With massive protests, armed clashes and a government-declared state of emergency, Honduras is in social and political chaos after the 26 November general elections. In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Northern Triangle Analyst Sofía Martínez explains what has sparked the crisis and its potential effect on armed violence.
Mass “migrant caravan” attempting to reach U.S. created country’s worst crisis since disputed Nov 2017 elections, while late Sept collapse of UN-led talks between President Hernández’s govt and opposition on post-Nov 2017 electoral crisis, and increasing tensions in congress, reduced potential space to resolve crisis. Caravan began as call on social media for low-income Hondurans to travel to U.S. in large groups to avoid dangers of migrant route, prompting some 200 people to depart from city San Pedro Sula (west) 12 Oct; group grew to several thousands as it passed through poor and crime-affected villages. After crossing Guatemala, 5,000-strong group, estimated by NGOs to be 35% children, reached Mexican border 19 Oct, where they clashed with Mexican security forces. 26-year old Honduran migrant was killed 28 Oct by Mexican police. In response, and with more groups expected to join “caravan” movement from neighbouring countries like El Salvador (where new group of 150 people departed 29 Oct), U.S. threatened to cut all bilateral aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, while opposition parties called for Hernández’s resignation and early elections. Response to crisis impeded by ongoing political deadlock and tensions in congress between Liberal Party and ruling National Party following accusations in Sept that latter had hired gang members during elections.
Central American gangs are responsible for brutal acts of violence, abuse of women and forced displacement of thousands. Governments must go beyond punitive measures and address the social and economic roots of gang culture, tackle extortion schemes and invest in communities.
Ending bloodshed in this neglected border region requires more than task forces: credible institutions, access to state services and continuing security are also needed.
We are worried about what might be the long-term consequences of the current turmoil [in Honduras], especially in terms of how drug-trafficking groups may expand activities in a period of political crisis.
Violence [in Honduras] is likely to escalate in the upcoming weeks since there is still no clear winner [of the elections] and the opposition its mobilizing its supporters.
The northward flow of undocumented migrants fleeing economic hardship and violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America exposes thousands of vulnerable people to mass victimisation. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – Third Update early warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to continue to pursue an approach grounded in supporting community violence prevention, institutional reform and poverty alleviation in the countries of origin while supporting transiting countries in managing the flow.
Originally published in El Pulso
Originally published in Los Angeles Times