Gang Violence Drives Hondurans Away from Home

Tegucigalpa, Honduras (PanAm) – Crime in Honduras is taking its toll. Between 2004 and 2o14, some 174,000 people have been displaced due to the country’s internal violence, the Honduran Bureau of Human Rights, Justice, Governance, and Decentralization reported.

With the presence of Chaloka Beyani, United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, the Honduran government presented a report titled Characterization of Internal Displacement in Honduras, which analyzes the causes that force Hondurans to leave their homes.

According to the report, displacement is often not perceived. Families stealthily abandon their communities in an attempt to leave unnoticed, without drawing the attention of criminal gangs and armed groups.

The survey shows that 67.9 percent of Hondurans mention violence and insecurity as the main factors that drive them away from their homes. Another 28 percent blame the existence of gangs for their decision to flee.

Colloquially known as maras, the Honduran criminal groups resort to blackmail to scare the local population, extorting money from retailers and drivers of public transportation services.

According to a 2010 report on gang activity, there are 116,000 gang members in Honduras. Unicef reports that over 4,700 of them are in prison. Nonetheless, many continue their criminal operations while incarcerated.

Beyani said that international action is necessary to solve the problem. He called for the Honduran government to assign funds to the offices in charge of protecting displaced persons’ human rights, stating that they are vulnerable people.

Fernando Protti, Representative for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that internal displacement is not a problem that a country can solve by itself. The international community’s support, he added, is vital. Nevertheless, he remarked that the homicide rate in Honduras has decreased.

He concluded that insecurity and a general lack of opportunities are other causes driving Honduras away from their homes.

A Little Less Violent

On November 17, the National Observatory of Violence (ONV) at the Autonomous University of Honduras published its Annual Report on Mortality, which concluded that, between January and September 2015, there were 594 less deaths than in the same period last year. This represents a 12.9 percent decrease in mortal violence.

Migdonia Ayestas, the ONV’s director, said that, from January until September 2015, there were 46 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. She predicted that, at the end of the year, the homicide rate could be at least six points below that of 2014, when there were 68 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

The reduction in homicides has improved the country’s standing in the Global Peace Index, in which Honduras is ranked number 116 in the world in terms of “national peacefulness.”  The country thus surpasses Colombia (146), México (144), Venezuela (142), El Salvador (123), and Guatemala (118).

Costly Crime in Latin America

According to “The Costs of Crime and Violence on the Welfare of Latin America and the Caribbean,”  an Inter-American Development Bank report published in October, the cost of violence in the region amounts to 3 percent of its GDP. This equals Latin America’s investment in infrastructure and the income of the poorest 20 percent of the population.

The document affirms that Latin America is “exceptionally violent”. While the region is home to 9 percent of the world’s population, almost a third of the world’s homicides are registered in Latina America and the Caribbean.

The study analyzes the direct costs of violence, for instance expenses on private and public security. It also examines the justice system and the social costs of homicides. These include indirect costs such as the mental distress that citizens suffer and the changes of routine they undergo in order to avoid becoming a victim of crime.

In Mexico and Brazil, the surge in homicides has affected the price of homes for the poor. On the other hand, the report points out that, in Peru, domestic violence has a negative impact on children’s health.

Nearly 60 percent of citizens in Latin America affirm they feel insecure when walking by themselves on the streets, IDB Representative in Ecuador Morgan Doyle said.

Image Source: Nan Palmero, Flickr, Creative Commons Viva Honduras Cooking Vent

Image Source: Nan Palmero, Flickr, Creative Commons
Viva Honduras Cooking Vent

Translated by Adam Dubove.

 Prepared by Sabrina Martín for PanAm Post.