Saturday, August 06, 2016

Travel warning - again

The US State Department has just issued another travel warning for Honduras.

This one is about one third shorter than the last warning, but still contains many passages (about one-third) that are merely cut and pasted from the previous warning, with little or no change.

Thankfully, the warning has omitted one of the most egregious statements of previous warnings which stated that “U.S. citizens are victims of crime at levels similar to those of the local population,” a statement that is blatantly untrue.

But the warning still takes a blanket approach to the violence in Honduras, not distinguishing carefully the relative security of many smaller cities and many rural regions of the country. It notes that the murder rate for 2015 was 60 per 100,000 inhabitants – for the whole country.

But looking at Neighborhood Scout, one might be reluctant to visit Saint Louis, Missouri, which had a murder rate of 50 per 100,000 in 2015 and one should definetly not visit East Saint Louis, Illinois or Chester, Pennsylvania which had murder rates respectively, of 101 and 88 per 100,000 inhabitants. Detroit had only 45 per 100,000 while New Orleans had 39/100,000 and Baltimore 24/100,000.

Official sources indicate that there were 5092 homicides in Honduras in 2015. Official sources also report 2100 homicides from January to May in 2016 – with 328 in Tegucigalpa and 307 in San Pedro Sula between January and April. Of these killings there were 45 multiple slayings, with 156 victims.

I have not been able to find out how many are due to organized crime, how many due to drug trafficking, how many are due to gang violence. In addition, I wonder how many of these deaths were targeted, not random violence nor violence perpetrated on random persons in the street. How many were the result of the use of weapons by persons who were inebriated or on drugs or who lost their tempers or were overly jealous. I know of three deaths this year – of persons killed during an arson – that are directly related to jealousy. I also know of cases of killings to avenge crimes, because of the lack of a justice system that prosecutes and jails criminals in a just and efficient manner.

But I also wonder whether considering murder rates is the best way to calculate security and safety. In the four municipalities that make up the parish of Dulce Nombre there were, according to the National University’sObservatory of Violence, 14 homicides in 2015. That would be about 53 per 100,000. But 6 of these were in one single municipality, San Agustín.

I do not deny that there are serious problems with violence in Honduras. Much of this is concentrated in three cities – Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, and La Ceiba - and in areas of drug trafficking, especially on the northern coast.

But much of the violence is related to corruption, impunity, and courts and police that fail to execute justice. There is also the lack of a culture of peaceful conflict resolution.

I do not feel insecure. Of course, I don’t live in a big city and when I visit Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sula I take precautions.

But here in the parish I feel very strongly that my security is in the people whom I serve – and in the God we love and who loves us.

Posts on previous travel warnings can be found here, here, here, and here.

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