Honduras: three convicted in reporter's murder

On March 25 a Tegucigalpa court convicted three men in the May 2012 murder of Honduran journalist Angel Alfredo Villatoro Rivera. Marvin Alonso Gómez and the brothers Osman Fernando and Edgar Francisco Osorio Argujo are scheduled to be sentenced on April 25; prison terms could range from 40 years to life. At least 40 Honduran journalists have been murdered in the past decade, with few convictions. Cases include the July 2013 kidnapping and murder of television journalist Aníbal Barrow and the October 2013 shooting death of Globo TV camera operator Manuel Murillo Varela. The French-based organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranks Honduras 129th out of 180 countries in its 2014 press freedom index. (Thomas Reuters Foundation, March 28; IFEX, March 31)

Honduras: solidarity action hits US port

Dockworkers at the Port of Portland in Oregon walked off their jobs at the container yard on March 4 to honor a picket line set up by a small group of Honduran dockworkers protesting what they said were labor abuses at the Puerto Cortés port in northern Honduras. The picketers were members of the Dockworkers Labor Union (SGTM), which has been in a dispute since last year with Operadora Portuaria Centroamericana (OPC), the Honduran subsidiary of the Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI). A US subsidiary of ICTSI operates Terminal 6 in the Oregon port, and the dockworkers there, who are represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), have had their own disputes with the company.

Honduras: indigenous candidate's brother killed

Indigenous Honduran campesino Justiniano Vásquez was found dead on Feb. 21 in San Francisco de Opalaca municipality in the western department of Intibucá, where the victim's brother Entimo Vásquez is challenging the results of a Nov. 24 mayoral election. Justiniano Vásquez's body had deep wounds, and there were signs that his hands had been bound. Community members charged that the killing was carried out by Juan Rodríguez, a supporter of former mayor Socorro Sánchez, who the electoral authorities said defeated Entimo Vásquez in the November vote. Rodríguez had reportedly threatened Entimo Vásaquez in the past. San Francisco de Opalaca residents captured Rodríguez and turned him over to the police. The Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), which reported Vásquez's death, demanded punishment for the perpetrators and called on the authorities "to carry out their work objectively [and] effectively."

Honduras: Aguán campesino convicted of murder

In a retrial held on Feb. 7, a court in La Ceiba, in the northern Honduran department of Colón, convicted campesino José Isabel Morales ("Chavelo" or "Chabelo") on one count of homicide; the judges are expected to sentence him to 20 years in prison. Morales, a resident of Guadalupe Carney community in Trujillo municipality, Colón, belongs to the Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MCA), one of several grassroots organizations in the Lower Aguán River Valley demanding land that campesinos say wealthy landowners acquired illegally. He was first arrested on Oct. 17, 2008, in connection with an incident in which 10 people were killed, including Carlos Manrique Osorto Castillo, a member of a landowning family and the nephew of a local police agent, Henry Osorto. Prosecutors charged Morales on 14 counts, 10 of them for homicide. Morales was acquitted of 13 counts in the first trial, but the court convicted him of Manrique Osorto's death.

Honduras: audit faults World Bank loan in Aguán

On Jan. 10 the World Bank's Office of the Compliance Adviser Ombudsman (CAO) released a report criticizing the process through which the bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) granted a $30 million loan in 2009 to the Honduran-based food-product company Corporación Dinant. An audit that the CAO started in April 2012 found that the IFC failed to apply its own ethical standards in issuing the loan, which is to be used in part for growing African oil palms in the Aguán Valley in northern Honduras. The Aguán's largest landowner is Dinant’s founder, the politically well-connected cooking oil magnate Miguel Facussé Barjum. Producing palm oil has become highly profitable, since the oil can be used both for food and as biofuel.

Honduras: another journalist killed; toll reaches 37

The body of Honduran journalist Juan Carlos Argeñal Medina was found on Dec. 7 at his home in Danlí in the southern department of El Paraíso; he had been shot dead. Argeñal was a correspondent for the independent Globo radio and television network and also owned Vida Televisión. He was at least the third Honduran journalist killed this year and the 37th since President Porfirio ("Pepe") Lobo Sosa took office in January 2010, according to Globo. Another Globo journalist, Edgardo Castro, has announced that he plans to leave the country because of death threats. (Miami Herald, Dec. 9, from AP; Adital, Brazil, Dec. 11)

Honduras: two more opposition activists murdered

José Antonio Ardón, an activist in Honduras' center-left Freedom and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), was gunned down by unknown assailants in Tegucigalpa's Altos de la Sosa neighborhood the evening of Nov. 30. Ardón had been part of the motorcycle group that provided an escort for LIBRE presidential candidate Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, LIBRE's presidential candidate in the disputed Nov. 24 general elections. He was known as "Emo Dos" ("Emo Two") because he had inherited his motorcycle from another activist, Mahadeo ("Emo") Sadloo, who was murdered in eastern Tegucigalpa on Sept. 7, 2011. LIBRE supporters say more than 250 people active in the party and other opposition groups have been murdered since the June 2009 military coup d'état that overthrew former president José Manuel ("Mel") Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009), Xiomara Castro's husband. (El Libertador, Honduras, Nov. 30; La Tribuna, Tegucigalpa, Dec. 1)

Honduras: new party 'breaks chains' of old system

Honduras' Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) issued an official announcement on Nov. 30 declaring former Congress president Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado, the presidential candidate of the rightwing governing National Party (PN), the victor in general elections that were held on Nov. 24. According to the TSE, Hernández received 36.80% of the vote, while Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, the candidate of the center-left Freedom and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), received 28.79%. Results announced the day before showed Mauricio Villeda of the center-right Liberal Party (PL) with 20.28% of the vote and Salvador Nasralla of the Anticorruption Party (PAC) with 13.72%. The TSE didn’t announce final results for the 128 deputies in the unicameral National Congress, but earlier projections showed the PN winning 47 seats, followed by LIBRE with 39, the PL with 26 and the PAC with 13; each of three smaller parties is expected to have one seat.

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