February 20, 2006

Honduras killers send grim message on gang talks

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (Reuters) - Unidentified killers shot
dead a gang member and attached a note to his corpse
criticizing talks planned between Honduras' government and two
ultra-violent gangs terrorizing the country.

The tattooed body of a 37-year-old member of the Mara 18
gang was found near a Roman Catholic seminary on the outskirts
of the capital Tegucigalpa on Monday, said a police chief. The
corpse had been dragged through the streets on a rope.

A white placard attached to the body read: "If the
government wants to negotiate with the gangs, we don't; we will
continue with a clenched fist."

The Mara 18 and Mara Salvatrucha gangs, which grew out of
Hispanic youth gangs in Los Angeles, are responsible for a wave
of mutilations and killings in recent years in Honduras, as
well as in neighboring El Salvador and Guatemala.

Using the Roman Catholic church as a mediator, the new
government of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya plans three-way
negotiations with the gangs aimed at ending the violence, but
critics have slammed any attempts to bargain with criminals.

Human rights groups have in the past attributed
execution-style killings of gang members to right-wing death
squads believed to operate in the country.