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.
Political tensions increased ahead of 2021 general elections while social unrest remained high, particularly in capital Tegucigalpa. Congress 10 Sept failed to pass new electoral law, with some opposition groups claiming it did not address crucial issues including possible creation of second round of election. National Electoral Council 13 Sept nonetheless approved electoral calendar, including primary elections set for March 2021, generating criticism from opposition. Left-wing opposition Freedom and Refoundation Party (Libre) deputy Juan Ramón Flores 27 Sept said party will take to streets to demand approval of law. Unrest over lack of revenues and salary arrears amid COVID-19 pandemic continued, including protests in Tegucigalpa by minibus drivers 1 Sept and teachers 7 and 25 Sept. Police 15 Sept used tear gas to disperse some 1,000 anti-govt protesters gathered in Tegucigalpa on occasion of Independence Day. Members of Garífuna indigenous community 4 Sept protested in Tela town, Atlántida department (north) to demand that govt secure release of community leaders abducted in July by armed individuals in police outfits. El Heraldo newspaper 22 Sept reported 36 massacres (defined as killings of three or more) in 2020. After report, more large-scale killings took place 25 Sept in Tambla municipality, Lempira department (west), and 26 Sept in La Ceiba municipality, Atlántida (north), leaving eight dead in total. Unidentified gunmen 27 Sept killed journalist Luis Alonzo Almendares in Comayagua city, Comayagua department (centre). Security forces 1-14 Sept destroyed eight airstrips used by drug traffickers in Gracias a Dios department (Caribbean region) and 11-13 Sept dismantled two coca plantations and two laboratories in Colón department (north). U.S. court 10 Sept delayed sentencing of President Hernández’s brother Tony Hernández – found guilty in 2019 of drug trafficking – from 16 Sept to 10 Nov. National Anti-Corruption Council 7 Sept alleged coronavirus-related corruption has cost govt $11mn; prosecutors called several high-level officials to testify in COVID-19 corruption cases, including FM Lisandro Rosales 10 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