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July 10, 2014

Crisis in Honduras

Honduras has the world’s highest per-capita homicide rate, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and is (not coincidentally) a major source of unaccompanied children, migrants and asylum seekers who have been crossing the Mexico/U.S. border without documents (according to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (USCBP)).

This week, Human Rights First met with Nelson Arambú, a Honduran researcher for Doctors Without Borders and founder of two of Honduras’ LGBT organizations: Asociación Colectivo Violeta and Asociación Kukulcán. He described gruesome attacks against LGBT individuals. Though a special unit was created in Honduras to investigate crimes against LGBT people, most investigations do not end in convictions (as is the case for most crimes).

According to the UN, Honduran homicide rates tied to organized crime or gang activity tripled between 2007 and 2010. Even though homicide rates fell by 6.5% in 2013, they remain the highest in the world—and there was an increase in mutilations and decapitations. These kinds of homicides destroy the social and economic fabric of societies.

As the Obama Administration seeks $3.7 billion in emergency appropriations to address the influx of children, migrants and asylum seekers crossing the Mexico/U.S. border, it should look creatively at the forces prompting many to leave Central America. National and international policymakers and implementers should focus on violence reduction efforts in our hemisphere before Central American countries become failed states. Some are already on the brink.

Focus should be placed on development in municipalities sending the greatest numbers of migrants, improved child-protection institutions, migrant reintegration programs, agricultural development, support shelters for victims of violence, and—where there is a will to use it effectively—support for human rights, the rule of law, and public institutions. Where police and army units violate human rights and the rule of law, assistance to those units should be stopped in compliance with U.S. law and common sense.

All U.S. assistance should involve rigorous coordination between the U.S. Agency for International Development, State Department, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, other U.S. agencies, foreign government institutions, and civil societies.