Honduran journalist shot, killed outside her home

December 6, 2011 - 9:35 PM

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — A radio news host was fatally shot by gunmen on motorcycles Tuesday as she commuted to work in the capital of Honduras, where rampant drug-trafficking and weak, corrupt policing are fueling one of the world's worst homicide rates.

Luz Marina Paz and her driver were hit by dozens of bullets fired by men on two motorcycles outside Paz's home in Tegucigalpa, national police spokesman Luis Maradiaga said.

Paz, 38, hosted a morning program called "Three in the News" broadcast on the Honduran News Channel. While she discussed politics and narcotics trafficking, she was not among Honduras' best-known or most outspoken journalists.

She had previously worked for eight years for the country's Radio Globo, where she was critical of a 2009 coup in which former President Manuel Zelaya was deposed at gunpoint. The coup isolated Honduras internationally and cost it international aid to fund security efforts and fight poverty and drug-trafficking.

Hours before Paz was attacked, gunmen opened fire on the offices of the Tribune newspaper, fatally wounding a caretaker.

Human rights advocates say at least 23 journalists have been killed in Honduras since 2007, many for angering organized criminals and drug traffickers with their work. The Miami-based Inter American Press Association said Paz, who also owned her own business, had received death threats from criminals to whom she had refused to pay extortion.

"These new attacks are part of a campaign of violence and insecurity in general, and of threats and intimidation against editors and journalists in particular that we have been denouncing in Honduras," said the president of the group's committee on press freedom, Gustavo Mohme.

Almost half of the cocaine that reaches the United States is now offloaded somewhere along the country's coast and heavily forested interior, according to U.S. and Honduran estimates.

Key members of the region's business community who have hotel, real estate and retail holdings have been named as associates of the cartels, often for money laundering.

At the other end of the economic spectrum are local street gangs, who are often paid in drugs as well as cash to move drugs north. Their ranks are growing and competition among them has pushed up the country's escalating homicide rate to one of the highest in the world.

The country of 7.7 million people saw 6,200 killings in 2010. That's the equivalent of 82.1 homicides per 100,000 people, well above the 66 per 100,000 in neighboring El Salvador.