Sunday, May 28, 2017

Honduran Prisoner Leaves Prison; No One Cares

[Updated below] So how does a prisoner with a life sentence housed in a maximum security prison in Honduras suddenly show up on the streets of San Pedro Sula?

In October of 2013, Virgilio Sanchez Montoya, a suspected head of the Barrio 18 gang,  was found guilty of the 2010 massacre at a shoe shop in San Pedro Sula that left 17 people dead.  He was sentenced to over 500 years in prison.  In November of 2016 he was moved from the National Penitentiary in Tamara to the newly constructed "El Pozo" prison in Ilama, Santa Barbara, a maximum security prison where gang members are segregated and kept under harsh conditions.  Yesterday he was arrested walking the streets of San Pedro Sula carrying an AK-47.

Nor is he the first prisoner from El Pozo to mysteriously appear on the streets of San Pedro Sula.  At least 3 others have been re-arrested in San Pedro over the last 9 months, free when they should have been in prison cells.  There's been no explanation, no investigation as to how these admittedly dangerous prisoners are showing up on the streets of San Pedro when they should still be in prison.

Earlier this month 8 prison guards at El Pozo were dismissed for unspecified "security irregularities" but no one noticed any prisoners missing.  One of those dismissed was a guard who made a duplicate key for the prison armory.

The Honduran prisons, which are sieves,  hold almost 19000 prisoners either convicted of a crime, or awaiting trial.  It appears that in these new maximum security prisons, the prisoners are still in control of some aspects of prison life.  That a prisoner with a life sentence can go from a maximum security prison cell to walking the streets of a major city with no one noticing, or caring back at the prison, is disturbing.

[Update] The Insituto Nacional Penetenciario (INP), the people who run the prisons,  put out a story yesterday that this was a case of two people with the same name.  Nothing to see, and anyway, they still have their prisoner.  Except that the photo they released really does look like the same person arrested in San Pedro.

The Public Prosecutor's office confirms that the fingerprints of the person arrested in San Pedro match those of the person who is supposed to be being held in the maximum security prison, El Pozo, in Ilama, Santa Barbara.  The question now is who at the prison pulled off the switch, releasing the gang member and substituting a look alike to occupy the cell?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Innumerecy in the Tribunal Supremo Electoral

The Honduran Tribunal Supremo Electoral announced today that there were 6.2 million registered voters for the presidential elections to be held this November.  The problem is, there can't be.

Depending on who you want to believe, the Honduran population is, this year, 8.2 to 8.8 million individuals.  In Honduras, you must be 18 to vote.  So the question is, what percentage of the Honduran population is under 18?  That number turns out to be 42% of the Honduran population. 

6.2 million registered voters equates to about 72% of the current Honduran population.  So the question is, what percentage of the Honduran population is under 18 and therefore cannot register to vote?  That number is about 42% so Honduran demographics means the TSE election rolls are heavily inflated. 

There are about 14% more registered voters than there should be according to demographics.  That is, if 42% of the Honduran population is under 18 years of age and therefore not eligible to be a registered voter, then at most 58% of the population is eligible to be registered to vote, a total of 5.104 million voters, not the 6.2 million the TSE is claiming.  Thats 1.096 million extra voters enrolled that simply cannot not exist.  Yet they apparently do exist on the voter rolls.

But actually its worse, because the 0.2 percent of the Honduran population that's in prison either convicted of or awaiting a trial, cannot vote.  There are no polling places in prison.  A further 0.14 percent of the Honduran population is in active military service, and also not allowed to vote.  The Honduran military aid the TSE by distributing ballot boxes before the election, and collecting and returning them to the TSE.

This excess of 1.096 million voters has built up over the last several years, and at least in part is because the TSE is notoriously bad at its job of cleaning up the voter roles in between elections.  The dead are seldom removed from the voter rolls, and indeed, in nearly every election since 2005 political parties in Honduras have demonstrated that people known to be dead nonetheless somehow managed to vote in presidential elections of 2009 and 2013, votes certified as fair and transparent by the US State Department.

So it would be good if the TSE learned to count and did a better job of keeping up the voting rolls, because some of us can count, even if the President of the TSE, David Matamoros, can't.