March 2, 2006

Almost 2,000 youths killed in Honduras in 4 years

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (Reuters) - Almost 2,000 children and
youths, many of them members of violent street gangs, were
killed in Honduras in the last four years, a child advocacy
group said on Thursday.

The number of youth slayings was almost double that
recorded in the preceding four years in the poverty-stricken
Central American nation, and many bodies showed signs of
torture, Casa Alianza said in a report.

The group said the bodies of 1,976 youths under the age of
23 were found during the four-year presidency of Ricardo
Maduro, who stepped down in January. Many were killings carried
out by rival gangs, others by shadowy death squads.

Maduro had launched a clampdown on the street gangs, known
as Maras, which grew out of Hispanic youth gangs in Los

"Every day that goes by more and more children are losing
their lives," Manuel Capellin, Casa Alianza's director in
Honduras, said in the report. "It is a real tragedy that is
getting worse."

In the presidency of Carlos Flores from 1998 to 2002, child
and youth killings totaled 1,019, Casa Alianza said.

Honduras' new president. Manuel Zelaya, has said he plans
to reach a deal with the gangs to end the violence.