Children murdered in the streets
Alexander Obando Reyes wasn't a common boy. Despite having two last names he never knew his parents and his life was one struggle after another to survive in the streets of the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula. He had aspirations, but what he lacked were opportunities and all his dreams ended abruptly at 16 years of age, when someone put a pistol to his head and fired. One would hope that his story wasn't a common one, but unfortunately, it is. In the first six months of this year alone 167 children and teenagers like Alexander, met the same fate according to official Honduran government reports. Many maintain that the number of youngsters who die at the hands of death squads practicing "social cleansing", is much higher. Honduran president, Ricardo Maduro reacted strongly when he received a report that documented the deaths of 574 street children since l998. It is a figure that sends chills up the spine of even the most indifferent, especially if one takes into account that the numbers continue to spiral upwards. According to the statistics, in l998 the number of murders of children and teenagers living on their own was 55 over the entire year. But in 2002 that number has risen to 267 and there is every indication that this shocking number will double. The Non-Governmental Organisation, Casa Alianza, indicates however, that the true figures are even more horrifying and that the deaths could be as high as a thousand or even 1500. All suffer the same type of extra-judicial execution. There are signs of torture, a bullet fired into the head at point blank range, and the appearance of the body in a different spot than where the crime was committed. The phenomenon is nothing new. Despite the fact that official data lists the cases starting from the year l998 already, in l997, the European Parliament had introduced a resolution on the topic, demanding that Honduran authorities investigate the death and torture of street youngsters in which the police themselves were involved in many cases. Homeless children, child workers and juvenile delinquents and the violent repression against them are now daily topics in the Latin American press. They are the product of a system that produces them, like rain makes mushrooms. They can be seen on every street corner during the day and by night they sleep under piles of cardboard and newspapers, on benches, some are drug users, and often they must steal to eat. Their conduct is incompatible with the society that engendered them and so they are persecuted and they become the living proof that for capitalism it is easier to kill the hungry than to eliminate hunger. The fact that they are daily news doesn't ease the pain. And though they should have been born to be happy they are a mirror of what we are and what can await us. To redeem them is to also to save ourselves.