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.
Civil unrest continued over allegations of President Hernández’s links to narco-trafficking. Around a thousand anti-govt protesters, summoned by opposition figures Salvador Nasralla and centre-left Liberal party president Luis Zelaya, marched in capital Tegucigalpa 9 Oct demanding Hernández’s resignation; police attacked demonstrators forcing them to disperse; earlier same day, over 6,000 supporters of ruling National Party marched in support of Hernández. Anti-govt groups spurred by allegations of Hernández’s links to drug trafficking; U.S. court 18 Oct found President’s brother guilty on four charges, including drug trafficking, with prosecutors alleging President Hernández protected him. Detained drug trafficker Nery Orlando López Sanabria – whose ledger, confiscated during June 2018 arrest, was used as evidence in Tony Hernández’s trial – murdered in maximum security prison “El Pozo” 26 Oct. Following verdict, Manuel Zelaya of left-wing Libre party called on supporters to protest indefinitely until Hernández resigns; opposition leaders including Nasralla, Luis Zelaya and Manuel Zelaya 19 Oct formed coalition to force President from office through continuous protests. Hernández 20 Oct called for peace; 7,000 govt sympathisers marched in Tegucigalpa same day. Debate over new penal code continued with rights groups concerned it will harden penalties against protesters and ease punishments for officials guilty of embezzlement; National Anti-corruption Council 16 Oct presented citizen initiative against legislation to Congress and organised protest against it in front of parliament. Following Sept asylum agreement with U.S., Washington 16 Oct announced restoration of some aid previously cut in April, focused on security and law enforcement.
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