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.
As the coronavirus rages in Mexico and the northerly Central American countries, criminal outfits have adapted, often enlarging their turf. To fight organised crime more effectively, governments should combine policing with programs to aid the vulnerable and create attractive alternatives to illegal economic activity.
Amid challenges to electoral preparations ahead of votes this year, deadly attacks on community leaders persisted. Lawmakers failed to approve new electoral law in its entirety three months away from primary elections set for March 2021, and ahead of general elections scheduled for Nov 2021. National Congress VP Antonio Rivera 4 Dec said elections are likely to be held under current electoral law. National Electoral Council 7 Dec said it had found inconsistencies in 500,000 out of 4.2mn fingerprints submitted for national voter registry, heralding prospect of further disputes over electoral process and legitimacy of results. Unidentified assailants 19 Dec killed journalist Pedro Arcángel Canelas in Dulce del Culmí municipality, Olancho department (east); 26 Dec killed community leader and candidate in upcoming legislative elections Felix Vasquéz in Santiago Puringla municipality, La Paz department (south west); next day killed community leader José Adán Medina in Morazán municipality, Yoro department (north). After Eta and Iota hurricanes hit country last month, Honduran disaster agency 7 Dec estimated around 93,000 still in temporary shelters; UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs next day issued alert about health-care provision after hurricanes destroyed dozens of health centres and hospitals. Anti-riot police in Santa Fe municipality in Ocotepeque department (west) 10 Dec tried to stymie caravan of 500 migrants en route to Guatemala from San Pedro Sula city in Cortés department (north west) over alleged failure to show IDs and negative COVID-19 tests; Guatemalan authorities next day reportedly arrested 67 migrants who had managed to continue journey and cross into country. U.S. 7 Dec extended Temporary Protected Status for Honduran nationals, which allows them to live and work in U.S., until Oct 2021. U.S. Congress 22 Dec passed bill requiring upcoming U.S. President Biden to submit to Congress list of corrupt officials in Northern Triangle, and curtailing military funding for Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
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.
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