wrongdoers; only the 
commander of the accused wrongdoer has the authority to do so.  
There are no known instances of members of the Armed Forces 
ever being convicted of torture in a court of law.

After a number of killings reportedly committed by DNI agents, 
an Ad Hoc Commission on Police and Judicial Reform was formed 
in February.  It recommended creating a new Public Ministry to 
manage every aspect of the investigative phase of criminal 
cases; Congress passed the enabling legislation for the 
Ministry on December 10.  The new Ministry is to be responsible 
for a Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DIC), which would 
replace the DNI; the head of the DIC must be a civilian.  A 
supervisory board consisting of two civilians and one police 
officer was created to investigate allegations of misconduct, 
dismiss wrongdoers or poorly trained agents, and generally 
oversee DNI activities during the transition to the DIC.  
Alfredo Landaverde, one of the civilian members of the new 
board, told the press in December that 150 DNI agents 
(42 percent of the DNI work force) had been dismissed as a 
result of the board's work.  The police and military also began 
in-house training programs to prevent the practice of torture 
and other forms of abuse.

In contrast to these signs of progress, however, in December 
the nongovernmental Committee of the Families of the 
Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH) alleged that two DNI agents 
had illegally detained and tortured three minors arrested on 
suspicion of robbery in November.  They were released a week 
later after COFADEH requested assistance from board member 
Landaverde.  COFADEH asked the criminal court to order the 
arrest of the two DNI agents involved and an investigation of 
the allegations.

Prison conditions in Honduras are consistently deplorable.  
Prisoners suffer from severe overcrowding, malnutrition, and a 
lack of adequate sanitation.  In December the Government 
inaugurated a larger detention facility in Tamara to replace 
the antiquated central penitentiary in Tegucigalpa.  Prisoners 
with money routinely buy private cells, decent food, and 
conjugal visitation rights, while prisoners without money often 
lack the most basic necessities.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law states that a person may be arrested only with a court 
order, unless the arrest is made during the commission of a 
crime, and that the person must be clearly informed of the 
grounds of the arrest.  A detainee must be brought within 24 
hours before a judge who then must issue an initial temporary 
holding order within 24 hours, release an initial decision 
within 6 days, and conduct a preliminary investigation to 
decide whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant further 
investigation.  While bail is legally available and used, poor 
defendants, even when represented by a public defender, are 
often unable to take advantage of it.

Under the 1984 Code of Criminal Procedures, criminal 
proceedings may be initiated by a judge, the police, public 
officials, or any citizen.  Perhaps as many as 80 percent of 
the cases reported to the police are never referred to the 
criminal justice system but instead are settled administratively
by the police or by municipal courts (the latter are separate 
from the regular judicial court system).

There continued to be allegations that the FUSEP, in particular 
the DNI, and other security force elements continued to 
practice arbitrary arrest and detention in a substantial number 
of cases.  Local human rights monitoring organizations 
asserted, however, that this situation improved markedly since 
the issuance of the Ad Hoc Commission report.  They reported 
that the police were more aware of the need to comply with 
holding order limits and to respond to writs of habeas corpus, 
and that the courts were more aware of the need to process 
cases in a timely manner.  

"Land invasions" were both less common and much smaller in 
extent than in the past, although they still sometimes resulted 
in armed conflicts among groups of peasants or squatters and 
landowners and military forces.  The Government abrogated an 
unpopular antiterrorist law previously used to arrest 
squatters, although on occasion the military was employed to 
carry out forcibly court orders.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

An accused person has the right to a fair trial, which includes 
the right to an initial hearing by a judge, to bail, to an 
attorney provided by the State if necessary, and to appeal.  
Defendants in military tribunals have the same due process 
rights as those being tried in the civilian system with the 
exception of bail.  The military court system does not have its 
own courts of appeal; appeals and confirmations of military 
court verdicts are referred to the civilian judicial system.

The judicial system applies justice inequitably.  The poor are 
punished in accordance with the law, but the rich or 
politically influential are almost never held in jail, much 
less brought to trial or convicted.  Those few who are 
incarcerated usually buy their way out or "escape."  

In March Congress took action to resolve a longstanding dispute 
over jurisdictions by civilian versus military courts, which 
arose when a member of the military was alleged to have 
committed a crime against a civilian in circumstances unrelated 
to official duties.  The Congress decreed that civilian courts 
will have jurisdiction in such cases; the military will 
maintain jurisdiction only in cases of a crime committed on 
duty.  The decree also stated that in the event of a conflict 
of jurisdiction between civilian and military courts, the 
civilian court shall have precedence.  Since the passage of the 
decree, all cases of enlisted men accused of "civilian" crimes 
were in fact turned over expeditiously to the civilian legal 
system.  Nonetheless, since no officers were involved, and 
since the armed forces determine when an officer or soldier is 
on duty, it was clear that this controversy had not been 
definitively resolved.

Until improvements are made in the civilian justice system, 
however, military officers are no more likely to be convicted 
of human rights abuses or other crimes than they were under 
military justice.  The civilian judiciary is weak, underfunded, 
politicized, inefficient, and corrupt.  Honduran society 
continues to rely on influence, pressure, and accomodation 
rather than the rule of law to resolve disputes.

The nine magistrates of the Supreme Court are elected by the 
Congress by a majority vote for 4 years and confirmed by the 
President.  The period of their terms coincides with those of 
the Congress and the President.  The Supreme Court appoints all 
of the judges in the lower civilian courts.  While some headway 
was made in using a career system to depoliticize the 
appointments process, both major political parties ignored the 
recommendation by the Ad Hoc Commission that they agree to a 
completely apolitical, independent judiciary.  The judicial 
system also suffers from woefully inadequate funding.

Detention of criminal suspects pending trial averaged 14 months 
and constituted a serious human rights problem.  A significant 
number of defendants serve the maximum possible sentence for 
the crime of which they are accused before their trials are 
ever concluded or even begun.  Approximately 85 percent of the 
prison population in 1993 had neither been sentenced nor 
exonerated.  In midyear, the court allocated extra judges, 
prosecutors, public defenders, and funds to clear up the 

These judicial weaknesses, along with the FUSEP's own problems 
of underfunding and poorly paid and ill-trained personnel, 
greatly undermine the right of Hondurans to a speedy, fair 
public trial.  Judicial authorities were also subjected to 
threats when they attempted to perform their duties.  The judge 
in the Riccy Mabel Martinez case received a number of death 
threats during the trial.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The Constitution specifies that a person's home is inviolable 
and that entry by persons authorized by the State may only be 
made with the owner's consent or with the authorization of a 
competent authority.  Entry may only take place between 6 a.m. 
and 6 p.m. or at any time in the event of an emergency or to 
prevent the commission of a crime.  However, as in previous 
years, there were credible charges that police and armed forces 
personnel failed at times to obtain the needed authorization 
before entering a private home.  Police authorities claimed 
that part of the problem was the unavailability of judges to 
issue orders at night and on weekends.  As a result of a DNI 
request, the Supreme Court refined procedures to ensure that 
"duty judges" will be available 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.
It is too early to judge the effectiveness of the new system.

Government monitoring of mail or telephones may be authorized 
by judicial order for specific purposes, such as criminal 
investigation or national security.  Carlos Kellner, former 
president of the Honduran Telecommunications Union and now 
living in self-imposed exile in the United States, made credible
allegations in 1993 that the armed forces took advantage of its 
operation of the national telephone company to monitor illegally
telephone lines of influential people in the Government, the 
military, and the private sector.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, and 
these freedoms are largely respected in practice.  The media, 
while often openly critical of the Government and frequently 
willing to expose corruption, are subject to high levels of 
corruption and politicization.  There continued to be credible 
reports of intimidation by authorities, instances of 
self-censorship, and payoffs to journalists.  In February FUSEP 
Chief Colonel Hung Pacheco told the press that the military 
maintained "dossiers" on journalists.

The Government respects academic freedom and has not attempted 
to curtail political expression on campus.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the right to peaceful assembly 
for political, religious, or other purposes.  The Government 
does not generally require prior authorization or permits but 
may ask for a permit to "guarantee public order."  In most 
cases, neither the Government nor the armed forces interfere in 
the right of citizens to assemble.  For example, police did not 
interfere in the demonstrations marking the second anniversary 
of the murder of Riccy Mabel Martinez, nor during public 
protests over the perceived mildness of the sentences imposed.

However, the police used excessive force in April near 
Choluteca when members of the 6th regional police command and 
the 101st army brigade used tear gas, rifle butts, and gunshots 
to break up a demonstration of 600 fishermen.  The fishermen 
were illegally blocking the Pan American Highway to protest 
Nicaraguan confiscation of Honduran fishing boats in contested 
waters of the Gulf of Fonseca.  The police, who were attempting 
to clear the road to permit passage by the President, claimed 
that some of the fishermen carried firearms but reportedly did 
not attempt to negotiate with or give warning to the protesters.
At least 14 of the protesters were injured, including several 

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution protects all forms of religious expression, 
and there is no state religion.  While most Hondurans are 
nominally Roman Catholic, foreign missionaries of various 
Protestant sects work and proselytize throughout the country.  
There were no reported incidents of harassment or intimidation 
of the clergy by the military in 1993.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Citizens enter and exit Honduras without arbitrary impediment, 
and travel within the country's borders is freely permitted.  
There were no known instances in which citizenship was revoked 
for political reasons.  Of the 250 Haitian refugees who arrived 
in Honduras in November 1991, 45 remain.  There were no 
reported human rights abuses committed against the refugees.  
In 1993 a total of 14 Cuban citizens requested and received 
political asylum.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Hondurans continued to exercise the right to change their 
government through democratic and peaceful means in the 
November elections.  International observers found the election 
free and fair.  A last-minute effort by the Liberal, Christian 
Democrat, and PINU parties to permit voters to cast ballots 
even if their names did not appear on the voting list was 
thwarted by the National Party-controlled Supreme Court.  This 
controversy did not affect the results of the election or its 
essential fairness.  National and municipal governments are 
chosen by free, secret, direct, and obligatory balloting every 
4 years.  Suffrage is universal, but serving members of the 
armed forces are not permitted to vote.  Any citizen born in 
Honduras or abroad of Honduran parentage may hold office except 
for members of the clergy and the armed forces.  A new 
political party may gain legal status by obtaining 20,000 
signatures and establishing party organizations in at least 
half of the country's 18 departments.

In a significant change, voters in the 1993 elections were able 
to split their ballot by voting for a mayor from a different 
party, instead of being required to cast a single ballot for a 
single-party slate of candidates for almost all elected 
offices, from the President on down.  Neither the names nor the 
photos of the mayoral candidates appeared on the ballot, 
however, which hampered the democratic process, given the 
predominantly illiterate electorate.  The vote for President
continued to be a vote for the entire congressional slate of 
that candidate's party.

The inability to split tickets in contests for other offices 
not only adversely affected small parties, but also limited the 
institutional effectiveness and independence of the Congress 
and municipal government, since those elected officials have no 
independent mandate.  In addition, the internal candidate 
selection process in both major parties limited direct, popular 
participation in the process, particularly at the regional or 
local levels.  Both major parties have an extensive 
"precandidate campaign" period, following which the 
presidential candidates are selected through internal party 
elections, held approximately 1 year prior to the national 
elections.  Once selected through the internal elections, the 
parties' presidential candidates choose their slate's 
congressional and mayoral candidates.  

There are no legal impediments to women and minorities 
participating in government and politics.  In practice, the 
proportion of women in political organizations and elected to 
office is far lower than their overall representation in 
society.  Women tend to continue to be relegated to 
"traditional" roles.  This may be changing, however; for the 
first time a woman, Guadalupe Jerezano, was elected as one of 
the three vice presidents in the November elections, and many 
women were elected mayors.  Several women served in high 
appointed positions in the outgoing Callejas administration.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras 
(CODEH) and the Committee of the Relatives of the Detained and 
Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) are the best known and most 
active local nongovernmental human rights organizations.  Prior 
to the Government's establishment of the Office of the Human 
Rights Commissioner, CODEH, with its network of offices 
throughout Honduras, was often the only recourse available to 
victims of abuses, particularly those living in rural areas.  
The nongovernmental Center for the Investigation and Promotion 
of Human Rights (CIPRODEH), established in April 1991, offers 
basic human rights courses, holds monthly seminars, carries out 
research on issues affecting Hondurans, and serves as a source 
of information on human rights.  CIPRODEH continued its human 
rights training of police officers and added training programs 
for the military.

Government officials continued to meet and cooperate with 
representatives of local and international human rights 
organizations in 1993.  In 1992 President Callejas appointed 
experienced and widely respected human rights activist Dr. Leo 
Valladares as the Human Rights Commissioner.  Since then, his 
office has grown from a staff of 5 to 21 persons, and published 
a "preliminary" study of the politically motivated 
disappearances which took place during the 1979-1989 period 
(see Section 1.c.).  The governmental Inter-Institutional 
Commission on Human Rights (CIDH), established in 1987 to 
respond to domestic and international inquiries and to 
investigate human rights violations, is largely ineffective, as 
it does not receive full cooperation from military and civilian 
judicial authorities.

There were no reported incidents of harassment against members 
of human rights organization in 1993.  

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

Although discrimination on the basis of class is banned under 
the Constitution, in fact, both the military and the political 
and social elite generally enjoy impunity before the legal 
system.  Members of the socioeconomic upper class are rarely 
arrested or jailed.  The Constitution provides for 2 years of 
compulsory military service for male citizens between the ages 
of 18 and 30, although only Hondurans from the middle and lower 
classes are forcibly recruited into the armed forces.


The Constitution also bans discrimination for reasons of race 
and sex.  Women are represented in at least small numbers in 
most of the professions, but cultural attitudes act to limit 
their career opportunities.  In theory, women have equal access 
to educational opportunities, but cultural attitudes within 
families often serve to brake the ambitions of women intent on 
obtaining higher education.  Women are supposed to be paid 
equal wages for equal work, but their jobs are often classified 
as less demanding than those of men, as a justification for 
paying them lower salaries.

Efforts to combat violence against women are severely impeded 
by serious weaknesses in the Penal Code.  Visitacion Padilla, a 
women's human rights group, has called for legislation to make 
violence against women a serious crime.  Violence against women 
remains widespread, according to the group.  An example of the 
weakness of Honduran law in this regard is the case of rape.  
Except in the case of children age 12 or under, rape is 
considered a private crime.  Rape victims over age 12 are 
therefore required to hire a private prosecutor, a luxury few 
can afford.  The penalties for rape are relatively light, 
ranging from 3 to 9 years' detention.

There are no shelters specifically maintained for battered 
women.  Although the law offers some redress, few women take 
advantage of the legal process.  This reluctance stems from a 
lack of education and the perception that judges would be 
unwilling to apply the law vigorously.  Some organizations have 
begun to offer assistance to women, principally targeting those 
living in the rural sectors and marginal neighborhoods of 
cities.  The Honduran Federation of Women's Associations, for 
example, provides home construction and improvement loans, 
offers free legal assistance to women, and lobbies the 
Government on women's causes.  CIPRODEH began an education 
program to make women aware of their rights under the law.  


The Government is committed to providing basic education and 
health care to children, and succeeds in some measure in this 
task.  Lack of resources is a limiting factor.  The Constitution
and the Labor Code prohibit the employment of minors under the 
age of 16, but the Ministry of Labor lacks resources to 
exercise its responsibility to ensure enforcement.

     Indigenous People

There is no formal mechanism for the small community of 
indigenous people to present petitions to the Government or to 
participate in decisions regarding traditional lands.  With the 
assistance of international organizations and local human 
rights groups, the principal indigenous groups have succeeded 
in establishing organizations to focus governmental and public 
attention on their wishes.

     People with Disabilities

There are no formal barriers to participation by disabled 
persons in terms of employment, education, and health care, but 
neither is there specific statutory protection for them.  There 
is no legislation that requires accessibility for the disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Workers have the legal right to form and join labor unions, and 
with the exception of some "parallel" unions formed by the 
Government, the unions are independent of government and 
political parties.  Although only about 20 percent of the work 
force is organized, trade unions exert considerable economic 
and political influence.  They frequently participate in public 
rallies against government policies and make extensive use of 
the media to advance their views.  There are also three large 
peasant associations directly affiliated with the trade unions.

The right to strike, along with a wide range of other basic 
labor rights, is provided for by the Constitution and honored 
in practice.  The Civil Service Code, however, stipulates that 
public workers do not have the right to strike.  In 1992, the 
International Labor Organization's Committee of Experts again 
noted that the Labor Code should be reformed to include workers 
of certain agricultural enterprises, and to eliminate provisions
which prohibit more than one trade union per establishment and 
which impose restrictions on the right to strike.

A number of private firms instituted "solidarity" associations, 
which are essentially aimed at providing credit and other 
services to workers and management who are members of the 
association.  Organized labor, including the American 
Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations and 
the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), 
strongly opposes these associations on the grounds that they do 
not permit strikes, have inadequate grievance procedures, and 
neutralize genuine and representative trade unions.  The 
membership of such associations remained static during 1993.

The Government afforded official recognition to a parallel 
union in the Union of National Agrarian Institute Workers 
(SITRAINA) in April.  It dismissed workers supporting the 
elected union and then replaced them with supporters of the 
government-backed union.  The National Agrarian Institute also 
fired a number of workers in violation of the Labor Code, but 
40 of these, who staged 2 lengthy hunger strikes to protest the 
dismissals, were later reinstated.  Carlos Kellner, former 
leader of the Telecommunications Workers Union, SITRATELH, who 
had continued to challenge and appeal the imposition of a 
parallel union in 1992, left the country following severe and 
continued harrassment; he continued to live abroad at year's 

There were no killings of trade unionists in 1993.  However, 
the ICFTU cited the Government as being unable or unwilling to 
bring the perpetrators of worker rights abuses to justice, 
including those responsible for a number of extrajudicial 
killings of trade unionists in 1992.

The trade union movement maintains close ties with various 
international trade union organizations.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The right to organize and to bargain collectively is protected 
by law and collective bargaining agreements are the norm for 
companies in which the workers are organized.  However, 
retribution by employers for trade union activity was not 
uncommon, in spite of its prohibition in the Labor Code.  
Employers threatened to close down unionized companies, 
harassed their workers, and in some cases fired them for trying 
to form a trade union.  Relatively few workers are actually 
dismissed for union activity once the union is recognized; 
these cases, however, served to discourage other workers from 
attempting to organize.  Workers in both unionized and 
nonunionized companies are under the protection of the Labor 
Code, which gives them the right to seek redress from the 
Ministry of Labor.  Depending on the decision of the labor or 
civil court, employers can be required to rehire employees 
fired for union activity.  Such decisions are uncommon.

The same labor regulations apply in export processing zones 
(EPZ's) as in the rest of private industry.  Working conditions 
and wages in the EPZ's are generally considered superior to 
those prevailing in the rest of the country.  There was a 
strike and plant seizure in September in an EPZ in Choloma, 
which was declared illegal.  However, since in this instance 
the strike occurred concurrently with the clearly illegal plant 
seizure, it remains unclear whether under other circumstances a 
strike in an EPZ might be declared legal.

Unions are active in the government-owned Puerto Cortes free 
trade zone, but factory owners have resisted efforts to 
organize the new privately owned industrial parks.  

Blacklisting is clearly prohibited by the Labor Code.  
Nevertheless, there was credible evidence that informal 
blacklisting occurred in the privately owned industrial parks.  
When unions are formed, a list of initial members must be 
submitted to the Ministry of Labor as part of the process of 
obtaining official recognition.  Before official recognition is 
granted, however, the Ministry informs the company of the 
impending union organization.  Ministry inspectors have 
consistently been unable to provide effective protection to 
workers, including the provision to plant owners of Ministry of 
Labor documentation for union formation.  The inadequacy of 
inspectors is particularly obvious in the EPZ sector.  Some 
companies in the industrial parks have taken the information 
and dismissed union organizers before recognition was granted.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

There is no forced or compulsory labor; such practices are 
prohibited by law and the Constitution.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Constitution and the Labor Code prohibit the employment of 
children under the age of 16.  Violations of the Labor Code 
occur frequently in rural areas or in small companies.  High 
adult unemployment and underemployment has resulted in many 
children working in small family farms, as street vendors, or 
in small workshops to supplement the family income.  The 
Ministry of Labor has the responsibility for enforcing child 
employment laws, but it lacks the resources necessary to carry 
out the task.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

In May organized labor and the private sector umbrella 
organization agreed on a 14.35 percent increase in the minimum 
wage, which became effective June 1.  Daily pay rates vary by 
the sector of the economy affected and geographical zones:  the 
lowest minimum wage is $1.70 (12 lempiras) per day in the 
agriculture sector.  The highest minimum wage rate paid is in 
the mining sector, at $3.20 (22.60 lempiras) daily.  Urban zone 
workers earn slightly more than in the countryside.  The 
Constitution and the Labor Code require that all labor be 
fairly paid.  Minimum wages, working hours, vacations, and 
occupational safety are all regulated, but the Ministry of 
Labor lacks the staff and other resources for effective 
enforcement.  Even after the third consecutive annual increase, 
the minimum wage is considered insufficient to provide a decent 
standard of living, particularly in light of inflation.  In 
addition, many workers receive even less than the minimum wage.

The law prescribes an 8-hour day and a 44-hour workweek.  There 
is a requirement for at least one 24-hour rest period every 
8 days.

The Labor Code provides for a paid vacation of 10 workdays 
after 1 year and 20 workdays after 4 years.  The regulations 
are frequently ignored in practice as a result of the high 
level of unemployment and underemployment.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing national 
health and safety laws.  Due to a lack of resources, the laws 
are not well enforced.  There is no provision for a worker to 
remove himself from a dangerous work situation without jeopardy 
to continued employment.  Reliable reports indicate that there 
are still as many as 50 deaths per year resulting from serious 
health and safety hazards facing Miskito Indian scuba divers 
employed in lobster and conch harvesting off the Caribbean 
coast of Honduras.  Some complaints have also arisen about the 
failure of foreign factory managers to comply with the Labor 
Code in factories located in free zones and industrial parks.

[end of document]


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