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TITLE:  HONDURAS HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995








                            HONDURAS


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).  President Carlos Roberto Reina took office in January 
as the fourth democratically elected president since the 
reestablishment of democracy in 1982.  Both major parties 
(Liberal and Nationalist) have now assumed power from the other 
after free elections.

The Honduran Armed Forces (HOAF) comprise the army, air force, 
navy, and the National Police (Public Security Force--FUSEP) as 
a fourth branch.  The HOAF operates with considerable 
institutional and legal autonomy, particularly in the realm of 
internal security and military affairs.  It controls the 
police, the merchant marine, and the national telephone 
company.  In November the Congress passed legislation which 
will remove the merchant marine from military control in 1995.

The Government established an Ad Hoc Commission on Police and 
Judicial Reform in 1993, in response to credible allegations of 
extrajudicial killings by members of the FUSEP, particularly its
Directorate of National Investigations (DNI).  On January 6, it 
established a new Public Ministry containing a new Directorate 
of Criminal Investigations (DIC) to replace the DNI.  The 
Government formally dissolved the DNI in June, but the DIC is 
still in the process of formation, leaving a gap in 
investigative capability.  Human rights organizations, including
the Government's National Commission for the Protection of Human
Rights (CONAPRODE), say there was a noticeable drop in reports 
of abuses after the DNI was abolished.  However, members of both
the armed forces and the FUSEP continued to commit human rights 
abuses.

The economy is primarily based on agriculture, with a small but 
growing light manufacturing sector.  The armed forces also play 
a sizable role in the national economy, controlling numerous 
enterprises usually associated with the private sector, 
including several insurance companies and one of the two cement 
companies.  Economic activity was plagued by a drought-induced 
shortage of electricity, and real gross domestic product 
declined by about 2 percent.  Combined unemployment and 
underemployment were approximately 58 percent, and the 
Government estimated that 62 percent of all citizens live in 
poverty.

The most widespread human rights abuses were arbitrary and 
incommunicado detentions, and beatings and other abuse of 
detainees, sometimes including torture.  There was a small 
number of extrajudicial killings.  One major cause of human 
rights problems is the impunity enjoyed by members of the 
civilian and military elite, exacerbated by a weak, 
underfunded, and sometimes corrupt judicial system.  Prison 
conditions remained deplorable.  Other continuing human rights 
problems were violence against women, discrimination against 
indigenous peoples, and the inability of the judicial system to 
provide prisoners awaiting trial with swift and impartial 
justice.  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 
significantly fined in 1994.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of politically motivated killings, but 
members of the security forces committed several extrajudicial 
killings.

The crime rate surged in 1994, including a rise in the number 
of homicides.  It has become increasingly difficult to 
differentiate between homicides that may have been extrajudicial
acts by government forces or agents and those which were common 
crimes.

In March two FUSEP agents kidnaped, tortured, and stabbed to 
death a 78-year-old evangelical pastor, Justo Irias Ordonez, in 
Lepaguare, Olancho (located in a remote part of eastern 
Honduras).  Witnesses to the events claim the two agents went 
to the home of Ordonez, beat him with rifle butts, tied his 
hands, and took him to a place known as Pozo Malacate where 
they sodomized and killed him.  The FUSEP commander in 
Juticalpa arrested the two agents and charged them with the 
crime.  At year's end, they were awaiting trial by civil court.

On November 7, the authorities suspended the Chief of Police in 
La Ceiba and two of his subordinates pending an investigation 
by the Attorney General's office into the alleged kidnaping and 
murder of a vendor suspected of killing an 11-year-old boy 
during an attempted burglary.  Officials from the Committee for 
the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (CODEH), the Attorney 
General's Office, and the police are working together on the 
investigation, the first time this has ever occurred, according 
to CODEH.

Credible allegations of extrajudicial killings by members of 
the FUSEP, particularly its now defunct Directorate of National 
Investigations, led to the creation of the new Public Ministry 
to manage investigations of criminal cases.  The new Ministry 
is also responsible for investigating all cases of extrajudicial
killings, including those of past years.  The Government 
formally dissolved the DNI on June 11 and moved its functions 
to the new civilian-controlled DIC.  Human rights groups noted 
a drop in the number of reports of human rights abuses since 
the dissolution of the DNI.  The Public Ministry is still in 
the process of training and organizing its staff and recruiting 
members for the new DIC.  The attorneys and staff of the 
Ministry will lack the capability to investigate adequately 
current or past criminal cases until the DIC completes its 
training in the spring of 1995.

The authorities undertook no further investigation or 
prosecution of alleged extrajudicial killings committed in 
previous years.  These included the 1993 killings of Eduardo 
Pina van Tuyl, Guillermo Agurcia Lefebvre, Lourdes Enamorado, 
Roger David Torres Vallejos, Rigoberto Quezada Figueres, 
Cleofes Colindres Canales, Juan Jose Menendez, Glenda Patricia 
Solorzano Medina, and Jorge Alcides Medina Hernandez; the 1992 
killings of Juan Humberto Sanchez, Rigoberto Borjas, Ramon 
Castellon Baide, and Cayo Eng Lee; the 1991 murder of Manuel de 
Jesus Guerra; and the 1990 killings of Francisco Javier Bonilla 
Medina and Ramon Antonio Briceno.

The family of 18-year-old student Riccy Mabel Martinez, victim 
of a July 13, 1991 rape and murder, appealed the original 
verdict in the case (equivalent to second-degree murder), and 
requested that the two military defendants be convicted of 
first-degree murder (which would preclude any possibility of 
pardon).  The defendants filed a countersuit; at year's end, 
both cases were pending before the Supreme Court of Appeals.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances motivated by politics 
or conducted by the security forces.

Local human rights groups and Amnesty International continued 
to press, unsuccessfully, for an official accounting of the 
184 claimed disappearances which occurred mainly during the 
early 1980's under the tenure of former armed forces Commander 
General Gustavo Alvarez Martinez.

In December 1993, Human Rights Commissioner Leo Valladares 
presented a preliminary report on political disappearances 
during the 1979-89 period.  On November 9, a CSJ Commission 
announced that all but 9 of the 184 missing persons cases 
lacked the evidence required for proper legal proceedings.  
(The nine cases referred to are those or persons who were 
missing for some time but were later found alive.)  The report 
also noted that the survivors accused the current Minister of 
Defense of involvement in the detention, torture, and 
disappearance of four suspected leftists in 1988 (when he 
commanded an infantry brigade), but offered no proof.  The 
Commission sent the nine cases warranting further action to the 
Attorney General's office.  All nine were reopened and at 
year's end, preliminary investigations were under way.  A full 
investigation will be possible only when the DIC is trained and 
in place.

On December 9, three forensic anthropologists who excavated a 
grave site believed to contain a death squad victim from the 
1980's were able to confirm the identity of the body buried at 
that site since 1982 as that of Nelson Mackay Chavarria, a 
Honduran citizen.  Because of serious decomposition of the 
body, the anthropologists could not determine the cause of 
death or whether the victim had been tortured.  Human Rights 
Commissioner Valladares called for an immediate investigation 
by the Attorney General's Office and an end to impunity for 
those involved in the 184 disappearances during the 1980's.  
The Attorney General began an investigation which will include 
testimony by members of the security forces.

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

Although the Constitution prohibits torture, and police and 
military authorities issued assurances throughout 1994 that the 
practice had been stopped, credible charges of torture and 
other abuse of detainees continue.  Members of the police force 
resort to abuses to obtain confessions and keep suspects in 
jail.  There were no reports of torture for political motives.

One case of alleged torture involved 27-year-old narcotics 
suspect Fernando Flores Salgado.  The Public Ministry reported 
that a FUSEP agent arrested Salgado on August 11 in the airport 
at Puerto Lempira and took him to a police station where, 
during a search of his luggage, police found an AK-47 automatic 
assault rifle.  Salgado claimed he was beaten and a sack laced 
with lime was placed over his head, causing burns.  The 
Ministry's report said the beatings continued on August 12 and, 
when the officers and their commander failed to extract 
information from Salgado about the seller of the AK-47, they 
took him to a lake and repeatedly submerged him in the water.  
On August 13, an assistant prosecutor from the Public Ministry 
obtained Salgado's release.  Attorney General Edmundo Orellana 
presented charges against all three FUSEP agents for human 
rights violations, torture, battery, and attempted homicide.  
The courts in Puerto Lempira issued warrants, but none of the 
three were arrested.  Prosecutors at the Public Ministry stated 
that FUSEP officials attempted to halt any investigation of the 
three agents by filing charges of drug trafficking against the 
assistant prosecutor who secured Salgado's release.  Local 
human rights groups say this is an attempt by the FUSEP to 
discredit the charges and intimidate the investigators.  The 
FUSEP rearrested Salgado on October 15 and charged him with 
terrorism because of the AK-47 found in his possession.  In 
late October, the FUSEP dropped all charges against Salgado and 
the prosecutor; charges were also dropped against the FUSEP 
agents.

On October 7, police arrested two juveniles in Tegucigalpa.  
The juveniles charged that police held them in a cell with 
adults and that both police and the other prisoners beat and 
tortured them.  Officials of Casa Alianza (an affiliate of 
Covenant House in New York), which operates a refuge for street 
children, obtained the release of both of them on October 10.  
Following medical confirmation of the injuries to one of the 
youths, Casa Alianza filed charges against the FUSEP for 
violating the youth's rights, illegal detention, and torture.  
It also requested a full investigation by the Attorney 
General's office.  Market vendors and a FUSEP regional 
commander protested Casa Alianza's actions, asserting that the 
organization provides refuge for juveniles who commit crimes.  
Casa Alianza, in response, called on the national Human Rights 
Commissioner to fulfill his obligation to protect children's 
rights.

Amnesty International and Casa Alianza both received reports of 
minors whom members of the police and the army subjected to 
illegal arrest, ill-treatment, and sexual abuse.  A street girl 
in San Pedro Sula, 11-year-old Martha Maria Saire, charged that 
two uniformed members of the military battalion based in Tamara 
grabbed and raped her.  Medical examinations confirmed she had 
been sexually abused.  On April 22, the authorities presented 
the case to the first criminal district court.  The Attorney 
General's office issued arrest warrants for the soldiers, but 
they are reportedly absent without leave.

Another case involved 16-year-old Mario Rene Enamorado Lara who 
lives in Casa Alianza's transition home in Tegucigalpa.  On 
July 10, while on his way to the home in the company of other 
children, eight uniformed members of the FUSEP's first squadron 
stopped the group and accused Mario of having stolen a watch.  
They arrested him without a warrant, took him to the squadron 
headquarters, and placed him in detention in a cell with adult 
detainees.  He charged that three policemen severely punched 
and kicked him during detention; adult male prisoners also beat 
him while he was in the cell.  The same afternoon, legal 
counsel from Casa Alianza obtained his freedom, and an 
independent doctor confirmed injuries to his body, face, and 
head.  Casa Alianza presented a formal complaint to the FUSEP 
and to the Public Ministry.  Lacking an investigative arm, the 
Public Ministry had made no arrests by year's end.

In February police officers severely beat U.S. citizen Terry 
George Clymire, whom they were in the process of arresting on 
civil charges.  The Prosecutor's office and the FUSEP Office of 
Professional Responsibility (OPR) investigated the case, but 
made no charges or arrests in the case.  Charges against 
Clymire were dropped.

The Office of Professional Responsibility investigates cases of 
alleged torture and abuse; OPR officials recommend sanctions 
for police agents found guilty of such mistreatment.  However, 
neither the FUSEP General Command nor the OPR is empowered to 
punish wrongdoers; only the commander of the accused agent has 
the authority to do so.  During the past 12 months, OPR 
investigated eight FUSEP agents for abusing and beating street 
children in the Tegucigalpa area.  The FUSEP dismissed all of 
them, and the courts convicted three agents and gave them 
30-day jail terms.

Prison conditions in Honduras are consistently deplorable.  
Prisoners suffer from severe overcrowding, malnutrition, and a 
lack of adequate sanitation.  In the Central Penitentiary in 
Tegucigalpa, there are 1,954 internees, of whom only 512 have 
been convicted and are serving sentences.  More often than not, 
the mentally ill and those with tuberculosis and other 
infectious diseases are thrown together in the same cells.  A 
new, larger detention facility in Tamara lacks water and power 
and probably will not open until 1995.  Prisoners with money 
routinely buy private cells, decent food, and conjugal 
visitation rights, while prisoners without money often lack the 
most basic necessities as well as legal assistance.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law states that the police may arrest a person only with a 
court order, unless the arrest is made during the commission of 
a crime, and that they must clearly inform the person of the 
grounds for the arrest.  (By law the FUSEP cannot investigate; 
it only detains those suspected of committing a crime.)  Police 
must bring a detainee before a judge within 24 hours; the judge 
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.  However, in 
practice, the authorities do not routinely observe these 
requirements of the law.  While bail is legally available, it 
is used primarily for what are ostensibly medical reasons.  
Poor defendants, even when represented by a public defender, 
are seldom able to take advantage of bail.

Under the 1984 Code of Criminal Procedures, a judge, the 
police, public officials, or any citizen may initiate criminal 
proceedings.  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, which are separate from the 
regular judicial court system.

There were continued allegations that the FUSEP hired some 
former members of the DNI, and that these 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 after the issuance of a report by the Ad Hoc 
Commission on Police and Judicial Reform and the dissolution of 
the DNI.

The Constitution prohibits the expatriation of a Honduran 
citizen to another country; exile is not used as a means of 
political control.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Congress elects the nine Supreme Court justices and the 
President confirms them.  Their 4-year terms coincide with 
those of the Congress and the President.  The Supreme Court 
appoints all the judges in the lower civilian courts.  Some 
headway was made in using a career system to depoliticize the 
appointments process and to break the subcultures of corruption,
clientism, patronage, and influence peddling within the 
judiciary.  In midyear the Supreme Court ordered strict 
adherence to the judicial career law, i.e., a merit-oriented 
selection and retention process for judges and court officials, 
commencing with second-instance judges.

However, both major political parties continue to resist the 
recommendation by the Ad Hoc Commission that they agree to a 
completely apolitical, independent judiciary.  Members of 
Congress representing powerful economic and political interests 
continued to pressure the President and magistrates of the 
Supreme Court to permit politicians to appoint judges and court 
functionaries purely on political criteria and without regard 
to professional and ethical qualifications.  The judicial 
system also still suffers from woefully inadequate funding.

Traditionally, the Honduran Armed Forces insisted that only its 
courts-martial could try its members.  However, 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 have in fact been remanded 
to the civilian judicial system.  The military continued to 
accept civilian court jurisdiction over its members, and the 
Public Ministry assigned civilian prosecutors to each of the 11 
military courts.  It also began much publicized investigations 
of human rights violations (past and present) by military 
personnel and followed up on anonymous published accusations of 
financial fraud by senior military officers.

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.  
The number of public defenders was doubled from 51 to 104, 
providing greater legal assistance to the poor.

Detention of criminal suspects pending trial averaged 18 months 
and constituted a serious human rights problem.  In an extreme 
case, a mentally deficient, illiterate peasant spent 17 years 
in jail after being acquitted, due to the failure by 
responsible officials to process his release papers.  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.  Of the 6,042 
detainees making up the country's prison population in early 
1994, 5,103, or 84 percent, had been neither sentenced nor 
exonerated.  These judicial weaknesses, along with the almost 
total lack of thorough investigation of crimes and collection 
of evidence, greatly undermine the right of citizens to a 
speedy, fair public trial.  In addition, some judicial 
authorities in rural areas received anonymous threats.

The passage of the 1994 Public Ministry Law and subsequent 
creation of the new ministry, with 76 public prosecutors 
assigned nationally and twice that many planned for 1995, is 
intended to strengthen the citizenry's ability to seek redress 
from government abuses and to enjoy fair and public trials.  
The Public Ministry's independence from the other branches of 
the Government also is intended to reduce somewhat the 
opportunities for the politically and economically powerful to 
distort the judicial process with impunity.  The widely 
respected new Attorney General stressed the importance of 
personnel selection for the Public Ministry, and indicated he 
would refuse to employ former members of the DNI.  In the short 
time it has existed, even before becoming fully organized, the 
Public Ministry began investigations of a number of court 
officials on various corruption and malfeasance charges.  As a 
result, the authorities dismissed 38 court officials, including 
10 Superior Court judges and 11 justices of the peace.

Despite the creation of the Public Ministry and the DIC, at 
year's end the justice system still favored the rich and 
politically influential and remained weak, underfunded, 
marginally politicized, and generally inefficient.  While the 
Supreme Court made strides in both organization and 
investigation of corrupt court officials, the underfunded 
judiciary remained very vulnerable to influence and corruption.

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

The Constitution specifies that a person's home is inviolable 
and that persons authorized by the State may enter only with 
the owner's consent or with the authorization of a competent 
authority.  Entry may take place only 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.  Despite a new system of "duty judges" 
and "duty prosecutors" to issue search orders, they appeared to 
lack the discipline to make themselves available 24 hours per 
day, 7 days a week.  Coordination among the police, the court, 
and the Public Ministry is improving.  However, interagency 
liaison problems still undermine the effectiveness of the 
system.

Judges may authorize government monitoring of mail or 
telephones for specific purposes, such as criminal 
investigation or national security.  However, the armed forces 
reportedly continued to use its operation of the national 
telephone company to monitor illegally telephone lines of 
influential people in the Government, the military, and the 
private sector without authorization from the appropriate 
civilian judicial authority.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, and 
the authorities largely respected these freedoms in practice.  
The media, while often openly critical of the Government and 
frequently willing to expose corruption, are themselves subject 
to high levels of corruption and politicization.  Serious 
investigative journalism is still in its infancy.  Journalists 
are known to have requested bribes to kill stories.  There 
continued to be credible reports of intimidation by the 
authorities, instances of self-censorship, and payoffs to 
journalists.

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

     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, when several 
thousand Indians staged a protest march to the capital in July, 
they were allowed to occupy the center of the city for several 
days, withdrawing peacefully after meeting with the President 
and other officials and winning concessions on their demands.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution protects all forms of religious expression, 
and the Government respects this right in practice.  Numerous 
foreign missionaries work and proselytize throughout the 
country.

     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.

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

Citizens exercised the right to change their government through 
democratic and peaceful means in the November 1993 elections.  
International observers found the elections to be free and 
fair.  The national government is chosen by free, secret, 
direct, and obligatory balloting every 4 years.  Suffrage is 
universal, but the clergy and 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 the country's 
18 departments.

There are no legal impediments to women and minorities 
participating in government and politics, but in practice, the 
proportion of women in political organizations and elected to 
office is far lower than their overall representation in 
society.  However, for the first time voters elected a woman, 
Guadalupe Jerezano, as one of the three vice presidents in the 
1993 elections, and the losing opposition slate also had a 
female vice presidential candidate.  Women hold a Cabinet 
ministry and Supreme Court position, as well as a number of 
vice ministerial positions.  Of the 128 Deputies in Congress, 
14 are women and 5 are indigenous.  There are few indigenous 
persons in leadership positions in government or politics, 
although the Honduran ambassador to the United Nations is a 
member of the Garifuna indigenous group.

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 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 the 
country, 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 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.

Two COFADEH staff members reported instances of harassment.  On 
March 4, Berta Oliva de Nativi, COFADEH coordinator, had a 
telephone call interrupted by a male voice claiming to be a 
colonel who threatened to kill her and her family.  Ms. Nativi 
believed the caller to be an ex-member of the notorious 
military intelligence Battalion 3-16, created in the early 
1980's but now dissolved.  Such threats, made by telephone at 
both her home and office, continued through March and the 
beginning of April.  Another member of COFADEH, Dina Meethabel 
Meza Elvir, also received numerous threats and was harassed.  
On March 15, Ms. Elvir reported that a man in a car followed 
her for several miles and attempted to bump her vehicle.  She 
obtained the license plate number.  On March 16, as she was 
leaving her son's hospital in Comayaguela (a section of 
Tegucigalpa), she was again followed by the same car.  Ms. 
Elvir presented her information to the criminal court and also 
went to the Public Ministry, which initiated an investigation.  
The owner of the car was apprehended but was released when Ms. 
Elvir could not identify him.  Both cases remain under 
investigation; the Attorney General's office offered protection 
to both women.

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.  
The Government provides the Human Rights Commissioner with 
insufficient funds, leaving him dependent upon contributions 
from international organizations such as the United Nations 
Children's Fund.  He has proposed that the Human Rights 
Commissioner be elected by Congress, with its power derived 
from the Constitution.

Government officials continued to meet and cooperate with 
representatives of local and international human rights 
organizations.

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

The Constitution bans discrimination based on race and sex.  
Although it also bans discrimination on the basis of class, 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 have 
been forcibly recruited into the armed forces.  In May, at 
President Reina's initiative, and over the opposition of the 
armed forces, Congress unanimously voted to abolish involuntary 
military service.  Although the measure, as a constitutional 
amendment, will have to be approved again in 1995 in order to 
become effective, the President ordered an immediate suspension 
of forced recruitment.  However, in late September, in the face 
of strongly diminished armed forces levels, President Reina 
ordered the resumption of compulsory military service.  A draft 
lottery was held on November 19 to fill 6,500 open positions in 
the armed forces.  Most upper-class youths continued to avoid 
conscription, either as students or through their names being 
left off the lottery eligibility lists.

     Women

Women are represented in at least small numbers in most of the 
professions, but cultural attitudes limit their career 
opportunities.  In theory, women have equal access to 
educational opportunities, but family pressures often serve to 
brake the ambitions of women intent on obtaining higher 
education.  The law requires women, who make up 51 percent of 
the work force, 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.

Violence against women remains widespread, and serious 
weaknesses in the Penal Code severely impede efforts to combat 
it.  Visitacion Padilla, a women's human rights group, has 
called for legislation to make violence against women a serious 
crime.  The majority of such violence takes place within the 
family.  The courts do not take action in domestic violence 
cases unless the victim is badly battered and incapacitated for 
more than 10 days.  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' imprisonment.  There are no 
shelters specifically maintained for battered women.  Although 
the law offers some redress, few women take advantage of the 
legal process, believing that judges would be unwilling to 
apply the law vigorously.  Sexual harassment in the workplace 
is also a problem, as graphically described in testimony to the 
U.S. Senate in September by a 15-year-old female garment worker.

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.  The human rights 
group CIPRODEH began an education program to make women aware 
of their rights under the law.

     Children

The Government is committed to providing basic education and 
health care to children, but is unable to prevent abuse of 
street children (see Section 1.c.) and child workers (see 
Section 6.d.).  In Tegucigalpa, there are about 1,300 street 
children, many of whom have been sexually molested; at least 
10 percent are chronically addicted to glue sniffing.  Over 
75 percent of the street children find their way to the streets 
because of severe family problems; 9 percent are abandoned.  
Many of these children, when arrested, are housed with adults 
and abused.  Both the police and members of the general 
population employ violence against street children.  Casa 
Alianza worked with the police to end abuse of children who are 
arrested.  However, vigilante violence and allegations of 
police abuse continue to be a problem.

     Indigenous People

The small community of indigenous people have little or no 
ability to participate in decisions affecting their lands, 
cultures, traditions, or the allocation of natural resources.  
All indigenous land rights are communal, and the law prohibits 
sale of such property either by individuals or the tribe.  
Tribal lands are often poorly defined in documents dating from 
the mid-19th century, and in most cases lack legal title based 
on modern cadastral measurements.  The Honduran Forestry 
Development Corporation makes decisions regarding exploitation 
of timber resources on indigenous lands, often over strenuous 
tribal objection.  Usurpation of indigenous lands by 
nonindigenous farmers and cattle ranchers is common.

The courts commonly deny legal recourse to indigenous groups 
and show bias in favor of the nonindigenous parties, who are 
often people of means and influence.  Failure to obtain legal 
redress frequently provoked indigenous groups to attempt to 
regain land through invasions and other tactics, which usually 
provoked the authorities to retaliate forcefully.  To focus 
governmental and public attention on their needs, several 
thousand Indians from all over the country marched to the 
capital city of Tegucigalpa on July 12 to support complaints of 
Indians from the Intibuca region about illegal logging.  
President Reina and his Cabinet met with Indian representatives 
and agreed to address the problem and to consider long-term 
recommendations regarding the Indian situation.  A 
congressional committee drafted legislation to create a new 
county composed exclusively of Indian communities, and the 
Government promised to build schools and roads and to ensure 
greater protection of the forests in which the Indians live.  
However, on October 3, several thousand Indians of various 
tribes made a followup march to Tegucigalpa to remind the 
Government of its promises and to complain of increasing 
problems with the armed forces in their areas.

     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 disabled 
persons to government buildings or services.

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 Constitution provides for the right to strike, 
along with a wide range of other basic labor rights, which the 
authorities honor in practice.  The Civil Service Code, 
however, stipulates that public workers do not have the right 
to strike.  (This does not include those working in state-owned 
enterprises.)  There were legal and illegal strikes during the 
year by public and private schoolteachers, mail workers, banana 
workers from Chiquita Brands, and workers in a dozen or more 
foreign-owned maquiladora (in-bond processing) plants exporting 
textiles to the United States.

A number of private firms have instituted "solidarity" 
associations, which are essentially aimed at providing credit 
and other services to workers and management who are members of 
the association.  Membership in these associations increased 
slightly during the year.  Organized labor, including the 
American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial 
Organizations and the International Confederation of Free Trade 
Unions, 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 trade union movement maintains close ties with various 
international trade union organizations.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law protects workers' rights to organize and to bargain 
collectively; collective bargaining agreements are the norm for 
companies in which workers are organized.  However, although 
the Labor Code prohibits retribution by employers for trade 
union activity, it is a common occurrence.  Employers threaten 
to close down unionized companies, harass their workers, and in 
some cases fire them for trying to form a trade union.  
Employers actually dismiss relatively few workers for union 
activity once a union is recognized; these cases, however, 
serve 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.  Labor or civil courts 
can require employers to rehire employees fired for union 
activity, but such rulings are uncommon.  Generally, however, 
agreements between management and unions contain a clause 
prohibiting retaliation against any worker who participated in 
a strike or union activity.

The same labor regulations apply in export processing zones 
(EPZ's) as in the rest of private industry.  Unions are active 
in the government-owned Puerto Cortes free trade zone (all 
seven maquiladora companies there are unionized), but factory 
owners have resisted efforts to organize the new privately 
owned industrial parks.  To date, none of the EPZ plants has 
been organized.  In the absence of a union and collective 
bargaining, several of the EPZ plants have instituted 
solidarity associations which to some extent exist as company 
unions for the purpose of setting wages and negotiating working 
conditions.  Others use the minimum wage to set starting 
salaries and adjust the wage scale by negotiating with common 
groups of workers and individuals depending on skill, years of 
employment, and other related criteria.  Talks between unions 
and EPZ plants continue.

In February an EPZ firm fired 4 female workers involved in 
union organizing activities; in response, 5,000 workers took 
over the Continental Industrial Park near El Progreso on 
February 10, closing 8 factories.  Five days later, workers 
occupied five factories at the Galaxy Industrial Park for the 
same reason.  In June 6,000 workers took over the highway 
leading to the Puerto Cortes industrial area, closing 
6 factories that had fired several pregnant women in violation 
of the Labor Code.

Labor leaders blame the Government for permitting management to 
take such actions, and say this problem will continue until the 
Ministry of Labor is reorganized to make it more efficient.  
They criticize the Ministry for not enforcing the Labor Code, 
for taking too long to make decisions, and for being timid and 
indifferent to workers' needs.  In the month-long strike 
between Chiquita Brands and its union, for example, the 
Ministry of Labor and four separate commissions named by the 
President were unable to end the conflict.

The Labor Code clearly prohibits blacklisting; nevertheless, 
there was credible evidence that informal blacklisting occurred 
in the privately owned industrial parks.  When unions are 
formed, organizers must submit a list of initial members to the 
Ministry of Labor as part of the process of obtaining official 
recognition.  Before official recognition is granted, however, 
the Ministry must inform the company of the impending union 
organization.  Ministry officials have consistently been unable 
to provide effective protection to workers.  There are credible 
reports that, particularly in the EPZ sector, some inspectors 
have gone so far as to sell companies the names of employees 
involved in forming a union, which some companies used to 
dismiss union organizers before recognition was granted.  There 
is also credible evidence that military intelligence maintains 
files on union activists.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution and the law prohibit forced or compulsory 
labor.  Although there were no official reports of such 
practices, allegations of forced overtime in EPZ plants, 
particularly for women, are credible.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Constitution and the Labor Code prohibit the employment of 
minors under the age of 16, except for children between the 
ages of 14 to 16 who have the permission of their parents and 
the Ministry of Labor.  Employers legally hiring children under 
the age of 16 must certify that the young person has finished 
or is finishing his or her compulsory schooling.  The legal age 
for working without parental consent is 16.  The Ministry of 
Labor grants a number of these work permits to 14- and 15-year- 
olds each year.  It is common for 12- and 13-year-olds to 
obtain these documents or to purchase forged permits which use 
the Labor Ministry's letterhead.

The Ministry of Labor does not effectively enforce child labor 
laws, and violations of the Labor Code occur frequently in 
rural areas and in small companies.  Many children work in 
small family farms, as street vendors, or in small workshops to 
supplement the family income.  According to the Ministry of 
Labor, human rights groups, and organizations for the 
protection of children, the most significant child labor 
problem is in the construction industry.  A 15-year-old girl 
also testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee in September 
that children below the legal employment age work in the 
garment assembly sector.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

In December the Government decreed increases ranging from 15 to 
33 percent in the minimum wage, the first since June 1993.  
Daily pay rates vary by the sector of the economy affected and 
geographical zones:  the lowest minimum wage is $1.60 (14.95 
lempiras) per day in the agriculture sector.  The highest 
minimum wage is in the mining sector at $2.79 (26 lempiras) 
daily.  Urban workers earn slightly more than those in the 
countryside.  The Constitution and the Labor Code stipulate 
that all labor be fairly paid, 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 for a worker and family.

The law prescribes a maximum 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.  
However, employers frequently ignore these regulations due to 
the high level of unemployment and underemployment, and the 
lack of effective enforcement by the Ministry of Labor.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing national 
health and safety laws, but does not do so effectively.  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.  Some complaints, 
although fewer than in previous years, allege the failure of 
foreign factory managers to comply with occupational health and 
safety aspects of Labor Code regulations in factories located 
in free zones and industrial parks.


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[end of document]

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