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Honduran Political Candidate Slain

November 25, 2001|From Reuters

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — A congressional candidate from Honduras' main opposition party was killed early Saturday on the eve of general elections, underscoring a violent crime epidemic plaguing the Central American nation.

Angel Pacheco, 44, of the opposition National Party was shot seven times by a man waiting outside his home about 12.30 a.m. in the city of Nacaome, 66 miles south of Tegucigalpa, the capital.

Police said the slaying appeared to be politically motivated.

"It's still not clear, but we're assuming it's a political murder," police spokesman Javier Flores said.

However, the two front-runners in the presidential election race, Ricardo Maduro of the National Party and Rafael Pineda Ponce of the ruling Liberal Party, both claimed that the crime was not political.

Honduras, where at least 70% of the population lives in poverty, has been beset by a wave of violent crime in recent years as the economy has faltered.

The predominantly agricultural nation of 6.3 million people saw its economy pulverized by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which destroyed vast swaths of productive cropland, caused more than $850 million in damage in Honduras and killed more than 9,000 Central Americans.

According to police, 2,155 murders occurred last year, and 2,250 took place this year to Oct. 31.

Maduro, 55, whose son was killed in a kidnapping attempt in 1997, has made fighting crime a central plank of his campaign, and most surveys showed him leading ahead of today's vote.

At the funeral parlor where Pacheco's body was laid out for a vigil Saturday, Maduro said that he would use all the resources available to ensure that justice was done and that those responsible were punished.

"Honduras is in mourning. But there will be justice. We will apply the full weight of the law. There will be no impunity for the perpetrators," he said.

About 3.4 million Hondurans are eligible to vote today for a new president, 128 Congress deputies and 298 mayors.

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