Police corruption is at an alarming level with officers often using their authority to repress opposition leaders and land activists.
A Honduran human rights group reported Thursday that it received the complaints of four children from a rural area, who were arrested and tortured by police officials, for attempting to acquire a piece of land in order to grow food for their families.
The teenagers were detained on July 17 this year, in the town of Marcala, La Paz, about 100 kilometers away from the capital Tegucigalpa.
According to the version the teens told the “On Line Defenders” of human rights, and anonymously quoted in the report, officials from the National Police disproportionally used tear gas during their unjustified arrest, left the them on the ground of a courtyard for half an hour, facing in the sun, then imprisoned them for almost two days without letting them eat or drink water.
The oldest child, 17, explained that without any employment opportunity, he eventually decided to join a “group of land recovery [operation]” with others who needed land to grow food.
“The man who said he was the owner fooled us; he said the National Institute of Agriculture was coming, when the police arrived, we were down there and they started beating us, they threw us in the police car, they put tear gas in our eyes, while beating us, and they handcuffed us,” he said.
The police officers also said racist insults on the way to the station, such as: “Indigenous dogs, why would you put your nose in the dirt,” he added.
Another child, 14, who was arrested on his first day of school, said that when they were lying on the ground, facing the sun, a police officer examined them and stole his money.
The youngest, 13, arrested when he was bringing food for his uncle and aunt, added that the police officers stopped everyone going out in the streets, threw tear gas at those who did and stole their phones and a camera, including beating a 70-year-old lady who was also taken to the police station.
The last boy, 14, declared that the day before their arrest, the alleged owner of the land told them to leave the lot, claiming he had bought it in 2011 and would bring the National Agrarian Institute. Instead he arrived with police officials, who denied the children the right to see the evict order, saying “you are not campesinos but part of a mara [a Central American gang].”
Human rights abuses by security forces have become a widespread reality in Honduras, repeatedly reported by human rights groups, especially since the 2009 coup against President Manuel Zelaya. A group of U.S. congressmen recently demanded Obama's administration suspend the country's financial and technical aid.
Corruption has reportedly infiltrated the police at a very alarming level, with officers often using their authority to repress opposition leaders and land activists, in a country where poverty, especially in rural areas, is one of the highest on the continent.
Moreover, Central American farmers have been hard by drought, dangerously threatening the area with famine. Children are among the first victims of poverty, as thousands have desperately tried to flee northward, causing a serious humanitarian crisis of undocumented and unaccompanied children subject to mistreatments in Mexico or in the United States.