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.
Mandate of anti-corruption body Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) ended, prompting backlash from civil society, while state of emergency in prisons continued. Mandate of Organization of American States (OAS)-backed MACCIH expired 19 Jan following govt and OAS’s failure to reach agreement on its renewal; around 800 people protested in capital Tegucigalpa 19 Jan against cessation of body, with students, businesses, unions and opposition calling for national strike. U.S. House of Representatives 18 Jan condemned non-renewal of MACCIH, as did EU 22 Jan. Insecurity persisted: authorities reported 7.1% increase in homicides in 2019 compared to 2018, to 3,996 cases; bus drivers 13 Jan went on strike to denounce gangs’ extortion. State of emergency in prisons, declared by govt in Dec after tide of killings shook prison system, continued throughout month. Amid continued regional focus on migration, acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security 9 Jan visited Honduras to finalise migration agreement under which U.S. will send asylum seekers from other states in region to Honduras to apply for asylum there. Caravan of migrants – reportedly 1,000 at departure but growing to 4,000 – heading toward U.S. left Honduras 15 Jan; migrants reached Guatemala-Mexico border 19 Jan, clashed with Mexican security forces as Mexico, under pressure from U.S. govt, denied them entry (see Mexico).
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