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Honduras: News & Updates

Honduras did not experience civil war in the 1980s, but its geography (bordering El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua) made it a key location for US military operations: training Salvadoran soldiers, a base for Nicaraguan contras, military exercises for US troops. The notorious Honduran death squad Battalion 316 was created, funded and trained by the US. The state-sponsored terror resulted in the forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of approximately 200 people during the 1980s. Many more were abducted and tortured. The 2009 military coup d’etat spawned a resurgence of state repression against the civilian population that continues today.

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News Article

In 2009 Honduras saw a violent military coup, overthrowing the then president Manuel Zelaya. With this coup a new system to generate foreign investment was established. The new president and Congress came forward with a law which would allow the creation of so called "Zones for Employment and Economic Development" (ZEDE). ZEDE's are near-tax-free areas within Honduras, governed by private corporations. 

The first attempt to create these ZEDE's was blocked by the Honduran Supreme Court, but this didn't stop the political actuaries. First the Congress impeached the opposing Supreme Court judges, then engineered a new ZEDE law, working around regulations. 

The newly established ZEDE's operate comparable to so-called Charter Cities and are influenced by economic powerhouses like Hong Kong and Singapore. The self-governing corporate territories are known for providing barely any public services besides private police and military forces. Furthermore they:

  • trample rights of the Indigenous and Afro-Caribbean populations
  • force small farmers to sell their land 
  • put extra wight on surrounding communities providing schools, hospitals etc.
  • avoid usage of national currency by using crypto  
  • worsen tax evasion and drug trafficking
  • deny international labor and environmental regulations 
  • violate basic principles of democracy and undermining the national sovereignty

The problems with the ZEDE's are especially notable in Honduras' tax income. If the charter cities weren't shut down, Honduras would lose as much as half of its current sales taxes by 2025 and the equivalent of all of its current import taxes by 2026. 

So far the Honduran Congress has always worked in favor of the ZEDE's, for example toughening the punishment for blocking properties and businesses, making it easier for (private) police forces to repress protests. But the table has turned. With the election of the first opposition government since the coup in 2009, ZEDE's became a hot topic. In its electoral campaign the Liberty and Refoundation (Libre) party promised the elimination of the ZEDE's, a promise they acted on. Among the first laws passed by the new Congress was the outlawing of charter cities. 

To stop this long overdue step, supporters of the ZEDE's pointed out unproven benefits like,

  • helping in the fight against unemployment, a false statement. Since the establishing of the ZEDE's numbers of employment haven't changed. 
  • addressing corruption. An absurd claim remembering the fact, that the former director of the oversight board was secretary for the now jailed ex-president. Till today he still draws a salary, even after going into exile in Nicaragua to escape corruption and a drug trafficking investigation against him.
  • heading off the influence of China. In fact, China is the biggest investor into ZEDE's and already has a massive influence through the charter cities. 
  • pushing trade, investment and growth. The facts show a different picture. Since the introduction of the ZEDE's, the GDP trade percentage dropped in five of the eight years and is now lower than before. In the same time period, the foreign direct investment GDP percentage decreased every year except for 2018, and the GDP growth was below four percent in six of the eight years. 

Supporters additionally compare the ZEDE's to nearshoring in Central and South America, while concealing the fact that Honduras'  ZEDE profits have always lagged behind those of 8 other Latin American countries' nearshoring profits.

But the strongest opposition comes from the usual suspects. Members of the United States Congress are threatening Honduras with withdrawal of aid, forced restitution payments and a limitation of Honduras' share of the private Partnership for Central America investment plan, led by Vice President Kamala Harris. This would undermine the core intent of the plan, to invest to stem migration from Central America.

One thing is definite: the end to the ZEDE's is a necessary and long overdue step to secure labor, environmental and human rights. It is outrageous, though not surprising, that United States congresspersons make themselves accomplices to corporations oppressing the population and destroying a country physically, and politically as a means of profit generation.

We have to support Honduras in its struggle for a democratic future.    


News Article

On behalf of IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) members, we wrote six letters this month to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia, El Salvador, and Honduras, urging their swift action in response to human rights abuses occurring in their countries.  We join with civil society groups in Latin America to: (1) protect people living under threat, (2) demand investigations into human rights crimes, (3) bring human rights criminals to justice.

IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) volunteers write six letters in response to urgent human rights cases each month. We send copies of these letters to US ambassadors, embassy human rights officers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, regional representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and desk officers at the US State Department. To read the letters, see , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

News Article

Solidarity with STIBYS & all Honduran Pepsi Workers!


The Honduran Bottlers Union – STIBYS – has informed the Honduras Solidarity Network that Pepsi's bottler and distributor in Latin America is engaged in union busting. The Central America Bottling Corporation (CBC) is a company that has two PepsiCo executives on its board, and has exclusive rights to sell Pepsi products in Honduras and all Latin America. CBC’s Honduran subsidiary, La Reyna, has refused to sign a union contract for five years in which workers have had no raise.  La Reyna has stalled, postponed, and obstructed, and STIBYS has finally concluded that La Reyna does not want an agreement. They want to strip STIBYS of members through attrition by undercutting permanent union jobs with nonunion contract workers who La Reyna allows to sell Pepsi to stores cheaper than the price STIBYS members are permitted to offer.

The situation has become so concerning that the Latin America regional branch of the International Union of Food Workers has organized a campaign in support of STIBYS targeting CBC and PepsiCo.

Your support can stop La Reyna’s outsourcing and get them to negotiate a fair and just union contract with STIBYS!

News Article

Faced with the escalation of violence in the community of Guapinol in Tocoa municipality in Colón Department, Honduras, the Observatory for Justice for the Defenders of the Guapinol River have expanded their mandate. Originally formed to lead a campaing to “Free the Guapinol 8” (political prisoners), the Observatory, consisting of both domestic and international partners, is now calling for independent investigations and effective protection measures for community residents in Guapinol and for members of the Municipal Committee for the Defense of Public and Common Goods of Tocoa (CMDBCPT).

According to the Observatory, the Honduran government has neglected its obligation to protect the Montaña de Botaderos National Park “Carlos Escaleras.” That neglect has resulted in the recent assassination of two water and environmental defenders on January 12: Aly Domínguez and Jairo Bonilla. In recent weeks, the families of Guapinol have been the targets of slander campaigns on social media and in the press. This social stigmatization comes on top of the threats, criminalization, arbitrary detention and murders they have experienced since 2018. Why? Because they dared to organize publicy against the government’s carving out a slice of the national protected area in order to grant a concession to the mining company Inversiones Los Pinares (owned by the land baron family Facussé) to extract iron oxide. The large-scale industrial mine would contaminate the drinking water sources (two separate rivers) for thousands of families. Those in positions of power have the sole objective of silencing the voices of opposition.

The Observatory calls for an independent investigative entity to take into account the activities of both water defenders assassinated on January 12, as well as the Guapinol community as a whole and the CMDBCPT. The Observatory calls for establishling lines of investigation and hypotheses of the crimes, as required by regional and international human rights standards. The Observatory will also continue working on its original mandate so that the Honduran State complies with the resolution of the United Nations Working Group on arbitrary detention. This would require the government to make full reparations to the eight defenders of Guapinol who were arbitrarily detained for 914 days and ensure that this violation of their human rights is not repeated.

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Nina Lakhani covered in The Guardian the murder of Guapinol defenders Aly Domínguez and Jairo Bonilla.
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor condemned the murder and calls for an independent investigation.
ContraCorriente published an important investigation into the economic ties between Lenir Pérez and the State of Honduras. "Lenir Pérez, the businessman who owns the concessions in the Guapinol mine and the Palmerola airport, maintains his power intact despite the official discourse of President Xiomara Castro against these projects. Accused of benefiting from his relations with former president Juan Orlando Hernández to obtain irregular contracts and abuse the human rights of communities, Pérez could maintain privileged access to the new government through the legal work of Pamela Blanco Luque, partner and wife of Tomás Vaquero, Minister of Government, Justice and Decentralization."

News Article

"The state of emergency was implemented in Honduras under questioning and rejection by human rights defenders and other sectors of society, who asserted that the measure places the population in a situation of greater vulnerability. A recent report by the National Human Rights Commissioner (CONDAEH) states that approximately 60% of the police interventions reported as successful actions by the Security Secretariat took place in localities other than Tegucigalpa, Comayagüela and San Pedro Sula (...). The director of Conadeh's National Human Rights Observatory, Carlos Joaquín Méndez, in an interview with stated that they have found that police interventions do not require the suspension of guarantees or a measure as restrictive as the one currently in place in Honduras. In Méndez's opinion, there is an urgent need to implement structural measures in the country, to adopt a comprehensive approach strategy that involves public policies and not a state of exception, "this is an exceptional measure for exceptional situations", he revealed."

News Article

Expanding the State of Exception Smells of Danger and Is Associated with Possible Police Abuses.   Leticia Salomón, a sociologist and researcher, is of the opinion that suspending constitutional guarantees always smells of danger and is associated with the excesses that the police can commit when capturing alleged suspects of committing criminal actions and that result in human rights violations.

Mirna Flores, a violence and security researchers, issued a warning: “It must be taken into account that as the state of exception expands, it can be perpetuated, and strengthen an authoritarian culture, and we cannot continue emulating a system like the one in El Salvador, based on arrests and full jails,” he says. Flowers.

For Flores, it is necessary to counteract the “strong hand” discourse, and that the State implement comprehensive measures that give new opportunities to youth. "Criminal gangs must be forcefully attacked, but this is done institutionally, with a reliable and efficient police force, that is not corrupt and that earns the trust of the citizenry and with citizens that from the municipalities participate in the strategies of security.