Issue 5.2 | August 2001
Honduras received independence from Spain in 1821 and from Mexico in 1823, when it joined the United Provinces of Central America. The union is continually faced with dissent between conservative and liberal factions, resulting in changing policies with each president. Friction also existed between Honduras and the neighboring countries of Nicaragua and El Salvador. In July 1969 the short "Soccer War" broke out with El Salvador over disputed territory. The conflict was resolved in 1980 with a peace treaty that eventually gave Honduras most of the disputed borderland.
In 1998 Hurricane Mitch devastated the area in one of the worst recorded storms in the Western Hemisphere. The hurricane destroyed bridges and roads, halting demining operations as military attention was turned to hurricane relief efforts. Heavy rains displaced many mines from their original locations. Demining equipment at the Honduran support base was lost due to flooding of the nearby Coco River. Demining efforts were reinitiated by the army after replacement of the lost equipment. The army is currently clearing the final areas, hoping to finish all clearance by the end of 2001.
Mines in Honduras were not planted by Hondurans, but rather by foreign military during conflicts over Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1980s. The mines were planted around the Honduran borders with Nicaragua and El Salvador, and no records were kept of exact locations. Honduras has not produced or exported APLs, but has imported, stockpiled and used limited quantities of mines for training purposes. A report from 1999 listed a total of 9,439 stockpiled mines—1,050 of which would be retained for training. The remaining mines will be transferred for destruction by the Honduran Army. There is no evidence that any Honduran party has used mines since the end of the Nicaraguan war in 1990 and the El Salvador war in 1992.
Honduran officials estimate from 1990-1995 over 200 civilians were killed by mines and UXO. Another five casualties were reported from March 1996 through September 1997. Honduras has not yet completed a comprehensive assessment of casualties. Efforts to provide landmine victims with adequate support or treatment are unknown.
The Honduran Army began mine clearance in September 1995 after a two-year training program with the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB). Clearance should have been finished by 2000, but was set back by the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch. By 2000, 330,621 sq. m. of land had been cleared and 2,231 mines and 51,364 metallic objects had been destroyed. The IADB has estimated that there are 3,000 landmines still posing a threat in Honduras. The remaining landmines are reported to be solely in Choluteca province, covering an affected area of up to 250 sq. km.
Although the physical damage done by Hurricane Mitch is being reconstructed with the support of international aid agencies, living conditions in Honduras are affected by other serious problems. Nearly 70 percent of households in Honduras fall below the poverty level, and nearly half of these are in extreme poverty. Children in Honduras often work more than 40 hours per week as the government does not effectively enforce labor laws. Although the government respects basic humans rights in many areas of the country, it is not believed to practice fair enforcement of judicial rights such as the humane treatment of alleged criminals, acceptable prison conditions, and the right to a fair and swift trial. These and the lack of other basic human rights are among the problems that Hondurans face as they work to rebuild their country.
Profiles have been compiled from The Landmine Monitor Report, regional MACs, and wire and media reports.