Like its fellow countries in the north of Central America, El Salvador and Guatemala, Honduras suffers from high crime rates and severe poverty in the wake of civil wars in the 1980s. Street gangs roam unchecked in many urban neighbourhoods while drug traffickers ply the coasts and plague all levels of the state. A contested presidential election in 2017 spurred a wave of political violence, though all sides seem to have accepted the recent landslide victory of left-leaning Xiomara Castro. 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.
This week on Hold your Fire! Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Crisis Group experts Tiziano Breda and Ivan Briscoe about politics in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras and why Central Americans are leaving for the United States.
Steps to tackle endemic corruption continued apace, former President Juan Orlando Hernández’s formally extradited to U.S., and transport workers launched one-day strike. Authorities 21 April extradited former President Hernández to U.S. on drug-trafficking and weapons charges after Constitutional Chamber of Supreme Court 6 April rejected defence appeal, and 15 magistrates of Supreme Court 12 April unanimously authorised extradition. Hernández 22 April appeared for first time before U.S. judge, who read charges against him. Judge 8 April also authorised U.S. extradition request of former National Police Head Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla, accused of overseeing Hernández’s drug-trafficking operations; Bonilla’s defence 11 April appealed decision, but Supreme Court 20 April confirmed extradition. National Defence Minister José Manuel Zelaya 3 April confirmed National Interinstitutional Security Force’s participation in arresting more than 12 Hondurans wanted in extradition by U.S. on drug-trafficking charges; Security Minister 6 April commented “surgical job” needed for fighting organised crime and corruption. UN 27 April said technical evaluation mission to assess possible establishment of International Anti-Corruption Commission due to arrive in Honduras 9 May. Meanwhile, transportation carriers 7 April launched nine-hour strike blocking main traffic avenues to protest rising fuel prices and demand state subsidies; President Castro immediately rejected demand to meet protestors because “stopping circulation is an illegal act punishable by law and represents a boycott of my government”. Castro and transport union 12 April signed agreement, including fixing tariffs and subsidies. Some transport representatives 19 April briefly blocked streets in capital Tegucigalpa, protesting against sanctions for increased prices. Administrators of national system of aqueducts and sewers 13 April warned Tegucigalpa faces humanitarian crisis due to water scarcity; UN World Food Programme 19 April sounded alarm about country’s worsening food security. Congress 20 April unanimously repealed tax-free Zones for Employment and Economic Development (ZEDEs), said they undermine national sovereignty. Laura Dogu 12 April became first U.S. ambassador to Honduras since 2017. President Castro 25 April announced state of emergency in Colón department (north) after three unknown men previous day reportedly killed three police officers.
With general elections approaching in Honduras, memories of the turbulence around the 2017 vote remain fresh. To avoid a repeat, politicians in Tegucigalpa should pledge to respect the results and authorities should clarify who would resolve any dispute. External actors should prepare to help.
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.
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.
Ten years after a coup, Honduras remains deeply polarised. Mass protests and the government’s heavy-handed response have damaged the economy and sparked deadly violence. Crisis Group Northern Triangle Analyst Tiziano Breda explains the origins of the intense public discontent that is roiling the country.
With massive protests, armed clashes and a government-declared state of emergency, Honduras is in social and political chaos after the 26 November general elections. In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Northern Triangle Analyst Sofía Martínez explains what has sparked the crisis and its potential effect on armed violence.
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.