In recent years, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador have faced “unprecedented levels of violence.” In 2011, Honduras had a homicide rate of 86.5 per 100,000 people, earning it the title of “murder capital of the world”. In contrast, this was 18 times higher than the homicide rate in the US at the time. Though homicides in Honduras are now half of what they were in 2011, the murder rate is still significantly higher than other countries around the world.
Beyond the murder rate, crime is also commonplace in Honduras. Robbery, gang violence, extortion, and assault are daily realities for many, especially those living in Honduras’ poor urban neighborhoods. According to a Doctors without Borders survey, 57% of Honduran migrants reported that they never felt safe while at home.
Violence infiltrates every part of society, leaving a noticeable impact on Hondurans’ everyday lives. High rates of violence can mean that it’s be too dangerous for children to play outside or for families to go out at night. People often aren’t safe from assault or robbery during their daily commute. Violent gangs frequently target businesses, extorting a “tax” under threat of violence, which robs the small profits people might have earned. And for vulnerable groups like journalists or the LGBT community, this threat of violence is particularly dangerous.
Violence destroys social connection and opportunities for improvement, especially for the poor. As Gary Haugen points out in The Locust Effect: “Efforts to end global poverty and to secure the most basic human rights for the poor are failing because crime and violence against the poor are not being addressed.”
Not only do Hondurans face high levels of violence, but it’s also unlikely that they will ever see justice for those crimes. Honduras has an impunity rate of 88%, meaning that the majority of people who commit a crime will never be convicted in court. Seventy-five percent of homicide cases are never even tried, leaving a backlog of more than 180,000 cases in the Honduran courts. When crimes easily go unpunished, it allows criminals to walk freely and perpetuates Honduras’s violence. And it leaves people feeling unprotected and vulnerable to crime.
Honduras’s violence ends up pushing many people to feel like they have no option but to leave for their safety and that of their children.