Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1988

Honduras is a constitutional democracy with a government
composed of three separate and equal branches, the executive,
the legislative, and the judicial. During 1988 increased
social tension placed great demands on the country's still
developing democratic institutions. Political parties
conducted nationwide internal party and primary elections.
Despite deeply rooted partisanship and the approach
of the 1989 general election, there was remarkably little
violence generated by political competition. The historically
dominant military institution demonstrated continued support
for civilian rule.
Internal defense is the responsibility of the Armed Forces,
which includes the public security forces. The Armed Forces
is under the direct command of the Chief of the Armed Forces
and is responsible to the President of the Republic and
operates under full civilian control.
Honduras is a poor and underdeveloped country: unemployment
is about 10 percent, and underemployment is considerably
higher; about half of the adult population is illiterate; and
annual per capita income is slightly less than $800. Honduras
achieved an increase in real per capita income in 1987 for the
first time in almost a decade. The officially announced rate
of inflation in 1987 was 2.5 percent, but is expected to be
higher in 1988. Honduras continues to face serious fiscal and
balance of payments deficits that threaten the stability of
the economy.
In 1988 there were increased levels of criminal violence,
exacerbated in part by a growth in urban slum areas. Members
of the security forces in several cases appear to have been
linked to extrajudicial killings and violence. There was also
an upsurge in violence attributable to leftwing subversive or
guerrilla organizations, including a number of attempted
bombings, three assassinations, and an attack on U.S. military
personnel. The Peace Corps headquarters in Tegucigalpa was
bombed in December, fortunately causing no injuries. Although
there was concern over a new private anti-Communist
organization formed in early 1988, the goal of which appeared
to be the public identification of persons it labeled
Communist, that organization has thus far not been associated
with violence against any of the persons so labeled.
Most of the human rights abuses committed by the public
security forces (FUSEP) involved the use of excess force
against prisoners and detainees. The security forces were
criticized for their reluctance to publicize proceedings
against members charged with abuses. Although the police
dishonorably discharged a number of agents in 1988 for abuses
of authority, the failure to provide details on the types of
abuses involved or the action taken in particularly
controversial cases detracted from the overall effort by the
security forces to demonstrate concern for human rights.
A number of constitutional rights were partially suspended for
15 days following a violent attack on the U.S. Embassy on
April 7 and related disorders elsewhere in Tegucigalpa and San
Pedro Sula. The suspension affected freedom from incommunicado
detention, freedom of association and assembly, freedom of
movement, freedom from arrest or detention without judicial
order, and the right to bail. Also, on April 8, all private
radio and television broadcasts were suspended for
approximately 36 hours, reflecting the authorities' concern
that public disorders were being incited by the media. The
latter measure was particularly controversial and criticized
as both unnecessary and unjust. The print media were not
affected by the suspension.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
      a. Political Killing
Despite charges by some groups of government involvement in
killings alleged to be politically motivated, no evidence that
supports these assertions was provided. One assassination in
January 1988, apparently carried out by elements of the
radical left, involved a senior inspector of the National
Department of Investigation (DNI), Jose Isaias Vilorio
Barahona, who was shot at a Tegucigalpa bus stop on January
5. Vilorio's body was draped with the banner of the Popular
Liberation Movement (Cinchoneros) , and a communique
subsequently received by the media stated that this group was
responsible for the attack. Leftist organizations, however,
charged the Armed Forces with responsibility on the theory
that Vilorio, scheduled to appear at the Inter-American Court
of Human Rights (lACHR) in a case against Honduras, was a
threat to the Honduran military. Vilorio was a 20-year
military veteran whose testimony had been expressly authorized
by the Armed Forces and who had publicly voiced satisfaction
at the opportunity to defend his institution and country. His
testimony was expected to exonerate Honduras. The murder of
Vilorio, who had been accused of involvement in the
disappearances of radical leftists and guerrillas in the early
1980's, resembled that of another victim of guerrilla
assassination several years earlier who had been the subject
of similar accusations.
A double assassination on January 14 claimed the lives of
Miguel Angel Pavon, the head of a regional branch of the
nongovernmental Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in
Honduras (CODEH) and a friend, Moises Landaverde. Pavon had
testified against Honduras in the lACHR in 1987. The two were
shot and killed by one or two unidentified men while sitting
in a parked car. The investigation remains open, and there
have been no announced leads to the identity of those
responsible. Some human rights activists claim Pavon was a
target of government vengeance for his testimony; other
observers assert that private motivations, including intra-
CODEH rivalry, were involved. In October Hector Vasquez, an
associate of Pavon and former legal advisor to CODEH, publicly
accused CODEH president Ramon Custodio of complicity in Pavon'
death. (Vasquez was ousted in June 1988 after denouncing
Custodio for misuse of CODEH funds.)
A political motive may have been a factor in other killings.
One instance involved Marco Tulio Perdomo, who in May 1988 was
shot and killed in his home in La Entrada, Department of Copan.
According to press reports, the family had been falsely accused
by personal enemies of involvement in subversive activities.
The result was a raid on the home by elements of the Armed
Forces during which Perdomo was killed. Although admitting
that they had opened fire when the residence was attacked, the
family claims that Perdomo was deliberately murdered after
being handcuffed.
During 1988 the press reported a number of cases in which
members of the security forces apparently were responsible for
the deaths of persons either in violent quarrels or for
personal motives. In many instances, the accused parties were
arrested and bound over for trial. As the military typically
does not comment on such matters, it is unknown what further
action, if any, has been taken in those cases. One highly
publicized case of personally motivated killing remains
unresolved. The case involved Jorge Andres Sanchez Sanchez,
who reportedly murdered a relative of a member of the Armed
Forces in a brawl and was immediately detained by the police.
His body, with various stab wounds, was later discovered
outside of Tegucigalpa. No known action has been taken
against those involved in the arrest.
In 1988 there were two known cases of probable serious abuse
that resulted in death. Soldier Jose Lito Aguilera Cordova,
an alleged deserter from the Special Forces, reportedly was
arrested and held for interrogation, possibly on suspicion of
subversion. The family and press agree that he died as a
result of trauma induced by severe beating. An investigation
was ordered by the Armed Forces, and a case opened in the
military tribunal, but no findings have been published.
In another case, Juan Angel Bautista was arrested and jailed
on February 18. He was reported the following morning to have
committed suicide in his cell by having submerged his head in
a toilet. However, his family charged that his body showed
signs of beating and strangulation.
In most instances in which members of the Armed Forces have
been involved in questionable killings, the military has
refused to comment on its disciplinary procedures.
There was an apparent increase in 1988 in the number of
victims (often unidentified) of violent killings by unknown
persons. As of late December, 174 such cases had been
reported in the press. Of the 174, 60 cadavers were never
identified, and 17 were identified in the press as known
repeat criminal offenders. In eight cases, the press reported
that the victims had been detained shortly before their deaths
by members of the police force, charges denied by the police.
The police have been openly and sharply critical of the
frequency with which the judicial system has released those
widely acknowledged to be criminals. According to police
statistics, of 9,695 "known" criminal offenders turned over to
the courts between January and September, 5,565 were released.
The general public has also expressed concern over violent
crime in periodic calls for the security forces to take "more
stringent" anticrime measures.
In response to concerns over possible involvement of the
authorities in killings of criminals, the National Congress on
September 13 passed a resolution calling for an
investigation. FUSE? Commander Colonel Riera Lunatti followed
with his own order for an investigation into the killings. He
did not rule out the possibility that individual agents had
exceeded their authority and promised to take punitive
measures against any agents found to have been involved. No
results of this investigation had been announced by year's end.
Similarly, no results were announced of the judicial inquiry
into the cases of Juan Angel Caballero and Roberto Ortiz,
whose deaths at the hands of the police in September 1987
generated considerable controversy.
One factor which in 1988 complicated efforts to determine the
incidence of serious abuses by the security forces was the use
by common criminals of military/police uniforms and
identification in the commission of crimes. Towards the end
of the year, the number of such crimes increased noticeably,
including major robberies and the seizure of weapons from
private guards. A number of arrests of such criminals were
made during the year. In some instances, those involved in
such activities turned out to be ex-members of the military or
security forces, many dishonorably discharged for abuses
committed while in service.
      b. Disappearance
There was one allegation in 1988 of a politically motivated
disappearance charged to the authorities. Roger Samuel
Gonzalez, suspected of involvement in the attack on the U.S.
Embassy annex on April 7, disappeared from downtown
Tegucigalpa nearly 2 weeks after the incident. According to
witnesses, Gonzalez was forced into a car by two men and a
woman, all dressed in civilian clothing, after which he never
reappeared. Friends and family charged that Gonzalez was
abducted by members of the security forces. Shortly after
Gonzalez' disapppearance, an Armed Forces spokesman stated
publicly that the youth had been detained by the National
Department of Investigations (DNI). The spokesman later
retracted the statement, explaining that he had assumed that
Gonzalez was one of 14 youths arrested for their part in the
April 7 riot. (All 14 youths were released in June.) The
Armed Forces subsequently denied that Gonzalez was taken into
custody. The Court accepted six writs of habeas corpus on
Gonzalez' behalf, and detention facilities were opened to
inspection to no avail. The Armed Forces suggested that
Gonzalez fled the country clandestinely; critics insist that
Gonzalez was detained and killed. The case has yet to be
The security forces' illegal practice of incommunicado
detention led to a number of inaccurate charges of
disappearance. One such case involved convicted thief German
Hernaldo Castellanos, who was detained by security forces in
late 1987. In January 1988, CODEH charged that Castellanos
had been captured and murdered by the authorities. The
security forces claimed that Castellanos had escaped from
detention, and began a search which eventually located him in
Catacaraas, Olancho, where he had taken up with a band of
Several disappearances and kidnapings have been charged to
members of Nicaragua's Sandinista Popular Army (EPS) operating
in Honduran territory, including that of a Honduran farmer,
Pablo Landero Cerrato, in February and two Honduran farmers,
aged 46 and 17, in August. Their whereabouts are unknown. In
June two Honduran soldiers, Alberto Moncada Miranda and
Gustavo Adolfo Calix Romero Miranda, were seized by an EPS
element and imprisoned in Nicaragua. Despite efforts by the
Honduran authorities to obtain their release, the Sandinista
regime agreed to free only one, claiming the other was a
Nicaraguan. The offer was refused by the Honduran
authorities, and the two remain prisoners in Nicaragua.
The lACHR in a July 29 decision, ruled that government agents
were responsible for the disappearance of Manfredo Velasquez
Rodriguez in September 1981. The Government denies complicity
but has accepted the Court's decision and agreed to pay
compensation. (See Section 4.)
      c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The use of torture is prohibited by, the Constitution. In June
1988, FUSE? officially adopted a United Nations-approved code
of conduct for law enforcement agencies which prohibits
torture and commits the police force to actively oppose
violations by individual agents. Despite this policy and the
expressed will to eliminate the practice and punish offenders,
abuse of prisoners and detainees continues to be common. By
far the most routine form of abuse is physical beating,
occasionally severe. In several 1988 cases, detainees charged
that they were subjected to electric shock; others claimed to
have had a hood placed on their heads during questioning. In
one case the son of a policeman was reportedly tortured by
having lighted cigarettes applied to his back, the results of
which were clearly visible in press photographs.
In a few cases of physical abuse, those responsible are known
to have been dishonorably discharged or arrested and charged.
The actual number of security agents punished for such abuse,
however, is unknown because information on most cases is not
made available by either the Armed Forces or FUSEP
In an effort to address the problem, FUSEP in 1989 will
initiate a human rights training program that will begin with
theoretical training provided to key officers at the
Inter-American Institute for Human Rights in San Jose, Costa
Rica. Using these officers as a core training cadre, a very
basic program in human rights will be developed, with U.S.
assistance, for incorporation into police basic training.
      d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile.
Under Honduran law, a person may be arrested only with
specific court authorization in the form of an order of arrest
and must be informed clearly of the grounds of arrest. The
suspect may be held no longer than 24 hours by security forces
before being turned over to the court, where evidence
supporting legal processing is reviewed. Within 6 days, the
court is obligated to order either the release of the detainee
or his remission to a penal center pending trial. Bail is
both available and widely used.
Despite these legal provisions, the police and other elements
of the security forces reportedly carried out a number of
detentions without judicial order in 1988, although reliable
statistics are not available. The police appear frequently to
violate the 24-hour rule, often holding detainees for
questioning for as long as 3 days, in some cases considerably
longer. The police publicly admit violations of the 24-hour
rule, but attempt to justify the practice on the grounds that
the limit is insufficient to allow the compilation of evidence
necessary to ensure a proper trial of the suspects. The
rationale is not accepted by the judiciary, but absent changes
in the law enforcement system--especially the upgrading of
investigative services--the pattern of violations is likely to
In several cases, detainees arrested for alleged common crimes
complained that they were questioned regarding possible
subversive affiliations or acts. In one highly publicized
case, an Argentine accused of murdering a police officer and
extorting Honduran physicians was held over a month and
allegedly beaten before being turned over to the court.
In a case in mid-October, seven men from near the southern
town of Choluteca were improperly detained during what the
Armed Forces originally stated was a recruitment drive and
were held incommunicado for several weeks. After allegations
of disappearances were made by family members and human rights
groups unaware of their whereabouts, the Armed Forces in
November acknowledged their detention on charges of
involvement in military espionage. The Government said that
the men will be tried for treason, specifically for spying on
behalf of Nicara.gua.
The prevailing pattern seems to be compliance with the writs
of habeas corpus. However, a common charge is that compliance"
with writs of habeas corpus is avoided by moving detainees
from one facility to another.
There have been no cases of forced exile. With regard to
forced or compulsory labor, see Section 6.c.
      e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
All trials in Honduras are public; there are neither secret
tribunals nor political prisoners. The law provides for the
equal application of justice and the fair trial of accused
persons. Persons accused of a crime have the right to an
initial hearing by a judge to assess the merits of the
charges, to bail, and to an attorney--provided by the State if
necessary. The defendant also has the right to an appeal and
is considered innocent until proven guilty.
Despite the comprehensiveness of the law in the matter of fair
trial, in practice these rights are often infringed. One
serious inequity of the judiciary is the absence of a public
defender system to handle the cases of the many indigent
persons accused of violations of the law, most of whom
consequently fail to receive a timely hearing and sentence.
The Government failed to provide the funding to implement its
official order in late 1987 that the courts provide
state-hired attorneys for the poor. Instead, private
organizations tried to meet the demand by volunteering their
own legal services for the indigent. The National Autonomous
University of Honduras (UNAH) already had a program in place
in Tegucigalpa, and at the start of 1988 the Private
University of San Pedro Sula inaugurated its own program in
the country 'o second-largest city. The Catholic Church in
1988 announced a program to provide to the poor the services
of three attorneys in each diocese.
In July the Government announced that 15 percent of those held
in the nation's penal centers had been sentenced (only a
slight improvement over the 12 percent figure cited in July
1987), 10 percent are in process, and 75 percent are awaiting
trial. Part of the problem lies with the courts, which
continue to face a backlog because of personnel shortages.
The lack of a judicial investigative system to assist in and
expedite decisions has also contributed to the backlog,
according to judges.
Detentions pending trial are often long-term; in one
publicized case, a man accused of petty theft was still in
prison in mid-1988, 8 years after being turned over for
processing. The Ministry of Government has announced that it
will contract a number of attorneys at the start of 1989 to
assist judges in moving long-delayed cases through the system.
Despite the constitutional provision for a judiciary equal to,
and independent of, the other branches of government and the
Supreme Court's efforts to appoint lower court judges
impartially, politics plays a large role in the functioning of
the judiciary. Political influence, as well as corruption, is
generally acknowledged to be prevalent in the lower courts,
where judges have no tenure. Various charges of improper
influence on decisions surfaced during 1988. In one
controversial matter, a judge in the Tela (north coast)
criminal court was removed by the Supreme Court on grounds
that he was violating jurisdiction by trying virtually all of
the country's drug-trafficking cases in his court, with the
support of the Armed Forces. The judge defended his position
by noting that no other court was handing down convictions
against the accused.
Efforts are under way to address the weaknesses of the
judiciary. In 1988 a career judicial system was initiated
under which 10 percent of new justices of the peace will be
selected on a competitive merit basis. Unlike their
colleagues, those selected in this program are to enjoy
unlimited tenure, being subject to removal only with due
cause. A judicial board will be established to review
dismissals for merit and assess charges of judicial
misconduct. A "judicial college" is being established to
train judges. The judiciary is considering the limited
adoption, in criminal cases, of the jury-trial system, as well
as the establishment of a judicial police as an investigative
arm of the courts, gathering evidence for cases before the
      f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Government respects the constitutionally protected rights
to personal and family privacy and the inviolability of the
home and private communications. Telephonic and written
correspondence is generally free from monitoring although, as
provided for by law, official review of such communications
may be authorized by judicial order for specific purposes,
such as criminal investigations or national security.
Similarly, private homes may be searched only on the basis of
a judicial order, with the exception of "urgent cases" in
order to "impede the commission of crimes or avoid grave harm
to persons or property." There were no known violations of
these rights during 1988.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and press,
rights that are vigorously exercised in Honduras. Political
opinions ranging from far left to far right are freely
expressed in print media reporting, editorials, and letters
from the public, and in television and radio broadcasting.
All of the electronic communications media (there are over 100
radio and 4 television stations) are privately owned, as are
the print media. Criticism, frequently harsh, of the
Government and the Armed Forces is routine. Despite
occasional sharp exchanges between the media and government
officials, there were no known efforts by the authorities to
take reprisals against the media for the expression of opinion.
Following the April 7 rioting, the Government announced a
15-day state of emergency and suspended radio and television
broadcasting for approximately 36 hours. The Government cited
as justification an assertion that the media had incited the
listening audience to public disorder, a charge heatedly
denied by owners of the broadcast systems. The suspension was
harshly criticized as unnecessary, unjust, and an abuse of
The Government and the Armed Forces respect academic freedom.
Academic and political organizations abound in the University
and secondary schools. Many are well to the left of center
politically or affiliated with radical left groups.
      b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The right to peaceful assembly for political, religious, or
other purposes is clearly spelled out in the Constitution. No
prior authorization or permit is necessary for such assembly,
although large outdoor gatherings in public places may require
a permit for "the sole purpose of guaranteeing public order."
Peaceful assembly was prohibited during the 15-day state of
emergency following the April 7 riot, and only in the two
major cities of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula where the major
disorders had occurred. Following the lifting of the
prohibitions, antigovernment and other demonstrations were
carried out on a relatively routine basis without impediment.
For a discussion of freedom of association as it applies to
labor unions, see Section 6. a.
      c. Freedom of Religion
Predominantly Roman Catholic, Honduras has no state religion.
All forms of religious expression are constitutionally
protected, and foreign missionaries operate in many parts of
the country. The Constitution contains an express provision
that no minister of any religion may hold public office or
engage in political propaganda based on religious motives or
There is no attempt to control or impede the free expression
and proselytization of religious beliefs in Honduras, but the
clergy is not immune from deportation, detention, or
prosecution for secular offenses. In 1988 two U.S. citizen
priests were deported because of suspected involvement with
subversive or guerrilla organizations, while a third, deported
in 1980, was allowed to return to Honduras.
      d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Hondurans are normally unimpeded in entry to or exit from
Honduras and also travel freely within the national borders.
In locations near the border with El Salvador, security
concerns related to the movements of Salvadoran guerrillas
have led to the imposition of a 9 p.m. curfew. There are no
permanent travel restrictions for Hondurans or resident
foreigners, although national security concerns have led to
increased police checks for personal identification.
Exit visas are required to leave Honduras and constitute a
form of control over international travel. They are nearly
always granted without dispute unless the applicant is wanted
in connection with a crime.
Hondurans returning from Communist or Arab nations may be
questioned at length about their travels, and any Honduran
found to be involved with terrorist groups abroad is subject
to prosecution. Citizens of all Communist and most Arab
nations need special permission to enter Honduras.
Honduras has been generous in offering asylum to refugees.
During 1988 there were relatively few additions to the
officially documented refugee population newly arrived from
neighboring countries. Additions to the refugee camps under
the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR) continued to come from persons who had ^ ^
entered Honduras in previous years. Approximately 3,000
Miskito Indians moved from their homes along the Nicaraguan
border into UNHCR settlements; approximately 2,300 Ladino
Nicaraguans moved from southern Honduras into the UNHCR camp
at Las Vegas.
By the end of the year, an undetermined but significant number
of refugees from Nicaragua had entered Honduras, including
relatives of Nicaraguan resistance combatants. Other
Nicaraguan civilians living in the areas of resistance
operations also fled as Sandinista security forces intensified
punitive measures against those considered sympathetic to. the
antiregime forces.
There are now 13,300 Salvadorans, 430 Guatemalans, 13,500
Nicaraguan Ladinos, and 9,600 Nicaraguan Indians in refugee
camps managed by the UNHCR. Local press reports place the
total number of unregistered Nicaraguans as high as 200,000,
but refugee experts estimated the number at 70,000 prior to
the most recent influx.
There was continued voluntary rep'atriation in 1988. Nearly
8,000 Nicaraguan Indians repatriated, as did 250 Nicaraguan
Ladinos. In addition to the mass repatriations to El Salvador
of 1,200 Salvadoran refugees on August 14 and 750 more on
November 5, 450 other Salvadorans took advantage of individual
voluntary repatriation from the three Salvadoran refugee camps.
Serious protection problems continued in the Salvadoran
refugee camps. Credible sources report that refugee
coordinators (themselves Salvadoran) linked to the Salvadoran
antigovernment insurgents continue to engage in forced
recruitment and kidnaping of youths for the Faribundo Marti
National Liberation Front (FMLN) . They are reported to use
their control over the distribution of food and clothing to
discourage voluntary repatriation. In May two repatriating
refugees were forcibly held for several weeks by the
coordinators in San Antonio, during which time they were
reportedly beaten, drugged, and forced to recant their desire
to repatriate. One man escaped and the other was subsequently
released; both men eventually repatriated to El Salvador. In
July a mob organized by refugee leaders attempted to lynch a
refugee accused of being "antisocial." One refugee
coordinator was knifed and bled to death. The crowd then
attacked the family of the intended victim. The timely
intervention of UNHCR officials and doctors from Medicin Sans
Frontieres (MSF) prevented further fatalities, although three
of the family members were hospitalized for several weeks.
The President of MSF announced November 15 that the group,
which had maintained a 20-man mission in the camps for 8
years, had decided to withdraw by the end of 1988 owing to the
repressive influence of the coordinators. An Agence France
Presse report on December 1 compared the camps to
"concentration camps" for the same reason.
There have been two instances in which Salvadoran refugees
were killed by the Honduran military patroling the perimeter
of the camps. In both cases the men were reportedly outside
the camps at the time they were shot and in both cases the
Honduran military charged they were engaged in subversive
activity. A third Salvadoran was shot while working in the
corn fields of Mesa Grande by a Honduran soldier outside the
There has been one report of rape and several reports of
harassment by Honduran military personnel who patrol the
environs of the Nicaraguan Ladino camp at Jacaleapa. Honduran
immigration authorities have summarily deported or expelled
four refugees from the Jacaleapa camp. Unconfirmed, but
credible reports indicate that expulsion and deportation of
Nicaraguans is a common practice in the department of
Choluteca, where a large number of undocumented Nicaraguans
reside. Some deported Nicaraguans were alleged to have been
long-term residents.
There was a report that 22 Nicaraguan Miskitos living in the
border village of Sauvin were detained by the Honduran Army in
April. According to the report, the detainees were held
incommunicado, interrogated, and physically abused. After 7
days, 17 of those detained were released. The whereabouts of
the other 5 remained unknown at year's end.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Honduras is a constitutional democracy with a republican
system of government composed of three equal and separate
branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary.
National and municipal governments are chosen by free, secret,
direct, and obligatory balloting every 4 years. A president
may serve only one term; any vice president (there are three)
who serves, even on an interim basis, as acting president is
prohibited from running for the office of president. All
Honduran-born citizens have the right to hold office (if they
meet minimum age requirements), except for members of the
clergy and the Armed Forces.
Women enjoy full rights to participate in politics and
government, but few hold senior legislative or executive
Electoral reforms in 1986 provided for mandatory elections of
internal party officers and primary elections for the selection
of candidates for public office. By the end of 1988, three of
the four parties had complied with the internal elections
requirement. The two major parties also participated in the
country's first national primary election on December 4 in
which candidates for the presidency, the vice presidency, the
Congress, and municipal government office were selected.
The National and Liberal parties between them received 94
percent of the vote in the last election. The two other
parties, both left of center in orientation, are the National
Innovation and Unity-Social Democratic Party and the Christian
Democratic Party. In order for a new party to obtain legal
status, its organizers must present a petition of 10,000
signatures of members. If a party fails to gain that same
minimum number of votes in any election in which it
participates, it loses legal status.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Government cooperates with local and international human
rights organizations, and the President frequently meets with
delegations of human rights activists from abroad. The
governmental Inter-Institutional Commission on Human Rights
handles both domestic and international inquiries concerning
human -rights . It also receives visitors interested in the
human rights situation in Honduras. The Commission has
expressed an interest in expanding its operations to include
at least one regional office and several investigators.
The Government agreed to participate as defendant at the lACHR
in San Jose, Costa Rica, in that organization's first trial of
a state for alleged disappearances. The disappearances
involved in the case took place in 1981-84. Despite
widespread popular resentment of the process, considered to be
an unfair singling out of Honduras, the Government presented
its defense and accepted the verdict handed down in July 1988
in one of three cases before the Court. The Government is
currently considering the most appropriate form of
indemnification to the family, as ordered by the Court.
The communications media affords ample opportunity to critics
of Honduras' human rights record to express their opinions and
air charges. The most well-known of the nongovernmental
organizations is the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights
in Honduras (CODEH) and its Central American-wide affiliate,
CODEHUCA. Despite a number of genuine efforts on behalf of
human rights, CODEH ' s charges frequently have been exaggerated
and ill-documented, and in some cases false. Many observers
in Honduras consider the group to be highly politicized and
affiliated with leftist groups and causes. CODEH ' s reputation
for impartiality and veracity was further questioned in 1988
when it charged that Honduran security forces in 1987 had
carried out 107 "extrajudicial executions." A U.S. Embassy
review of the accusations, based on the sources of information
cited by CODEH, concluded that among the cases labeled as
extrajudicial executions were traffic accidents, murders by
foreigners and civilians, and various killings committed by
individual members of the Armed Forces for personal motives or
in self-defense. Of the 100 cases reviewed, 11 did appear to
be extrajudicial killings. CODEH has charged that Honduran
security forces carried out 133 extrajudicial
apart from questionable deaths of repeat violent
criminal of f enders--in the first 9 months of 1988, but it has
failed to provide substantiating information.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution expressly prohibits discrimination on the
basis of sex, race, class, or any other basis. Education is
equally available to both males and females, but in practice
because of strongly-held cultural values and attitudes, women
are limited in some careers, and average earnings for females
are significantly lower than for males. There is, however, no
overt official discrimination. Ethnic minorities, while
enjoying full equality under the law, continue to be the
object of some social discrimination.
Section 6 Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
Workers are free to organize themselves into labor unions, and
many large enterprises have a unionized labor force. In
addition, associations of employers and other interest groups
are common. Retribution for trade union activity is uncommon.
The right to strike, along with a wide range of other basic
labor rights, is provided for by the Constitution and honored
in practice. Some strikes have been declared illegal because
of failure to observe an obligatory three-part mediation
procedure before striking or because of impact on the
provision of vital services. In the case of workers involved
in the latter category. Ministry of Labor-supervised
negotiations provide some protection to workers' interests.
Under Honduran practice (but not law), if a strike is legal,
lost wages are often paid by management; if illegal, wages are
not paid.
The two democratic labor organizations have historically
avoided partisan political affiliations and focused their
influence more on economic than political issues. However,
individual democratic labor leaders were included on the
candidate lists for the 1989 elections, and were expected to
campaign while retaining their union positions. Since
politicians actively seek support from the rank and file of
the democratic federations, the latter have demonstrated
effective political influence, especially on labor-related
issues. The Unitary Federation of Honduran Workers (FUTH) is
actively involved in partisan political activities and pursues
an agenda closely paralleling that of other Marxist unions in
the region.
Honduras' trade union movement maintains close ties with
international trade union organizations. The largest union
group, with 160,000 members, is the Confederation of Honduran
Workers (CTH) ; it is an affiliate of the International
Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). The second
largest, the General Workers Central (CGT) , claims 135,000
members; it is affiliated with the World Confederation of
Labor. FUTH is affiliated with the World Federation of Trade
Unions (WFTU) . The three labor organizations claim to
represent about 20 percent of all Honduran workers, including
a substantial number of peasants and rural laborers.
Honduras has cooperated with the International Labor
Organization in several pending cases. It has also responded
to inquiries made by the ICFTU.
      b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The right to organize and to bargain collectively is protected
by law and observed in practice. The prevalence of unionized
labor in the workplace and its political influence acts as a
further guarantee against antiunion discrimination or
Chapter V of the Honduran Constitution spells out in detail
the rights of workers, further delineated in legislation.
Those rights and guarantees are jealously guarded by the
powerful union movement which is not hesitant to make use of
the legal system to enforce observance.
The free trade zones are governed by the same labor
regulations as the rest of private industry. Employment
conditions in the export processing zones are considered
superior to the national average.
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
There is no forced or compulsory labor in Honduras; such
practices are prohibited by law and by the Constitution.
      d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The Constitution and the labor code prohibit the employment of
children under the age of 16. The Government has inspectors
to ensure that childen are not employed by industry at night
or under hazardous conditions. Violations of the labor code
may occur in rural areas or in small companies. Rampant
unemployment and underemployment has resulted in many children
supplementing the family income by working in small family
farm plots or as street vendors. The Government does not
enforce child labor laws in these situations.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The Constitution and the labor code require that all labor be
fairly paid; minimum wages, working hours, vacations, and
occupational safety are all regulated by law. The daily
minimum wage varies by occupation, ranging from $2.30 to $3.55
per day. This minimum wage does not provide a decent standard
of living, and many households must pool family members'
salaries to survive. A commission has been formed to assess
the minimum wage, which has remained the same since 1980.
The standard work day is 8 hours; a standard week is 44
hours. Although the labor code provides for a paid vacation
of 10 workdays after 1 year and 20 workdays after 4 years, the
regulations are frequently ignored in practice as a result of
the high level of underemployment