Country Profile: U.S. Security Assistance to Honduras
Over the past decade, Honduras has become one of the most dangerous places in the world. In 2013 the country recorded the highest global murder rate, with 79 homicides per 100,000 residents. Honduras has one of the most unequal income distributions and some of the highest under-employment and dropout rates in Latin America, all contributing factors to the rise of street gangs and the recent surge in emigration to the United States. The violence, concentrated in cities and along its border with Guatemala, can largely be attributed to three factors: the international drug trade, gangs and weak security and justice institutions.
In 2009, a military coup that toppled elected leftist President Manuel Zelaya exacerbated existing instability and caused security and human rights to deteriorate further.
The country is now a haven for organized crime while killings and other violent crimes largely go unpunished. Security forces are notorious for their involvement in death squads, extortion and the drug trade, while journalists and human rights advocates are routinely targeted. Nearly all of Honduras’ political, judicial and security institutions have been compromised by crime, which has allowed the country to become a key trafficking hub for drugs destined for the United States.
From 2008 to 2014, the United States provided well over $114 million in security assistance to Honduras to fight drug trafficking and improve citizen security. However, the U.S. Congress has withheld assistance several times and been reticent to increase security funding due to the abounding corruption and lack of political will to reform institutions.
The State Department’s 2013 Human Rights Report highlighted the “unlawful and arbitrary killings by security forces, organized criminal elements, and others” and the “corruption, intimidation, and institutional weakness of the justice system leading to widespread impunity,” in the country.