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Title:  Honduras Human Rights Practices, 1995  
Author:  U.S. Department of State   
Date:  March 1996   
 
 
 
 
                              HONDURAS 
 
 
Honduras is a constitutional democracy with a President and 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 1994 as the fourth democratically elected President 
since the reestablishment of democracy in 1982.  Both major parties 
(Liberal and National) have now assumed power from the other after free 
elections. 
 
The Honduran Armed Forces (HOAF) comprise the army, air force, navy, and 
the 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, numerous private sector businesses, and the 
national telephone company.  In January, however, the legislature 
removed the merchant marine from military control and placed it under 
civilian control as of April.  In September the Congress passed 
legislation which will transfer the police from military to civilian 
control in 1996. 
 
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).  In January 1994 it established a new 
Public Ministry containing a new Directorate of Criminal Investigations 
(DIC) to replace the DNI; however, the DIC is not yet fully staffed or 
equipped.  Human rights organizations, including the Government's 
National Commission for the Protection of Human Rights (CONAPRODE), say 
that reports of abuses have declined since 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 play a sizable role in the 
national economy, controlling numerous enterprises usually associated 
with the private sector, including a bank, several insurance companies, 
and one of the two cement companies.  In 1994 a drought-induced energy 
crisis triggered a major recession with real gross domestic product 
declining 1.5 percent.  An improved energy picture and booming world 
coffee prices created conditions for modest growth of 3-4 percent in 
1995.  Combined unemployment and underemployment were approximately 58 
percent, and the Government estimated that 63 percent of all citizens 
live in poverty. 
 
The Government's human rights record improved somewhat, although serious 
problems remain in certain areas.  The most widespread human rights 
abuses continued to be arbitrary, illegal and incommunicado detentions, 
and beatings and other abuse of detainees, sometimes including torture.  
There was once again a small number of vigilante killings.  Impunity for 
members of the civilian and military elite, exacerbated by a weak, 
underfunded, and sometimes corrupt judicial system, is a major cause of 
human rights problems.  Prison conditions remained deplorable.  Other 
continuing human rights problems were societal discrimination and 
violence against women, discrimination against indigenous people, abuse 
of street children, 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 or 
politician was tried, sentenced, or significantly fined in 1995.  
However, there were a few exceptions.  Former Honduran Minister Ernesto 
Paz Aguilar, arrested on August 21 for the sale of Honduran diplomatic 
and official passports, was released on November 29 for insufficient 
evidence.  However, the Attorney General is still investigating the 
case, and three other officials involved in the same investigation 
remain in prison.  Active duty police Colonel Juan Blas Salazar was 
sentenced for narcotics trafficking in November.  The mayor of 
Tegucigalpa was also jailed briefly on accusations of stealing municipal 
funds, but was released for lack of evidence. 
 
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 allegedly committed several extrajudicial killings. 
 
The crime rate surged again in 1995, 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 
agents and common crimes.  Human rights groups have compiled credible 
evidence to indicate that in at least 40 of these cases renegade 
elements of the security forces or civilian groups working with them 
committed extrajudicial killings of supposed habitual criminals.  
Widespread frustration at the inability of the security forces to 
control crime, and the well-founded perception that a deeply corrupt 
police force is complicit in the high rate of crime, has led to 
considerable public support for vigilante groups.  Chief Wilfredo 
Alvarado of the Criminal Investigations Directorate publicly disclosed 
that the DIC has evidence of a death squad financed by local businessmen 
operating against criminals in the San Pedro Sula area. 
 
On September 17, the bodies of four alleged criminals were discovered on 
the outskirts of Tegucigalpa.  The bodies of all four showed signs of 
beatings and torture with bruises on their wrists indicating they had 
been handcuffed.  Of the four, only 18-year-old Rony Alexis Betancourt, 
who had been detained on September 15 by the police in a cell in the 7th 
Command of FUSEP located in downtown Tegucigalpa, has been identified.  
Betancourt was stabbed in the abdomen and shot three times.  The police 
claimed they had released Betancourt, an alleged gang member, from 
custody on September 16.  DIC agents are conducting an investigation but 
have not yet identified any suspects. 
 
On August 3, the bodies of three businessmen (owners of an auto parts 
store) were found outside the city of La Paz riddled with bullets from 
M-16 and AK-47 rifles.  The three had been beaten and tortured with 
multiple bruises and fractures over all their bodies.  The police, who 
alleged that all three were members of an auto theft gang, claimed that 
the killings occurred elsewhere and the bodies were dumped outside La 
Paz.  There are no witnesses, and FUSEP had not interrogated or arrested 
any suspects by year's end. 
 
Credible allegations of extrajudicial killings by members of the FUSEP, 
particularly its now defunct Directorate of National Investigations, led 
to the creation in January 1994 of the new Public Ministry containing a 
new civilian-controlled Directorate of Criminal Investigations to 
replace the DNI.  Human rights groups, including the Attorney General's 
Office, have noted a continuing drop in the number of reports of human 
rights abuses since the dissolution of the DNI.  The new Ministry, 
responsible for investigating all cases of extrajudicial killings, has 
completed its program of training and organizing its staff.  The 
Ministry will lack the capability, however, to investigate adequately 
current or past criminal cases until the DIC reaches a higher level of 
operational capability.  This may not be until the end of 1996 when the 
DIC expects to reach its goal of 1,500 fully trained and equipped 
agents.  The DIC currently has 450 investigators with practically no 
communications or laboratory equipment. 
 
In June a civilian judge ordered the immediate arrest of Colonel Leonel 
Galindo Knutsen, implicated in the May 1991 murder of five unarmed 
members of the National Association of Honduran Peasants involved in a 
land dispute with him.  Galindo has not yet been captured; the DIC 
continues to search but has been unable to locate him.  He has been free 
since December 1993 when his case was transferred from the military to 
the civilian court system.   
 
There was no progress reported in investigations or prosecutions of 
other alleged extrajudicial killings committed in previous years.  These 
included the 1994 killing of 78-year-old evangelical pastor Justo Irias 
Ordonez; 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. 
 
On May 18, after a full review of the trial records, the First Court of 
Appeals upheld the 16-year sentence of Colonel Castillo Maradiaga and 
the 10-year sentence of Sergeant Santos Llovares Funez for the 1991 rape 
and murder of 18-year-old student Riccy Mabel Martinez.  Both will serve 
their full sentences in the Central Penitentiary in Tegucigalpa. 
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. 
 
In June the Attorney General opened investigations into the 
disappearances of some 180 people in the 1980's.  Various witnesses, 
survivors, and a few former members of the military have charged that 
the HOAF, specifically a military intelligence group called Battalion 
316, kidnaped, tortured, and murdered many of the disappeared.  The 
Attorney General had several clandestine grave sites excavated in 
November, and forensic scientists identified several remains as those of 
persons on the list of disappeared.  The Attorney General and the 
National Commissioner for Human Rights, Leo Valladares, requested from 
the HOAF and the U.S. Government information they might have to aid this 
investigation.  The HOAF claimed to have no relevant information.  The 
U.S. Government began a review of documents from that period and 
released to the Attorney General and the Commissioner documents which 
had already been declassified. 
 
In October a judge called former chief of military intelligence Colonel 
Leonidas Torres Arias to testify in the case of Nelson Mackay, who 
disappeared in 1982 and whose body was exhumed and identified in 
December 1994.  Torres Arias repeated statements he had made in Mexico 
in 1982, that the then Chief of the Armed Forces, General Gustavo 
Alvarez Martinez (now deceased), ordered the forced disappearance of a 
number of Hondurans, including Mackay.  Torres Arias also testified that 
while he had no evidence linking Colonel Alexander Hernandez to the 
disappearance and murder of Mackay and others, Hernandez had known of 
the crimes. 
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
Although the Constitution prohibits torture, and police and military 
authorities issued assurances throughout 1995 that the practice had been 
stopped, credible charges of torture and other abuse of detainees 
continue.  Some 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. 
 
The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), part of FUSEP, 
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.  Several human rights groups and the Public Ministry criticized 
the OPR for not being responsive to their requests for impartial 
investigations of FUSEP agents accused of torture and abuses.  In June 
the Public Ministry established the Office of Human Rights Inspector 
within the DIC to monitor the behavior of its agents.  This office 
reports to the head of the Human Rights Section and to the minister.  
Investigations by this office resulted in the firing of 38 DIC agents in 
1995. 
 
One case of alleged torture involved 20-year-old computer technician 
Angel Anibal Aguilar Jimenez.  On or about May 14, three DIC agents, 
without a warrant, arrested Aguilar for auto theft.  They took him to 
DIC headquarters and placed him in a detention cell where he alleges 
they beat him severely over a 2-day period.  He claims that one DIC 
agent placed a 9mm pistol in Aguilar's mouth, threatening to kill him if 
he did not confess.  After failing to extract a confession, Aguilar said 
they released him.  The Honduran Committee for the Defense of Human 
Rights in Honduras (CODEH) referred this case to the OPR and the Public 
Ministry for investigation.  Authorities have not yet made any arrests. 
 
In another case, agents of the Cobra Squadron (special services police) 
in San Pedro Sula arrested 30-year-old Jose Fredy Aguilera Palma on May 
17.  They accused Aguilera of the murder of Ramon Garcia and placed him 
in a detention cell where he claims they beat him savagely with fists 
and gun butts.  Aguilera alleged that the Cobra agents placed over his 
head a hood laced with lime and placed electrical wires on his tongue in 
order to extract a confession.  Aguilera says he confessed to the murder 
after 24 hours because he could no longer stand the pain of torture.  
The case remains under investigation by the DIC.  Authorities have not 
yet arrested any suspects. 
 
Prison conditions are consistently deplorable.  Prisoners suffer from 
severe overcrowding, malnutrition, and a lack of adequate sanitation.  
In the Central Penitentiary in Tegucigalpa, there are 2,584 inmates, of 
whom only 517 have been convicted and are serving sentences.  The rest 
are still awaiting trial, some for as long as 2 years.  More often than 
not, wardens house the mentally ill and those with tuberculosis and 
other infectious diseases together in the same cells.  A new, larger 
detention facility in Tamara lacked water and power and did not open in 
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.  The Government 
permits prison visits by international human rights organizations. 
 
   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 suspects.)  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 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 names the President 
of the Court.  Their 4-year term coincides with those of the Congress 
and the President. 
 
There continued to be progress in using a career system to enhance 
qualifications of sitting judges and depoliticize the appointments 
process, and to break the subcultures of corruption, clientism, 
patronage, and influence peddling within the judiciary.  However, 
elements within both major political parties continue to resist creation 
of a completely apolitical, independent judiciary.  Members of the 
Congress and the private sector representing powerful economic and 
political interests continued to put pressure on the President and 
Magistrates of the Supreme Court to postpone action on reform 
initiatives presented to the Congress, thereby permitting politicians to 
continue appointing judges and court functionaries purely on political 
criteria and without regard to professional and ethical qualifications.  
The judicial system and Public Ministry both suffer from extremely 
inadequate funding.  The ability of the Public Ministry to investigate 
and prosecute human rights violations adequately while continuing to 
attack corruption in government depends heavily on the Congress' 
willingness to provide adequate funding. 
 
Traditionally, the Honduran Armed Forces insisted that only its own 
courts-martial could try its members.  However, in 1993 the Congress 
passed a resolution interpreting the jurisdiction of the military court 
system to be subordinate to the civilian system in cases of civil-
military jurisdictional dispute.  Since then military authorities have 
remanded personnel accused of crimes against civilians to the civilian 
judicial system.  Following much publicized investigations of past and 
present human rights violations by military personnel, in mid-1995 the 
Public Ministry placed formal accusations of attempted murder and 
illegal detention against 10 senior active and retired military officers 
in the civilian court system.  A lawyer for three of the accused argued 
that they could not be prosecuted because they were covered by the three 
amnesties enacted between 1987 and 1991 by the legislature.  At year's 
end, an appeal was pending.  Throughout the year, the military continued 
to respect civilian court jurisdiction over its members. 
 
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 increased from 51 to 104, providing greater legal assistance 
to the poor.  Despite their efforts, detention of criminal suspects 
pending trial averaged 18 months and constituted a serious human rights 
problem.  In a number of cases, poor prisoners remain in jail even after 
acquital or completing their sentences, due to the failure by 
responsible officials to process release papers. 
 
A major contributing factor to the problem of not providing due process 
in a timely manner is the antiquated criminal procedures system.  A 
significant number of defendants serve the maximum possible sentence for 
the crime of which they are accused before their trials even begin.  In 
one case, a detainee who was recently released spent 9 years in prison 
awaiting trial for stealing a tape recorder, a crime with a normal 
sentence of 6 years.  Of the 7,949 detainees in the country's prison 
population, 7,135 (90 percent) have been neither sentenced nor 
exonerated. 
 
The passage of the 1994 Public Ministry Law and subsequent creation of 
the new ministry, with 196 public prosecutors assigned nationally 
(increased from 76 in 1994), 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 government is also intended to reduce the opportunities for 
the politically and economically powerful to distort the investigative 
and prosecutorial process with impunity.  After little more than a year 
of being fully operational, the Public Ministry has taken decisive 
action by investigating and accusing not only military officers of human 
rights violations, but also several high ranking former and current 
government officials of fraud, abuses of power, and diversion of public 
funds and resources, crimes which seriously diminish the Government's 
ability to address fundamental economic issues affecting the human 
rights of the general population. 
 
Despite significant efforts by 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 continued to make 
strides in both organization and investigation of corrupt court 
officials, the underfunded judiciary remained very vulnerable to 
influence and corruption. 
 
There were no reports of political prisoners. 
 
   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 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 the new system of "duty judges" and 
"duty prosecutors" to issue search orders, some judges still 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 
continues to improve; 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 telephone lines of influential 
people in 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 the 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.  Some journalists request 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 these rights, and the Government respects 
them in practice. 
 
   c.  Freedom of Religion 
 
The Constitution provides for all forms of religious expression, and the 
Government respects this right in practice.   
 
   d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
Citizens enter and exit Honduras without arbitrary impediment, and the 
Government does not restrict travel within the country's borders.  There 
were no known instances in which citizenship was revoked for political 
reasons. 
 
The Government cooperates with the United Nations High Commissioner for 
Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees.  
There were no reports of forced expulsion of those having a valid claim 
to refugee status.  The Government provides for granting asylum or 
refugee status in accordance with the standards of the 1951 United 
Nations Convention and its 1967 Protocol relating to the status of 
refugees. 
 
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 or minorities participating in 
government and politics, but in practice, the proportion of women in 
political organizations and elective office is far lower than their 
overall representation in society.  However, in the 1993 elections 
voters elected for the first time a woman, Guadalupe Jerezano, as one of 
the three vice presidents, and the losing opposition slate also had a 
female vice presidential candidate.  Women hold a cabinet ministry and a 
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 
 
A wide variety of human rights groups operate without government 
restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights 
cases.  Government officials are generally cooperative and responsive to 
their views. 
 
On January 31, the Congress ratified a presidential decree amending the 
Constitution to give the National Commission for the Protection of Human 
Rights legal status, powers, and a separate budget.  The local human 
rights group CODEH also received official recognition from President 
Reina, legalizing its status after 13 years of existence. 
 
Anonymous telephone callers threatened several individuals active in 
human rights endeavors.  National Commissioner for Human Rights Dr. Leo 
Valladares received numerous telephone threats against himself and his 
family.  CODEH president Dr. Ramon Custodio and Berta Oliva de Nativi, 
coordinator for the Committee of the Relatives of the Detained and 
Disappeared in  
 
Honduras (COFADEH), also received numerous telephone threats.  Judge Roy 
Medina has faced death threats since July, when he was assigned to the 
case of 10 active and retired military officers accused of the detention 
and attempted murder of 6 students in 1982.  Attorney General Edmundo 
Orellana reported threats against himself and his family due to his 
investigations 
of several cases of persons disappeared in the 1980's. 
 
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 these groups are rarely arrested or 
jailed.  However, the Government made progress toward breaching this 
wall of impunity in 1995. 
 
On August 21 former Foreign Minister Ernesto Paz Aguilar was charged and 
held without bail in the ongoing criminal investigation into the sale of 
Honduran diplomatic and official passports.  Although he was released on 
November 29 for lack of evidence, the Attorney General's office 
continues to investigate the case.  Three other officials from the 
Foreign Ministry remain incarcerated, including Paz Aguilar's sister 
Maria de Los Angeles Paz Aguilar.  In November a judge convicted active 
duty police Colonel Juan Blas Salazar of cocaine trafficking and 
sentenced him to 21 years in prison.  Salazar has appealed. 
 
In 1994 the Congress passed a constitutional amendment to end compulsory 
military service, which entered into force in April.  This measure was 
designed to end the common practice of forcible recruitment into the 
armed forces of middle and lower class Hondurans.  Implementation of the 
voluntary service system has gone very slowly, with almost none of the 
recommendations necessary to attract recruits put into place.  Troop 
levels have dropped sharply as the lack of implementation has given 
potential recruits no inducement to volunteer. 
 
The law does not prohibit homosexual behavior or activity.  Gay 
nightclubs operate openly in three major cities.  However, some sectors 
of society oppose homosexual activity.  There were allegations that 
authorities do not adequately defend homosexuals from threat, 
harassment, or abuse and that some officials support, promote, or engage 
in these activities. 
 
   Women 
 
Violence against women remains widespread, and serious weaknesses in the 
Penal Code severely impede efforts to combat it.  The Honduran Women's 
Committee for Peace--Visitacion  
 
Padilla has called for legislation to strengthen penalties for crimes 
against women.  Congress continues to resist this legislation.  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 
injured 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. 
 
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 impede the ambitions of women intent on obtaining 
higher education.  The law requires employers to pay women, who make up 
51 percent of the work force, equal wages for equal work, but employers 
often classify women's jobs as less demanding than those of men, as a 
justification for paying them lower salaries. 
 
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 continues an education program to make 
women aware of their rights under the law. 
 
   Children 
 
Although the Government has committed itself to protecting children by 
allocating 30 percent of its 1995 budget to public education and health 
care, it is unable to prevent abuse of street children (see Section 
1.c.) and child workers (see Section 6.d.).  In Tegucigalpa there are 
about 3,500 street children, of whom 2,000 find shelter on any given 
day.  Many of them 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.  Both the police and members of the 
general population engage in violence against street children.  When the 
authorities arrest street children, they house many of them with adults 
who abuse them.  Casa Alianza worked with the police to end the abuse of 
children who are arrested and incarcerated in adult prisons.  As a 
result, a temporary center to house juvenile offenders was opened in  
 
Tamara July 6.  However, detention of children with adults, vigilante 
violence, and police abuse continue to be a problem due to a general 
lack of juvenile detention centers. 
 
   People with Disabilities 
 
There are no formal barriers to participation by disabled persons in 
employment, education, and health care, but neither is there specific 
statutory or constitutional protection for them.  There is no 
legislation that requires accessibility for disabled persons to 
government buildings or commercial establishments. 
 
   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.  
Nonindigenous farmers and cattle ranchers regularly usurp indigenous 
lands. 
 
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 caused 
indigenous groups to attempt to regain land through invasions and other 
tactics, which usually provoked the authorities to retaliate forcefully.  
On July 7, the first anniversary of a 1994 pilgrimage, some 5,000 
Indians of various tribes again marched to Tegucigalpa to remind the 
Government of the promises it made in the past year and demand that 
their rights be respected.  After negotiations with a special commission 
set up by President Reina, indigenous leaders left Tegucigalpa pleased 
with the agreements that were reached specifying the projects that the 
Government pledged to implement in favor of Honduras' ethnic 
communities.  They vowed to return to Tegucigalpa if the Government does 
not fulfill these agreements. 
 
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 18 percent of the work force is organized, trade unions exert some 
economic and political influence.  In the past year this influence has 
somewhat diminished.  Unions 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 
workers in foreign-owned maquiladora (in-bond processing) plants, or 
"maquilas," exporting textiles and garments 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.  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 (7 of the 11 maquiladora companies 
there are unionized), but factory owners have resisted efforts to 
organize the new privately owned industrial parks.  The Maquiladora 
Association has sponsored several meetings between its membership and 
major labor groups.  As a result of these meetings, tensions declined 
and several maquilas unionized peacefully in the privately owned EPZ's.  
The attitude of the Government towards organized labor in the EPZ's is 
the same as for other industries. 
 
In a number of U.S.-owned maquilas, workers have shown little enthusiasm 
for unionizing since they believe their treatment, salary, and working 
conditions are as good as or better than those in unionized plants.  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 the dismissal of 48 maquila workers by an EPZ firm caused 
one labor organization to block the entrances of the Inhdelva Industrial 
Park, preventing some 6,000 workers in the park's 13 maquiladoras from 
entering.  A few days later, workers at another EPZ firm were forced to 
stand on the sidelines while competing unions fought over which 
organization legally represented the company's employees.  In July 
workers at the Galaxy Industrial Park blocked the entrances, preventing 
workers from entering. 
 
Labor leaders blame the Government for permitting management to act 
contrary to the Labor Code, and say that 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. 
 
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. 
 
The International Labor Organization plans to fund programs such as 
reform of the Labor Code. 
 
   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, there were 
credible allegations of forced overtime in EPZ plants, particularly for 
women. 
 
   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.  The 
legal age for working without parental consent is 16.  An employer who 
legally hires a child under the age of 16 must certify that the young 
person has finished or is finishing his or her compulsory schooling.  
The Ministry of Labor grants a number of 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 on 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.  Employment of children 
younger than the legal working age in maquilas probably occurs, but does 
not appear to happen on a large scale. 
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
In December 1994, 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. 
 
(###)


[end of document]

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