News Release

Honduras Fire: Government Complicity?

ADRIENNE PINE, pine at american.edu
Pine is an assistant professor at American University who has been researching violence in Honduras for 15 years. She is the author of Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras.

She said today: “The fire that killed over 300 prisoners early Wednesday morning in the Honduran city of Comayagua occurs in a context of police militarization which has been posited by the post-coup government and U.S. State Department as a solution to ‘security’ problems in Honduras, despite strong opposition from Honduran citizens. Honduras is currently the most dangerous country in the world, with a murder rate of 82 per 100,000 residents, a position to which it plunged following the unresolved 2009 military coup. Prisoners trapped by this morning’s fire were killed when firefighters were unable to rescue them, although the fire occurred close to the U.S. military base Soto Cano, which houses a large, fully-equipped firefighting squad.”

OSCAR ESTRADA, oscarlestrada at gmail.com
Estrada is a Honduran journalist, lawyer, and documentary filmmaker. His film “El Porvenir” traces the murder of 69 gang members in a prison in the city of Ceiba. He said today: “Today’s prison fire also appears to share many characteristics with the Honduran prison fires of 2003 and 2004, which killed 69 and 104 prisoners, respectively. In previous fires, police complicity was proven to be a primary cause of prisoners’ death; prisoners interviewed today have stated that rather than opening the gates, police shot into them. Numerous Honduran media have also reported that police and military have fired bullets and tear gas into a crowd of grieving family members outside the Comayagua prison. Overcrowding, a problem President Lobo resolved to fix in 2004 as president of Congress following the two fires, was also a factor: 900 prisoners were housed in the prison, which had a capacity of 400. This fire can be seen as a reinvigorated post-coup effort at social cleansing; the killing off the most vulnerable members of society in the context of a weak, undemocratic state with an increasingly powerful and unchecked military.”