After reading many articles on the topic, it was clear that Honduras, an otherwise relatively unknown and unvisited country, has a relatively dangerous element to its society. The statistic that kept appearing was that “there is a violent death every 74 minutes in Honduras” (BBC News, 03/05/12). This statistic is a shocking reminder of the gang and drug driven crime that has characterized much of Latin American society in recent history. However with the murder rate of 91.6 deaths per 100,000 Honduras eclipses, not only countries renowned for their crime rate, such as South Africa (31.8 per 100,000) but also regional neighbour, Mexico (22.7 per 100,000), considered another country with a high crime rate caused by the drugs trade.
It by no means is alone in the region for high murder rates. Out of the Top Ten, eight countries are found in the Americas, with the other two in Africa. Guatemala and El Salvador, both nations that Honduras borders, feature in the Top Ten as does Belize, another Central American country. So what drives the high murder rate in Honduras?
This biggest factor influencing Honduras’s murder rate is the drug war that has engulfed the entire region. The drug war has created a society in Central America in which both gang culture and corruption are highly prevalent. High levels of gang violence, combined with a violent trade in drugs and high levels of alleged corruption have led to Honduras being dubbed the ‘Murder Capital of the World’.
The War on Drugs, led by the USA, has been fought for years across the continent, however in the last decade attempts to end the war, in favour of America, have been stepped up, but this, instead of reaching a peaceful solution, has actually resulted in an escalation in violence as those who fuel the drugs trade fight back in order to maintain the power and influence that they enjoyed in decades past. The war traditionally has targeted countries, like Colombia, which were the source for drugs and countries, like Mexico, which controlled the export of drugs in the USA, the main market for these products. Honduras, caught in the middle of the country of origin and the destination, has become a key country along the trade route, transporting the drugs and acting as bases for drug cartels and gangs from which to operate.
However the War on Drugs has generally been considered a failure by many political commentators, including those within the USA, with drug related violence rising rapidly in recent years. It is well documented that in Mexico there has been a dramatic increase in murders, kidnappings and violence as a result of the War on Drugs and the growing power of drug cartels. However in Honduras the situation is worse due to the relative inability to combat the drug cartels and accusations of widespread corruption in government and other public institutions.
Unlike Mexico, the government of Honduras does not have the money or resources to launch a targeted attack on the drug cartels and this has meant that those in the trade have been able to cement their position in the country unopposed. The plight of Honduras is deepened by the fact that the resources and money from the USA to fight the War on Drugs is rarely directed towards the country, instead focused on larger, more important nations, such as Mexico and Colombia.
The War on Drugs has infected much of Honduran society leading to a break down in the poorest communities and a rise in gang culture as individuals have taken it upon themselves to be armed in order to counter the rise in violence.
For Honduras, if it wants to lose the tag of ‘Murder Capital of the World’, and combat the violence caused by the War on Drugs, then tackling the drug cartels themselves must be key. The hold they have on both society and government has immobilized action targeted at fighting the social problems and it is this hold that must be reduced. Security and safety are key as is combating the alleged corruption in public institutions. Once the apparent corruption has been dealt with, those looking for change and progress in Honduras may have an opportunity to reduces the country’s crime rate and move forwards in making Honduras safe once again.