|Saturday, October 26, 1996|
WEEK IN REVIEW
Peace Corps volunteer, instructor drown
Catalina Temple de Martínez, a Peace Corps instructor, and Anica Rodríguez, a Peace Corps volunteer, drowned in the Quiscamote River near La Union, Olancho last Thursday night (Oct. 17). According to the daily La Tribuna, the two women were trying to cross the river, which had risen after heavy rains, when they were swept downstream by a strong current. Authorities were notified soon after the accident by a local resident, but due to bad weather and darkness, were unable to locate the bodies until the following morning. Temple de Martínez, 30, was the wife of Honduran Tourism Institute director Ricardo Martínez. Rodríguez, a native of Puerto Rico, was training to become a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras.
Small museum opens at La Entrada
A small museum displaying some of the objects found at the El Puente Archeological Park was inaugurated in La Entrada, Copan department by President Reina last Friday (Oct. 18), the daily La Tribuna reported. The new museum's centerpiece is a Mayan tomb complete with its respective offerings. Construction of the museum was funded by the Japanese government.
The Wheelcharity: hope on wheels
By JUDITH C. SHAFFER
Paralyzed from the waist down in a motorcycle accident in 1969, Robert Roland has spent the last 27 years "looking for a reason to participate."
Moving from one odd job to another, he spent more than a quarter of a century pursuing satisfaction to no avail. Then he read an article on what happens to Miskito lobster divers when they manage to escape death, but fail to escape paralysis in dive accidents.
"Imagine being confined to a bed day after day in a tiny shack in a remote jungle village," says Robert Armington, director of the La Mosquitia Dive School, who sees the victims of unsafe diving every day. "All you can do is stay in your bed until someone comes to carry you to the outhouse or sit you in the sun for an hour or so."
Robert Roland imagined just such a scene. And found his reason to participate. He sold his house, packed a few bags and headed to the Honduran North Coast. Besides a few personal belongings, the bulk of his cargo was unusual: 10 disassembled wheelchairs and a welding machine.
Arriving in La Ceiba, he found a place to stay, began reassembling the chairs and founded the Wheelcharity Association of Honduras.
"A fire got started under him and he just couldn't stop," says Armington of Roland.
Arguing that "a guy who can sit up in a wheelchair can sit at a welder's bench," Roland and his Wheelcharity have set out to distribute donated wheelchairs to paralyzed divers, teach them how to maintain and repair them, and provide them with a skill -- like welding -- that they can perform to make a living.
Roland paid for the first 10 chairs out of his own pocket and is currently living off the money he made on the sale of his house. He's getting a helping hand from a wheelchair manufacturer called The Outlet in Santa Barbara, California, who agreed to sell him the chairs at cost.
Both Roland and The Outlet are now looking for additional funding and donations to bring more chairs to Honduras.
"He finally locked on to making other people happy, boosting other people's self-worth," says Armington of the jovial Roland.
For more information on the Wheelcharity project, call Robert Roland in La Ceiba at 43-1754 or The Outlet at 1-800-599-3283 or 1-805-965-3530.
|Saturday, October 19, 1996|
WEEK IN REVIEW
Oswaldo, Nora join forces
Following weeks of intense negotiation, National Party presidential candidates Nora de Melgar and Oswaldo Ramos Soto last Friday (Oct. 11) announced that they have joined forces for the upcoming primaries, the daily La Tribuna reported. According to the agreement, Ramos Soto will support Melgar's presidential candidacy in return for the top seed in the slate of congressmen for Francisco Morazán, virtually assuring himself a seat in the next Congress regardless of the election's outcome. Melgar is also a candidate for the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN).
Meanwhile, former President Rafael Callejas on Tuesday (Oct. 15) announced he, too, will endorse the Melgar candidacy. Callejas is currently a PARLACEN deputy.
Carlos Flores launches campaign
By BLANCA MORENO
TEGUCIGALPA -- Liberal party presidential hopeful Carlos Flores presented his "New Agenda" last Sunday, officially launching his campaign for the Casa Presidencial.
The 52-year-old candidate, currently president of the National Congress, is the consistent favorite for the Liberal Party candidacy in national polls. He will run in the primary on Dec. 1.
Flores isn't new to the Honduran political scene. In the 1989 election he lost to Nationalist candidate Rafael Callejas. But with Callejas, the last Nationalist in office, facing an array of corruption accusations and no real competition within his own party, pollsters say Flores' prospects for the 1997 presidential election are much brighter.
Flores promises that his New Agenda has something for every Honduran, including "minorities" like children, youth, women, farmers and Indians.
"Until now, political campaigns have been based more on criticizing the past and the present than looking toward the future," said Flores last Sunday. "[Politicians] resort to easy criticisms, the offense and the attack. This poor and mediocre discourse foments our culture of confrontation."
Flores promised that he will manage his campaign the same way he has managed his public and private life. "It will be a mirror of my conduct, with clarity, truth and decency," he said.
"Our [politicians] cannot and must not continue excavating the ruins of the past to justify the disgraces and calamities of the present," Flores continued. "We must work with the calendar of today, with great urgency for the future instead of, bickering, tears, shame and scandals."
Flores also took advantage of his audience to encourage the Honduran people to fight corruption. "We must teach the people the catechism of honesty, that they insist on honor and promote the values of morality and decency."
Carlos Flores said he wants the presidency so that he can fight for the welfare of Hondurans.
"That is why, proud, satisfied and humble, I ask my fellow Hondurans to lend me your votes and I'll pay you back with your country."
Clinics of rights prez bombed
Two medical laboratories in San Pedro Sula owned by human rights activist Dr. Ramón Custodio López were bombed Saturday evening (Oct. 12). According to the daily La Prensa, the explosions at the laboratories in Barrio Santa Ana and Barrio El Centro caused only moderate damages. No injuries were reported. Surprisingly, it took law enforcement officials almost four hours to arrive at the scenes of the crimes, even though the laboratory in Barrio Santa Ana is close to the regional offices of the Department of Criminal Investigation (DIC).
Custodio, president of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (CODEH), blamed the bombings on the same persons who placed an explosive device at the National Congress two weeks ago and threw a bomb at President Reina's home last March. Prior to Saturday's bombings, Custodio said in reports to the press that the persons behind the terrorist attacks had connections with the Honduran military.
|Saturday, October 12, 1996|
WEEK IN REVIEW
Appeals court annuls sentence in Riccy case
The First Appellate Court of Tegucigalpa last week overturned a lower court verdict that sentenced Col. Angel Castillo Maradiaga to 16½ years in prison for raping and murdering 18-year-old Riccy Mabel Martínez Sevilla in July 1991. The daily La Tribuna reported that the Court, headed by Israel Rodríguez Turcios, has sent the case back to the Second Criminal Court, which now must make a new ruling. No reasons for the Appellate Court's decision were given.
Castillo, who heard about the ruling from his bed at the Discua Military Hospital at Las Tapias, where he is recovering from a nose operation, asked for justice once and for all, claiming that he has been in prison the last five years for a crime he didn't commit. Moreover, he added that former Armed Forces Chief Gen. Luis Alonso Discua knows who killed the coed from reports made by the military on the case.
Also serving time for the crime is Sgt. Santos Eusebio Ilovarez Fúnez, who says that six high-ranking officials -- including Discua -- forced him to admit guilt.
Earthquake felt in the Bay Islands
Startled Bay Islands residents last weekend reported a moderate earthquake, making several phone calls to Radio America. According to La Tribuna, Islanders said the quake, which occurred Saturday (Oct. 5) at 1:38 a.m. and lasted about 10 seconds, was strong enough to knock objects to the ground. However, no injuries or serious damage were reported. The earthquake's intensity was not measured because the nation's only seismograph, located at the National Autonomous University (UNAH), is out of order.
Bomb shakes National Congress
After a day off from work and a full schedule of National Soldiers' Day events, Hondurans went to bed on Oct. 3 only to be rattled from their sleep just after midnight by a bomb at the National Congress.
Security guards say they had just finished the first of several nightly rounds to ensure that all was well at the congressional assembly hall in downtown Tegucigalpa when a bomb was thrown from a passing car, exploding and injuring three guards.
While police and anti-bomb squads combed the National Congress building and surrounding neighborhoods, looking for additional explosives and calming frightened residents, word came from the headquarters of the Liberal Party Central Committee that a second bomb had been launched there just after 1:00 a.m.
The second bomb did not explode, however.
NOT THE FIRST
These were the latest in a recent string of bombings in Honduras, which includes the detonation of a grenade last year at the inauguration of a San Pedro Sula shopping center where President Reina was scheduled to speak, as well as bombings of the homes of government officials.
So far, no one has been killed in the wave of attacks. Nor has anyone been arrested.
Ramon Custodio, president of the Honduran Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CODEH) said in a La Tribuna report Saturday (Oct. 5) that he suspects members of the military or personal security guards are behind the bombings.
"Public security has become a highly sensitive political issue for the people of Central America," he said. "What we have here is public insecurity. Private security organizations have set up a highly profitable business, making Lps. 44 million in profits in the last year."
The more frightened people are of their own safety, the more they'll be willing to pay security guards to protect them, says Custodio.
The bomb that shook the National Congress packed five pounds of TNT and was U.S.-made, according to anti-bomb squad reports. It left a pit measuring 18 inches across and 11 inches deep in the cement plaza in front of the legislative building. It also damaged first- and second-floor windows at the National Congress, the Central Bank of Honduras, which is right across the street, and a nearby branch of the FICENSA Bank.
Experts say the bomb that was thrown at Liberal Party headquarters was of similar size and make, but failed to explode because it was damaged when it hit the ground.
A Liberal Party headquarters guard told police he saw the bomb being thrown from a red Toyota sedan. Witnesses placed a similar car near the National Congress right before the bombing there.
Although police arrested two "suspicious looking" men found running away from the National Congress soon after the first bombing, both were later released. There are currently no suspects in custody.
No political or terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
|Deputy calls for expulsion
of Casa Alianza officials
"Pernicious foreigners," such as Casa Alianza Executive Director for Latin America Bruce Harris, should be expelled from Honduras, said Congressional Deputy Carlos Sosa Coello in an El Heraldo report. Last week, Casa Alianza (Covenant House) denounced that several minors imprisoned with adults in the San Pedro Sula penitentiary were raped and tortured by adult males. A Casa Alianza counselor has escorted one rape victim to Washington, D.C., where he will testify before the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights.
Following the accusations, controversial judge Elizabeth Gatica Michell and Ana Lourdes Coello visited the prison to obtain firsthand testimony, but the youths refused to talk with authorities, the daily La Tribuna reported. Gatica, who has been seriously questioned by Casa Alianza for permitting the encarceration of minors in adult jails, said the organization violated the new Children's Code by revealing the victim's names, which could result in a fine ranging from Lps. 5,000 to Lps. 50,000.
Casa Alianza has been demanding that all minors in adult jails be moved immediately to a youth detention center.
|October 5, 1996|
"...stop this persecution, this campaign to discredit and defame as a means of political combat"
- National Party Central Committee (CCPN)
Nationalists accuse Reina of interfering
in party affairs
By BLANCA MORENO
Although the National
Party Central Committee (CCPN) originally disqualified
Fonseca, arguing that he had not been an active member of
the party long enough to merit a presidential candidacy,
the Supreme Court ruled in early September that Fonseca's
disqualification was unconstitutional.
National Party leaders say
the ruling is part of a scheme launched by President
Reina to defame the Nationalists, the Liberal Party's
primary rival. They also accuse the Supreme Court of
interfering in internal party affairs.
In an official communique
released after this week's special session, the CCPN
demands that President Reina, "stop this
persecution, this campaign to discredit and defame as a
means of political combat" and urges the President
to "invest greater effort into the 16 months he is
lucky to have remaining [in office] and to remedy the
ills that his ineffective administration has caused the
The document, which bears
the signatures of Nationalist presidential candidates
Oswaldo Ramos Soto, Elias Asfura, Roberto Martinez Lozano
and Nora de Melgar, also suggests that President Reina
stop inflation, rising gas prices, the shortage of basic
grains and the spiraling price of electricity, water and
"The Supreme Court
ruling in favor of René Fonseca is unconstitutional,
abhorrent and interventionist," and, " violates
in a vulgar manner the national judicial order and the
glory of our political institution," concludes the
1. to suspend National
Party participation in the National Convergence Council
2. to support no further
reforms to the Constitution as long as the Liberal Party
continues to intervene in National Party affairs;
3. and to take legal
action to ensure that the courts respect the Constitution
as well as the laws and statutes of the National Party in
their decision on the matter.
Former President Rafael
Leonardo Callejas, himself under scrutiny in recent weeks
for the illegal transfer of government petroleum funds to
a private account, said this week that this is not the
first time the Nationalists have faced interventionism.
It happened in 1924 and
1928 with Gen. Tiburcio Carias Andino and again in 1932
with Esteban Martinez, he said.
"And that's how it
was in the '50s and '60s when for internal reasons the
National Party suffered intervention to prevent the
victory of Ricardo Zuniga Agustinus," he said.
Jorge Arturo Reina, brother to the President and head of the Liberal Party Central Executive Council, denied that Reina or any other Liberal had anything to do with the Supreme Court ruling and said President Reina is prepared to defend himself against these attacks.
that the armies of El Salvador and Honduras will begin to
rearm using defense of national sovereignty as a pretext.
The situation is degenerating and we have to
- Commission for the Defense of Human Rights in Central America (CODEHUCA)
|War between Honduras, El
Border problems between Honduras and El Salvador could lead to armed hostilities, warned the Commission for the Defense of Human Rights in Central America (CODEHUCA) on in a La Prensa report. "The military could provoke a conflict," said CODEHUCA official Daniel Camacho during a press conference on Tuesday (Oct. 1). "We fear that the armies of El Salvador and Honduras will begin to rearm using defense of national sovereignty as a pretext. The situation is degenerating and we have to intervene," he added.
|Russian legislators meet with
Legislators from Russia on Thursday (Sept. 26) met with President Reina at the Casa Presidencial to exchange ideas and to discuss trade relations, the daily El Heraldo reported. However, local reporters were more interested in questioning Vladimir Platonov, president of the Russian legislature, about the possible declassification of documents on Russia's participation in covert activities in Honduras during the cold war. He added that Russian President Boris Yeltsin will officially invite Reina to visit Moscow sometime after he undergoes heart surgery.