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.
Govt faced accusations of using COVID-19 crisis to stay in power, while controversial new penal code came into force. Amid persistent opposition concerns that govt will use COVID-19 pandemic to call off general elections scheduled for 2022 and remain in power, head of National Electoral Council 9 June said body will not convene primary elections as planned in Sept due to delay in updating electoral register amid pandemic. President Hernández same day reiterated he will not run for re-election in 2022 and ruling National Party will hold primaries. Controversial penal code came into law 25 June despite objection from opposition, civil society and private sector who say code poses threat to freedom of expression and protects corrupt politicians and traffickers. Unrest and protests over food shortages and deteriorating livelihoods amid COVID-19 crisis continued nationwide, including protests in capital Tegucigalpa by govt workers 4 June and taxi and bus drivers 15 June. Concerns grew over COVID-19 spread in prisons with outbreaks reported at El Porvenir prison (north) and Támara prison (centre). Human rights organisations 15 June called for “humanitarian intervention” in Támara prison after authorities reported five inmates died of virus 8-14 June. Hernández was hospitalised 17 June after testing positive for COVID-19. Sentencing of Hernández’s brother, found guilty of drug smuggling by U.S. court in Oct 2019, delayed to 16 Sept.
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.
As the coronavirus spreads, and the U.S. presidential election looms, the Trump administration and Mexican government continue to deport migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Some deportees are carrying the virus. Central American states should press their northern neighbours for more stringent health measures.
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