The Honduran government’s plan to create a new rapid response police force, as part of a strategy to militarise the fight against crime, is dangerously vague, experts say.
Honduras, in the heart of Central America, normally makes headlines for its political upheavals and violence. But sometimes there is good news, too. It is one of only a few countries with a shark sanctuary off its coasts, and it has just created a protected area around a reef of a coral species formerly on the brink of extinction.
A few short hours after Honduran President Porfirio Lobo said he had seen evidence that Alfredo Villatoro, a radio reporter kidnapped May 9, was alive, the journalist’s body was found in a residential neighbourhood on the south side of the capital.
Last Friday marked two years since the inauguration of Porfirio Lobo as president of Honduras, amidst accusations of corruption, an unprecedented crime wave, and his lowest approval rating yet.
Following a surprise meeting between President Porfirio Lobo and U.S. government officials, Honduran lawmakers voted to amend the constitution to allow extradition of its nationals.
As the new year rolls in, Honduras is feeling more than ever the challenges posed by soaring rates of violent crime, police corruption, the penetration of the police by organised crime, and a wave of selective killings of journalists and experts in the fight against drugs.
Thanks to the quality and freshness of their produce, indigenous Lenca farmers in western Honduras are regular suppliers of seven supermarket chains. This year they won the National Environmental Prize, in the community initiatives category.
Reports of a purported police network in Honduras engaged in murders, extortion, kidnapping, car theft and drug trafficking prompted the government to sack several high-level police officials and ask Congress for help in purging the police at all levels.
Prominent academics and activists say one of the main pending challenges in Honduras is a resumption of the demilitarisation of the country and the strengthening of civilian control over defence policy that was brought to an abrupt halt by the June 2009 coup d'etat.
The dismissal of Óscar Álvarez as minister of security in Honduras, after he proposed a bill that would have allowed him to purge the police force of corrupt elements, has raised suspicions about the political influence of drug cartels.
The deployment of large numbers of troops in the Bajo Aguán region of Honduras is reviving the age-old conflict over land in an area torn between organised crime groups capable of undertaking armed actions, wealthy landowners and peasants demanding further land reform.
A mix of local and international initiatives are aimed at saving the mangrove forests and other coastal wetlands of Honduras, home to an abundance of marine life and a natural protective barrier against hurricanes, which have shrunk by over 80 percent on the Caribbean coast and almost a third on the Pacific coast.
The first world summit of people of African descent, held in the city of La Ceiba on Honduras's Caribbean coast, ended with a declaration calling for the fight against racism to be included in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Honduras was allowed back into the OAS even though it never tried those responsible for the June 2009 coup that ousted then president Manuel Zelaya. But the international criticism and pressure for justice and action on human rights has not let up.