The Guardian October 23, 2002

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 

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 

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 

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.

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