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.
New accusations of drug trafficking emerged against individuals close to President Hernández, while insecurity persisted. U.S. prosecutors alleged drug trafficker Geovanny Daniel Fuentes Ramírez – arrested 1 March in Miami on charges of importing drugs and weapons – in 2013 met with and gave money to President Hernández, then a Congressman, to secure military protection and access to commercial port for smuggling purposes; U.S. trial of Hernández’s cousin, detained in New York, U.S., since Feb, on drug trafficking charges continued while Hernández’s brother, found guilty of drug smuggling in Oct, remained in U.S. prison awaiting sentencing, due 15 April. Insecurity persisted: following late Feb killing of vice president of Taxi Drivers Association, taxi drivers 3 March protested against threats and extortion they face; unknown assailants 12 March killed representative of ruling National Party of Honduras in San José, Atlántida department. Amid regional concern over migration, caravan of around 100 migrants departed for U.S. 9 March, while another caravan of 500 people departed 12 March; govt 10 March suspended deportation flights from Mexico amid concerns over spread of COVID-19, though bus deportations and deportations from U.S. continued. In attempt to curb spread of coronavirus, govt 16 March closed borders and later instigated nationwide curfew into April, limiting rights such as freedom of expression. Anti-riot police 24-25 March dispersed several rallies and roadblocks sparked by lack of food.
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