June 17, 2006

US halts issue of visas to Hondurans

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - The United States has stopped
issuing travel visas to Hondurans indefinitely, saying lax
rules in the Central American nation let third-country
nationals obtain local passports used for travel to America.

The U.S. Embassy in Honduras said on Saturday it had
ordered the issue of all new visas to Hondurans suspended. This
week, local authorities arrested two Cameroon citizens trying
to obtain Honduran passports using fake identity documents.

"The controls are not sufficient for us, and it is our
responsibility to protect the United States," the embassy's
Deputy Chief of Mission James Willard told local radio.

Central America is seen as a relatively easy route to the
United States by some African and Asian immigrants.

Last week, Honduras warned it had become a new route for
Cuban immigrants bound for the United States, with an
increasing number washing up on the Caribbean coast on their
way to the U.S. border.

The embassy said in a statement it was concerned about the
ease with which people were able to obtain Honduran birth and
marriage certificates, identity cards and passports.

"Since these documents have been used to enter the United
States, this problem continues to be a matter of national
security for the United States of America," it said.

Honduran authorities said they would take action to purge
possibly corrupt elements from the government bodies that issue
identity documents.

Foreign Minister Milton Jimenez said local and
international organized crime groups were involved in the trade
of Honduran passports and identity documents.

"These are mafias with huge amounts of money, with
connections in powerful sectors of the country. They have made
people trafficking into a very profitable business," he told

In 2005, former Director of Migration Roman Romero was
fired for allegedly issuing visas illegally to Chinese