Like its fellow Northern Triangle countries, El Salvador and Guatemala, Honduras suffers from high crime rates and severe poverty in the wake of its “dirty war” in the 1980s. Street gangs roam unchecked in many urban neighbourhoods while drug traffickers ply the coasts and plague all levels of the state. In addition, contested presidential elections in 2017 spurred a wave of political violence that continues. These chronic socio-economic ills, coupled with poor governance and rampant corruption, are the main drivers of northward migration, which has its own perils for those who venture the journey. Crisis Group studies the roots of the country’s persistent problems and pushes for policy solutions to break the cycle of forced departure and deportation.
Despite U.S. restrictions on Central American migration, Hondurans are fleeing north in record numbers as the country struggles with polarised government, corruption, poverty and violence. With outside help, Tegucigalpa should revisit its heavy-handed security policies and enact judicial and electoral reforms to avert future upheaval.
A tide of killings shook the prison system, while the fate of anti-corruption body MACCIH (Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras) remained unclear. Lawyer of Nery Orlando López, murdered drug trafficker whose ledgers provided critical information to convict president’s brother in Oct, was shot dead 9 Dec in western Copán department by unknown assailants; another lawyer next day announced he will request political asylum in another country, due to persecution from Public Ministry and death threats on social media. Director of El Pozo jail, seen talking to Nery Orlando López shortly before he was killed, also murdered 12 Dec while driving in Choluteca. Mutiny broke out 14 Dec in maximum security jail “La Tolva” leaving at least five dead, all MS13 gang members. Hernández 17 Dec decreed state of emergency in prisons, authorising militarised National Inter-Institutional Security Force (FUSINA) to take control of prison system, and suspending National Penitentiary Institute (INP). A further two mass jail killings in Tela 20 Dec and El Porvenir 22 Dec left another 18 and 19 dead respectively. Ahead of 15 Jan expiration of mandate of anti-corruption body MACCIH, National Congress special commission presented report 10 Dec arguing that body violated constitutional rights, guarantees and principles, and did not respect national laws or international conventions; 71 National Congress deputies same day endorsed report conclusions and voted in favour of not renewing MACCIH’s mandate. Organization of American States-Honduran govt commission presented its own report 12 Dec, concluding that MACCIH agreement should be renewed and improved. Civil society, opposition parties and international community spoke out in defence of MACCIH, including newly formed Media Platform against Corruption and Impunity, Partido Innovación y Unidad (PINU) and Libertad y Refundación (Libre) parties. Honduran Congressman Oscar Nájera, close to President Hernández, was sanctioned 20 Dec by the U.S. for involvement in “significant” corruption.
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