San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Honduras to Investigate ‘Social Cleansing’

TEGUCIGALPA– Honduran authoritiesannounced this week they will investigatethe extra-judicial killings of more than50 alleged gang members in 2004 – a waveof violence that rights activists are calling“social cleansing.”Security Minister Oscar Alvarez saidTuesday that police are forming a specialteam to define the “profile of the crimes totry to determine if they represent a socialprophylaxis or revenge against criminalscommitted by family members of victims.”One of the theories police are workingwith is that families of victims of gang violenceare paying other criminals to executegang members after they are released byjudges or let out of jail. In other cases, thegang members were never arrested forcrimes committed.POLICE records show that 50 youths,most thought to belong to gangs calledmaras, have been killed this year in isolatedareas around the capital of Tegucigalpaand the northern city of San Pedro Sula.Most of the killings have occurred in thepast three months.The last incident occurred Sept. 11,when five members of a youth gangcalled “Los Rockeros” were killed by agroup of 10 other people, who boarded acity bus outside the capital and killed thegang members with gunshots to thehead.Police have detained the bus driver andfare collector for questioning. Authoritiessuspect the two may be the intellectualauthors of the murders as a reprisal for theso-called “war tax” that gangs chargebuses that pass through “their” neighborhoods.The “war tax” practice was implementedby the gangs Mara Salvatrucha (MS)and Mara 18 (M-18), following the government’sdeployment of military troops tocrack down on gang violence.IN spite of the crackdown, gang-relatedviolence continues in Honduras, andappears to be escalating.Last Thursday, two female studentsand a bus driver were raped and hangedby alleged gang members in the neighborhoodof Reynel Fúnez, south of thecapital. Two other dismembered cadaverswere discovered the week before in whathas become a gruesome wave of violence.According to the non-governmentalorganization Casa Alianza, 27 Honduranyouths under age 23 were murdered duringthe month of August. Casa Alianzahas documented more than 2,300 youthmurders in Honduras since 1998. Most ofthe killings have been related to gangs inone way or another, according to CasaAlianza.“This is a lamentable situation becausethere is a culture of death where we arebeing destroyed in a violent manner,”Alvarez said. “Most of the youths havebeen killed by five or six gunshots, andthey aren’t even being robbed of their possessions.”

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