Honduras: Harris Cooperating with Case

October 8, 2004

SAN JOSÉ – Beleaguered childrenright’s activist Bruce Harris last week lefthis home in Costa Rica, shortly after beingfired from his job as director of CasaAlianza for paying a 19-year-old Honduranman for sexual favors.Harris had served as Casa Alianza’sLatin America director for 15 years, duringwhich time he and the organization arecredited with having helped tens of thousandsof children in Mexico and CentralAmerica.Harris has not disappeared from theradar, however. According to the HonduranProsecutor’s Office, Harris has been incontact with the Honduran Consulate inMiami and is cooperating with that country’sinvestigation of his activities.The investigation is expected to concludewithin two weeks, according toDaniela Ferrera, assistant director of theHonduran Prosecutor’s Office.FERRERA also dispelled rumors anderrors that have surfaced in Honduranpress reports in recent weeks. The mostdangerous of which, perhaps, is a reportthat the Honduran man with whom Harrishad a sexual encounter has tested positivefor the virus that causes AIDS.In fact, the young Honduran man hasnot taken a recent AIDS test, and his lasttest, “several years ago,” came back negative,Ferrera told The Tico Times this weekduring a phone interview from Honduras.In a six-hour interview with NoraUrbina, the Honduran prosecutor forminors, the young man, identified asOlman Alberto García, said he had sexwith Harris for 500 lempiras ($27).He said he had seen Harris years earlier,when he was director of Casa Alianza.Harris, who admitted the encounter tookplace, has denied heknew García wasearlier involved inCasa Alianza (TT,Sept. 24).THE HonduranProsecutor’s Officeis investigating thematter.“It would seemthat he (Harris) didn’tknow him (García),but we can’t discountit, and we are investigating it,”Ferrera said.The prosecutor added that authoritiescould nearly rule out the idea that Harrishad committed any crime, as both partiessaid the encounter was consensual. Adultprostitution is not a crime in Honduras.The Honduran daily La Prensa reportedthat García also implicated severalHonduran priests, telling prosecutors they,too, had paid him for sex.FERRERA, however, said that part ofGarcía’s statement is spotted with contradictions.His testimony “is consistent in someaspects, and not in others,” She said. “That’swhy we are investigating it, because heimplicated many people. He mentioned peoplewho we aren’t sure (should be implicated).The priests – that, for me, is very contradictory.With Bruce (Harris) it has beenvery clear with his declarations (in corroborationwith Harris’), but with the others ithasn’t been very clear.”The Prosecutor’s Office is investigatingthe implicated priests, she said.Ferrera also dismissed allegationsthere were abuses of children in CasaAlianza Honduras.“There is no evidence of child abuse,”she said.COVENANT House, Casa Alianza’sparent organization in New York, alsobegan its own investigation of the scandal,organization spokesman RichardHirsch told The Tico Times. He said viae-mail this week that the investigation isongoing, but did not elaborate.Nicaraguan and Guatemalan authoritieslast month made tepid calls for investigationsinto their Casa Alianza chapterslast month, but apparently none are underway.MEANWHILE, Pedro Fragoso, newinterim director of Casa Alianza, arrivedin Costa Rica late last month. He weathereda barrage of questions fromreporters without responding, and thenleft the country on business, and is notexpected back for a month.Casa Alianza chapters in CentralAmerica last year claimed to have served10,164 children, many homeless,throughout the region.The rights organization has filedthousands of legal complaints againstauthorities and others involved in crimesagainst children, including sexualexploitation, labor abuses and traffickingin minors.

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