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Youths massacred in Honduras; state won't investigate

Fifteen youth were killed in violent attacks last weekend in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, including five young men who were massacred on a street corner.

"We are in a very difficult moment here in Honduras, and a terror is being instilled in citizens," said the father of one of the deceased at his wake this afternoon. He said his son may have participated in a march against the June 28 coup d'état, but insisted that he was not a political activist.

The five men killed were Isaac Enrique Coello Soto, 24, Roger Andrés Reyes Aguilar, 22, Kenneth José Rosa, 23, Gabriel Parrales Zelaya, 34, and Marcos Vinicio Matute Escobar, 39.

The massacre was carried out by masked men who stepped out of an unmarked Nissan and opened fire in the Villanueva neighbourhood on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa. Locals claim the gunmen were wearing military uniforms.

Honduran media reported yesterday that the massacre was carried out by police. Neither the police nor the military have admitted that they were responsible for the killings. One woman survived the massacre and is now in hiding.

"Youth have been criminalized in this country, because they present a danger to this dictatorship" said Dina Meza, a journalist who works with COFADEH, a group formed by families of people disappeared and detained in Honduras. "Youth is criminalized, and therefore young people are being assassinated," she said.

The weekend killings came on the heels of November 29th elections that took place while deposed President Manuel Zelaya remained trapped in the Brazilian Embassy in Honduras. There were no international elections observers present during the election, and despite emerging evidence of election day violence, Canada's junior foreign minister Peter Kent said the elections "appear to have been run freely and fairly."

The families of the deceased want the Human Rights department of Honduras to investigate the killings, but thus far there has been no move to do so.

"In this country there was a coup d'état, and institutionalism is broken," said Meza. "The official human rights department, an institution that should already have begun an investigation, isn't doing so," she said.

"There are hit men executing people, there are paramilitaries being paid with [tax] money from the people, there are people from the death squads that operated in the 80s . . . who have seen this context of the coup as a phenomenal opportunity to continue with repression and all the lessons they learned in the School of the Americas," said Meza.

The weekend murders weekend raise the death toll since June 28 to at least 35.

Dawn Paley is a Vancouver-based journalist reporting from Honduras.

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