Friday, June 27, 2014

Another travel warning

This week the US State Department issued another warning about travel to Honduras. It’s as bad or worse than previous ones. I wrote about a previous one here. Much of the report is a mere reciting of the last warning.

It starts out with the bland statement:
Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens visit Honduras each year for study, tourism, business, and volunteer work without incident. However, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country,…
It states, as it did in the last two warnings, what I believe is a blatant lie.
U.S. citizens are victims of crime at levels similar to those of the local population, and do not appear to be targeted based on their nationality.
If that were true there would have been at least 50 US citizens killed in Honduras last year. I think the number is closer to three.

There is no way that US citizens are experiencing the crime and violence that Hondurans are. We have ways of assuring our safety that are beyond the means – personal and financial – of the majority of Hondurans. We can pay for more expensive busses, stay in hotels with guards, live in communities that are gated. (I don't live in a gated community and surely won't when I move to the countryside.)

If there are crimes that are perpetrated against US citizens, some of them may be due to the lack of taking serious precautions that one would take in certain areas in the US where crime is more common.

The warning states:
Several U.S. citizens have reported being robbed while walking on isolated beaches.
These crimes may partly be due in part to a lack of due care.

They talk about kidnappings and note that there have been four kidnappings of US citizens since January 1, 2012. That was the exact same thing they wrote in December 2013. That means that they have no reports of new kidnappings in the last six months.

They also cite the murder rate provided by the National Violence Observatory, located in the National Autonomous University of Honduras, as 79 per 100,000 people which is less than was projected in the US State Department December warning (81) – and is less than the previous year. This is not noted in the warning. There is, however, a repetition from the December 2013 warning of the innocuous statement that “The Honduran government is still in the early stages of substantial reforms to its criminal justice institutions.”

What would I advise people?
  • Come to Honduras to meet the real people in the countryside. Come as friends to accompany their efforts and to get to know them as real people. They will be your best security.
  • Avoid the big cities. Not only is the crime high, but the air is polluted. Hondurans have to live in these cities to find a job, or because their family moved there years ago to seek employment.
  • If you have to be in the cities, take care as you would in a big US city. Ask people where to avoid. If you don’t speak Spanish well, avoid public transportation.
  • In general be cautious.
  • But know that it is less dangerous in places where I work – in the parish of Dulce Nombre. Even the city of Santa Rosa de Copán has a lower murder rate than Camden, New Jersey.
  • Take the US State Department warning with a grain of salt. And realize that US policy and US drug use may be contributing.
  • Come and show solidarity with the poor here. 
Honduras is not the murder capital of the world, despite what the newspapers and the statistics say. Yes the murder rate is the highest - but why? Poverty, lack of a real judicial and justice system, policies of international businesses and government. 

Part of the cause may lie in the US.

I say this even while thinking of a community in the parish where I work which experienced the killing of four of its members in the last year. When Padre German mentioned this at a Mass the people countered that the perpetrators were NOT members of the community.

Let the US State Department examine its own complicity in the level of violence in Honduras. 

1 comment:

Charles said...

Brother John says, "Let the US State Department examine its own complicity in the level of violence in Honduras. "

Amen to that. It's good to know that some people still believe in miracles. :-)