With a population of just over 8 million people, Honduras is home to some of the highest poverty rates in Latin America and most violent cities on earth. The deep roots of organized crime, government corruption and abuses by state forces, and impunity for criminals reverberate throughout the small Central American nation, where 97% of murders go unsolved.
These factors have forced many Hondurans to flee towards the United States in hopes of finding an income, security and hope for the future. In response, the Obama Administration has proposed a $1 billion aid package to Central America, which Vice President Biden emphasized in his Central America visit last week.
Last December, the Latin America Working Group Education Fund (LAWGEF) and Center for International Policy (CIP) traveled to Honduras for a first-hand look. What we found was a security situation in shambles and a country in dire need of reform. We have compiled our findings into this report which paints a picture of the most alarming issues facing Honduras today, including mass migration, the disturbing and highly visible militarization of law enforcement, grave threats against human rights defenders, and a lack of an effective and independent justice system. The report also examines the role U.S. assistance has played, and can play, in the plight of the Honduran people.
In addition to describing the depth of the problem, the report points to the elements of a solution, including the development of a more effective, independent judiciary, and a thoroughly reformed civilian police force. The ultimate solution must include tackling the underlying issues of poverty and lack of education that help create an environment in which crime and violence flourish. But this requires what we did not see in Honduras—a government deeply committed to respect for human rights, with a vision of more broadly shared prosperity and a will to protect all Honduran citizens. The report concludes that carefully crafted international aid programs can help address these problems, but that, "political will from the Honduran government to protect and respect its citizenry must come first."