Posts Tagged ‘murder capital’

I was an American missionary in Honduras. I witnessed firsthand the violence they endure.


In this Nov. 2, 2018 photo, 3-year-old Brithani Lizeth Cardona Orellana, bottom right center, stands with her 5-year-old sister Janeisy Nicolle and brother 9-year-old brother Kenner Alberto, flanked by their aunt and uncle at their home in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

There is an armed security guard at every Dunkin’ Donuts in Honduras. When you enter a pharmacy, the guard with a shotgun slung across his chest will considerately hold your pistol while you wait for your prescription to be filled. On holidays, there are no official fireworks, only a handful of illegal firecrackers and gunshots exploding in the night air. On Christmas Eve, New Year’s, Independence Day, in every barrio across the country, shots echo in the dark like a posse galloping out of town in an old Western.

Five years ago, I left the States to volunteer alongside other Americans and Nicaraguans at a children’s home on the northern coast of Honduras that served orphans and kids who could no longer live with their families due to extreme poverty, abuse or both. We learned firsthand that paradise and hell are next-door neighbors, and you can hear the gunshots at night from both places.

I first had a gun pointed at me while waiting for a cab before dawn in the wealthiest neighborhood of San Pedro Sula, the industrial center of the country and, at the time, the “murder capital” of the world. The security guard saw me standing outside the seminary where I had spent the night as a guest. He climbed down from his turret on the street corner and approached me with a machete in one hand and a raised revolver in the other.

“What are you doing here?” He squinted at me, blinking back sleep.

“I’m just waiting for a taxi. I’m headed to the airport,” I said.

“Then why would you be waiting here on the street?” he asked. “Nothing good happens here this time of night.” Surrounding us were houses that were mansions even by U.S. standards. I wanted to go back inside the seminary, but the 15-foot-high gate had slid closed behind me, and I could not open it again without waking up all the priests, nuns and seminarians inside.

“I can go wait on another block,” I offered. “My cab is just five minutes away.”

“No!” he responded firmly. “You wait right there. Don’t move. Just wait.”

When my taxi finally did arrive, he holstered his gun and offered an apology, but I did not stick around long enough to acknowledge it.

•••

Before I moved to Honduras, I visited the country. For a week, I helped lead a group of high school students from all of the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Dallas who wanted to offer some manual labor and supplies to our “sister diocese.” In the shadow of a massive green mountain, we worked to rebuild and paint a crowded school where Luis, our local guide, and his wife were teachers. Luis was the closest thing the small village had to a mayor. He ran the school, helped settle disputes, led the community Bible study and Sunday service, and as one of the only residents with a car, also provided ambulance service.

One morning he greeted us with bags under his bloodshot eyes. He had taken a neighbor who had stomach pains to the hospital in the middle of the night—more than an hour’s drive each way, around to the other side of the mountain. He returned in time for breakfast and prayers and to greet us in the morning at the school.

Luis and his wife stood out as towering examples of what was possible even amid extreme poverty. With determination and a good heart, one could be a pillar of the community—a community worth staying for. I once asked Luis if many of the young men in his village would eventually leave for the United States. “All of them,” he told me. There was no shame in his voice; it was simply a fact. When I asked if he had ever thought of making the journey, he shook his head. He had a wife and young son, a good job, a community where he was making a difference; he could not imagine leaving.

Years later, when I moved to a town just on the other side of that mountain, I jumped on the bus to visit Luis and his family. He was thrilled to see me again but cautioned me not to take the bus next time. “It was not safe” is all he would say.

During my two years in Honduras, I learned to love those kids at our children’s home like they were my own. Our goal was to prepare them for healthy and productive lives in Honduras, despite the brutal and heartbreaking childhood they had suffered. If we could only offer them enough love and stability and peace in the midst of the tempest around them and behind them in their past, they might have a fighting chance, we believed.

Yet violence does not issue warnings, and it will not take into consideration sincerely held beliefs. I had just returned from teaching my English class for the day when I learned that one of our volunteers and our executive director, who was visiting from the States, had been attacked on the beach next to our property. Maybe 200 yards from the house, our sanctuary, they had been held with machetes to their necks, and the volunteer, one of my best friends, was raped. “We know where you are from,” their attackers had said when they let them go. “Tell anyone and we come back and kill you and all the children.”

After going to the hospital and giving her testimony to the police, my beloved friend spent the night surrounded by the rest of us on the floor, several of us with machetes by our sides and all of us unable to sleep. In the morning, she was evacuated out of the country, and the rest of us were offered the option by our board of directors to leave as well. Suddenly the cursed choice to flee this country that so many of our Honduran neighbors had been forced to make became my own. The men responsible had still not been caught, and our already limited community of volunteers was quickly dwindling as many admitted they no longer felt safe enough to continue working. The next day the rest of us left as well.

•••

A few years later I reached out to Luis via WhatsApp. It turned out he and his family had snuck away from their small town in the middle of the night. A local gang had demanded he pay for “protection,” and when Luis refused, they threatened to kill him and his family. They fled to a larger city, but he and his wife were unable to find any work as teachers and were still fearful the gang would eventually find them. He asked if I could help him claim asylum in the United States.

I got in touch with a few immigration lawyers, who told me Luis would have to make it to the Mexico-U.S. border and apply for asylum there. But even if he got that far, I had to tell Luis, it was very unlikely his family would be granted asylum. Luis was heartbroken. He needed to protect his family, he said, and the best way he could do that was to leave and provide some kind of living for them. Maybe you and I could get married, if only on paper, he offered sincerely. He was right that such a union was now legal here in the United States, I explained, but I could not just marry him to get him citizenship. Despite the absurdity of the suggestion, I struggled to type out my response, knowing my decision was a matter of life and death.

I still receive messages from Luis every few weeks begging me for help, though to be honest, I no longer have the courage to open them. Constant reminders that I am helpless simply became too much. I know ignoring him is wrong. I know it is my privilege to be able to log off of the violence of Honduras and pretend I do not live in the country that created Luis’s desperation, which is also the country that could help to fix it.

For all I know, Luis may be part of the infamous caravan, waiting on the other side of the southern border to claim asylum. It is the type of thing a real friend should know. It is important to know who these people are and that what they are doing is legal. There is no way for them to claim asylum from within their country of origin. Implying that those who peacefully present themselves at ports of entry have broken any American laws is simply not truthful.

When I first met Luis, I assumed that in Honduras it was possible to get an education, work and become financially stable enough that you would never need to leave. But the image in my head of the “virtuous Honduran” proved an illusion when even Luis was forced to flee from the unyielding violence and poverty of Central America. If we want to end the cycle of families fleeing in the night for our border, it is necessary to learn why their nights became so terrifying to begin with.

The weapons that plague their streets came from us. The corruption that infests their governments is a direct result of the coups and instability our country has consistently directed or condoned for over a century. Before Banana Republic was a chic clothing store, it was a dismissive term for a country made entirely dependent on a more powerful economy outside its borders. It was merely an updated version of colonialism, and the original victim was Honduras.

Poverty and violence, the causes of these caravans, are diseases we infected these countries with. Getting mad at the migrants is like the conquistadors and white frontiersmen wondering why the Native Americans they found were always getting so sick.

Those of us who live north of the Mexican border have to learn just how intertwined our lands are and why our neighbors to the south still hear gunshots at night. I have fled from one side to the other myself and watched in vain as those I care about try to follow. But being born in paradise is no reason to condemn those still stuck in hell.

Journalists demand justice for 22 colleagues murdered in Honduras

Journalists and defenders of free expression gathered in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, on Monday to demand justice for the 22 journalists who have been murdered in the country since 2014.

“We demand the investigation and trial of those responsible for the deaths of those journalists,” said Wendy Funez, a representative of the Freedom of Expression Committee (C-Libre), during a protest outside the attorney general’s office.

The demonstrators placed coffins at the entrance to the office in memory of the 22 journalists killed during the lifetime of the current government, headed by President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

In those cases, 91% of the murderers continue to enjoy impunity, said C-Libre director and former prosecutor Edy Tabora.

The committee has called for the creation of a specialised unit to investigate “aggression against freedom of expression.” Tabora said there had been 218 attacks against journalists in Honduras in 2015.

Since the 2009 US-backed coup that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya, 59 journalists have been murdered in Honduras, reported TeleSUR. Four have been killed in 2016 and 12 were killed in 2015.

Yet, in April 2015, the Honduras National Congress approved the “journalist protection law”, which included measures such as providing police protection when a journalist receives a threat.

The law also planned the creation of a centre to monitor threats. Nothing has come of it.

Duty to Warn

by Dr. Gary Kohls

The Execution of Berta Caceres, the United Fruit Company and the US Military: A Historical Timeline Identifying Some of the Perpetrators

By Gary G. Kohls, MD

THE FOLLOWING QUOTES (EXCEPT AS NOTED) ARE FROM:HTTPS://NEWREPUBLIC.COM/ARTICLE/120559/HONDURAS-CHARTER-CITIES-SPEARHEADED-US-CONSERVATIVES-LIBERTARIANS

“In the early 1950s the United Fruit Company hired legendary public relations expert Edward Bernays to carry out an intense misinformation campaign portraying then-Guatamalan president Jacobo Arbenz as a communist threat.” – Scott Price, IC Magazine

“Between the time of the (Honduran) coup (June 2009) and February 2012, there were at least 59 politically motivated assassinations of civilians associated with the resistance movement. This is a low estimate, as intimidation and fear of reprisal prevents communities and family members from reporting many such deaths. There were at least 250 violations of human rights in the military junta’s first three months alone.” – Committee of Family Members of the Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), respected human rights organization.

“I’ve seen all sorts of horrific things in my time. but none as detrimental to the country as this.” – Honduran journalist Sandra Maribel Sanchez

 “In 2013, the (illegitimate) Honduran government passed a law…which is to create autonomous free-trade zones that are governed by corporations, instead of the countries in which they exist.”

 “…the project will allow multinationals to violate labor and environmental rights. It’s unconstitutional and violates national sovereignty. According to the charter city law, Honduras will sell territory to investors, and that territory becomes an autonomous region (that is) no longer governed by Honduran laws or police.”

“This is nothing more than a plan to get rid of the national debt by auctioning off the country,” ex-president Manuel Zelaya, overthrown in a US-backed 2009 coup.

“Many fear the ZEDEs (‘Special Economic Development Zones’ [‘Privatized Free Trade Zones’]) in Honduras because they will become a tool for organized crime to strengthen its hold on the country”

“Nine Americans remain key players in the ZEDEs—six of whom served in the administration of former President Ronald Reagan.” (They are Mark Klugmann, Grover Norquist, Richard Rahn, Loren A. Smith, Reagan’s son, Michael and Mark Skousen – see below for more details.)

“US investor-members (of the Honduran Special Economic Development Zone’s  so-called Committee for the Application of Best Practices) include Mark Klugmann, speech writer for presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush and image consultant to Honduran post-coup president Lobo; Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform; Richard Rahn, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce during the Reagan administration and senior member of the (Libertarian)Cato Institute; Loren A. Smith, federal judge and chief campaign advisor to Reagan in 1976 and 1980; Reagan’s son, Michael; and Mark Skousen, former CIA economic analyst and Forbes columnist.”

“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” – Jay Gould, railroad robber baron, as he hired armed Pinkerton detectives (and other goon squad thugs) to brutally break a labor union strike.

This time we can’t just call up the police ‘cause the criminals got all the cops on a leash” – Songwriter Ethan Miller, from his powerful pro-worker songOrganized Crime

Hondura’s President Porfirio Lobo talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Guatemala City on March 5, 2010. (Photo: Guatemala Presidency/Handout)

Hondura’s Illegitimately-elected right-wing President Porfirio Lobo met with President Obama in October 2011 following the military coup that deposed the social democratic president Zelaya

Wounds inflicted by the Honduran military upon a Lenca tribal anti-dam activist, whose father was murdered in the same attack

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Last Sunday I attended a vigil at Peace Church here in Duluth, MN that commemorated the life and death of assassinated Honduran environmental activist Berta Caceres, a 44 year-old mother of 4.

Caceres has been devoting her life organizing her fellow aboriginal tribal members (the Lenca Indians), fellow Hondurans and other justice-loving citizens of the world in resisting the privatization of their ancestral lands, resources and rivers by foreign investor groups and the traitorous collaborating politicians and businessmen that rule Honduras. Those “traitors” to her homeland’s indigenous rights are being militarily backed-up by the Honduran military, the private corporation’s armed guards, and shadowy “death squads” who have been harassing Berta and other resistors with death threats, intimidation and killings over the years.

The vigil was somber and meditative and a call to some sort of action to those in attendance. To me it was also a call to do something to resist other tyrannical corporations that are forging ahead with their nefarious plans to exploit and extract our precious, irreplaceable resources by any means necessary.

I have long believed that, in order to be effective, it is necessary to name out loud, not just the evil that is being done to the land and it creatures, but also the suspected or proven evil-doers  That exercise was effective in my practice of holistic health care, where victims of neglect or psychological, sexual, physical, emotional, spiritual trauma needed to not only identify the signs and symptoms of their mental ill health, but also to name the perpetrators of the violence, which were individuals, groups or cultures. Doing so was very therapeutic and often curative.

So, in addition to commemorating the life and death of another martyr to the cause of peace and environmental justice, I feel that it is important to understand the history of the power-hungry perpetrators of violence to the land, its creatures, whether it be greedy individuals, greedy corporate entities, blinded or co-opted bureaucracies or military or police organizations that solve their problems by inflicting violence on others.

Therefore I offer below the following timeline of historical events in Honduras that led up to Berta’s execution, starting with the gold-obsessed Christopher Columbus and the evil conquistadors that followed him to a new world that was already occupied by First Nations’ peoples who were massacred or otherwise cheated out of their sovereign right to make use of their own land, mineral and water resources as they saw fit. I have obtained the information from a multitude of historically accurate sources.

(Note that this March 30 is the 117th anniversary of the merger of two US banana companies into the United Fruit Company (now called United Brands),that did everything in its power to violently enslave the aboriginal people of Central America by illegally and immorally removing them from their ancestral lands, refusing to pay them livable wages for their work, putting their lives and health at serious risk and by hoarding massive amounts of their land, thus impoverishing the original inhabitants,

Of course this pattern of exploitation should familiar to anybody who is awake. It happened (and is still happening) to aboriginal peoples in our own backyard, whether it is in the United States, Canada or in the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Africa, South America, Australia, New Zealand or most everywhere else around the world.

Powerful entities like extractive, polluting and otherwise exploitive multinational corporations like PolyMet, Twin Metals, Glencore and Enbridge (just to mention the few companies that are threatening the environmental health of northern Minnesota) need to be resisted. Please offer any help you can give to the Duluth 7 activist group, which is facing criminal trespass charges when they tried to deliver a protest letter to the corporate Duluth offices of Enbridge Energy, a Canadian oil pipeline company on November 2, 2015. Their arraignment is scheduled for April 1.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A Historical Timeline from Columbus to the Berta Caceres Assassination

1502 During 4th voyage Christopher Columbus reaches the coast of Honduras, then travels south to Panama.

1525 Spain conquistadors begin the brutal military assault on Honduras and all of Central and South America, with millions of innocents displaced and executed.

17th century The northern coast of Honduras falls to British buccaneers. British Honduras (now Belize) is established as a British colony, along with many Caribbean island nations.

1860 William Walker, US physician and pro-slavery soldier of fortune from Nashville, TN, leads mercenary soldiers in temporarily “conquering” Nicaragua. He is executed by firing squad by the Honduras government.

1898 April-December: Spanish-American war. Following the war, the US militarily occupies Cuba and Puerto Rico.

1899, March 30 The Boston Fruit Company merges with the Snyder Banana Company, and renames itself the United Fruit Company. The company at one time controlled 75% of the banana market in the US.

1903 November: The United States, with an eye on digging an interoceanic canal, conspires with separatist groups in the Colombian state of Panama to declare independence from Colombia. The US government sends the US Navy to prevent Colombia from recovering its territory. As soon as Panama’s independence is assured, the US obtains control over a strip of land (ultimately called the Canal Zone) through which it plans on building the canal.

1903 The United States invades Honduras.

1903 US invades the Dominican Republic.

1906 The US Army re-invades Cuba. The American occupation remains until 1909.

1907 US troops invade Nicaragua and establish a protectorate in the country.

1907 Due to political violence, US re-invades Honduras during the war with Nicaragua to “protect American lives”.

1909 US Army re-invades Nicaragua.

1911 US helps to overthrow President Miguel Devila of Honduras

1912 The US Army sends troops to Cuba.

1912 US marines land in Panama during the contested presidential elections.

1912 The US Army intervenes again in Honduras.

1914 The US Navy fights against rebels in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

1915 The US Army invades Haiti.

1916 The US Army invades the Dominican Republic.

1917 The US Army invades Cuba. The American occupation lasts until 1933.

1918 The US Army intervenes in Panama and keeps a police force in the country.

1919 The US marines land in Honduras during the presidential campaign.

1920 The US Army lands in Guatemala and fights for two weeks and puts down a peasant union movement against the United Fruit Company.

1924 US military “intervenes” in Honduras to “protect American interests” (ie, the profitability of the United Fruit Company) during a presidential election.

1925 US Army lands in Panama during a general strike against the banana plantation owners.

1932 US Navy intervenes in the Marti Revolt in El Salvador.

1932-49 Honduras suffers under the military dictatorship of General Tiburcio Carias Andino and his  right-wing National Party of Honduras (NPH).

1933 First election to the presidency of Honduras of General Carias, who developed close ties with his fellow right-wing, neofascist , military dictators in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, all supported by the US. He remained in office until 1949.

1934 In a military coup, US-backed military dictator Anastasio Somoza takes power in Nicaragua and outlaws political parties that favor the poor and working class. He was assassinated on September 17, 1980.

<<snip>>

1945 The United Fruit Company introduces Miss Chiquita Banana as the company’s official symbol.

1953 President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorizes Operation PBSUCCESS, a covert operation in which the CIA funds, arms, and trains 480 men led by Carlos Castillo Armas, the first of many of Guatamala’s (and other Central and South American) military dictators vigorously supported by the US.

1954 After escaping from prison following an abortive military coup attempt (1950) against the Guatemalan government, strongman and dictator-to-be Carlos Castillo established an army in neighboring Honduras. Castillo received financial and military support from the CIA and political support from Republican US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and CIA Director Allen Dulles. The Dulles brothers were once lawyers for the United Fruit Company.

1954 Castillo’s army invades Guatemala in June, 1954, successfully overthrowing the democratically-elected Jacobo Arbenz, who had instituted land reform benefitting the landless peasants (the 99%) – opposed vigorously by the United Fruit Company, its bought-and-paid-for politicians and wealthy landowners (the 1%).

1954 Che Guevara witnesses the CIA-backed coup in Guatemala against Arbenz and is convinced that only armed revolutions can overthrow fascists and wealthy land-owning tyrants.

1956 The Honduras military ousts civilian president Lozano Diaz in a bloodless coup. Honduras was subsequently ruled by a military junta for the next two years.

1957 José Ramón Adolfo Villeda Morales is elected Honduran president. He serves for 6 years.

1963 October 13 The presidential candidate of the Liberal Party of Honduras, campaigning on the platform to abolish the military, is expected to win the election. But Honduran democracy is again thwarted by a military coup d’etat shortly before election day.

1963 General Osvaldo Lopez took power after the coup and served as president until 1971.

1972 General Lopez again takes power in another coup d’etat and serves until 1974.

1974 General Lopez resigns after he was exposed for accepting a bribe of over a million dollars from United Fruit.

1974 Hurricane Fifi devastates Honduras, killing 5,000.

1975 Colonel Juan Alberto Melgar Castro takes power.

1978 General Policarpo Paz Garcia ousts Melgar in a coup.

1981 Roberto Suazo Cordova, of the Centrist Liberal Party of Honduras, is elected president. He leads the first civilian government in more than a century.

1982 Brutal Guatemalan dictator (and fundamentalist Christian) Rios Montt meets with US President Ronald Reagan in Honduras. Reagan dismisses reports of egregious human rights abuses in the region and resumes weapons sales to military rulers.

1986 President Reagan issues an executive order granting emergency aid for Honduran army.

1988 Amnesty International reports increases in human rights violations by Honduran armed forces, and right-wing death squads.

1989 General Alvarez is assassinated.

1990 Rafael Callejas is sworn in as president; last Nicaraguan Contras leave Honduras.

1990-1998 Honduran military death squads kill hundreds.

1995 Compulsory military service is abolished. First military officers charged with human rights abuses.

1997 Carlos Flores, Liberal Party,is  elected president, pledging to restructure armed forces.

1998 Hurricane Mitch devastates Honduras. Cholera and malaria epidemics ensues.

1999 Honduran armed forces is placed under civilian control.

2001 Honduran Committee for Defense of Human Rights states that more than 1,000 street children were murdered in 2000 by death squads backed by the Honduran police. A drought ravages Central America, and Honduras loses 80% of its grain crops.

2002 Honduras restores diplomatic ties with Cuba.

2003 Thousands of protestors across Honduras unite to demand that the government revoke debt payment agreements with the IMF. Sadly, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua agree to the terms of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).

2004 Honduras signs NAFTA.

2005 Liberal Party’s Manuel Zelaya, a social democrat, wins presidential election. Honduran Congress approves Central American Free Trade Agreement.

2006 Zelaya inaugurated as new president, promises to fight corruption.

2008 Honduras joins Bolivarian Alternative for Americas, headed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

2008 Zelaya administration blocks many hydroelectric dam projects, siding with the aboriginal people who would be most affected.

2009 June President Zelaya forced into exile following a US-supported military coup d’etat. Porfirio Lobo of the conservative National Party of Honduras installed as president in a fraudulent election November 2009.

2009 In the first three months of President Lobo’s administration, at least 250 violations of human rights occur and over the first two years, over 59 assassinations of civilians are documented. 2010 President Lobo’s rallying cry was “Honduras is Open for Business.”

2010 September The post-coup nationalist government awards 47 hydroelectric dam concessions in just one law, without consulting the indigenous communities which rely on the rivers for food and water. The law was part of a tsunami of pro-business laws passed by the National Congress led by

2010 President Juan Orlando Hernandez becomes the country’s president in an election marred by allegations of fraud and intimidation. Orlando, a businessman, is a staunch supporter of foreign investments in dams, mining, tourism and oil.

Since the 2009 coup, the US builds up its air base presence in Honduras through the establishment of three forward operating bases, ostensibly for “drug interdiction”.

2011 Honduras receives more than $50 million in Pentagon contracts. 62 percent of all Defense Department funds intended for Central America that year go to Honduras.

2012 January President Orlando is invited to visit the US Military’s Southern Command headquarters in Miami to meet with high-ranking officials.

2012 May At least 4 people are gunned down by Honduran forces firing from a US State Department helicopter, under the supervision of uniformed DEA and US Navy agents.

<<snip>>

March 3, 2016 The courageous anti-tyranny activist Berta Cáceres is executed in her sleep by a right-wing death squad connected to those who were issuing the constant death threats. Cáceres was the cofounder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Movements of Honduras (COPINH). She was an unrelenting activist protecting her Lenca Tribe’s First Nation’s natural resources, lands and rivers against powerful, military-backed, consortiums of US banks, IMF and World Bank predatory lenders, dam construction companies and mining companies that are intent on unethically – and illegally (in violation of international law) – exploiting the indigenous people’s natural resources.

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Dr Kohls is a retired physician from Duluth, MN, USA. He writes a weekly column for the Reader, Duluth’s alternative newsweekly magazine. His columns mostly deal with the dangers of American fascism, corporatism, militarism, racism, malnutrition, psychiatric drugging, over-vaccination regimens, Big Pharma and other movements that threaten the environment or America’s health, democracy, civility and longevity. Many of his columns are archived athttp://duluthreader.com/articles/categories/200_Duty_to_Warn

Por tercer año consecutivo, San Pedro Sula es la ciudad más violenta del mundo

Post 15 January 2014
Por José A. Ortega
Visitas: 7311

Con una tasa de 187 homicidios por cada 100 mil habitantes, la urbe hondureña de San Pedro Sula ocupó por tercer año consecutivo el liderato del ranking de las 50 ciudades más violentas del mundo. El segundo lugar correspondió a Caracas, Venezuela y el tercero a Acapulco, México, con tasas de 134 y 113 homicidios por cada 100 mil habitantes, respectivamente.

La situación de San Pedro no mejora, empeora. Si en 2010 figuró en el tercer lugar mundial con una tasa de 125 homicidios por cada 100 mil habitantes, en 2011 pasó al primer lugar mundial con una tasa de 159 y en 2012 mantuvo la primera posición con una tasa que calculamos similar a la del año anterior, pero que después se supo era superior (174).

Ciudad Juárez siguió reduciendo su incidencia de homicidios y si había tenido el primer lugar mundial en los años 2008, 2009 y 2010, en 2011 tuvo el segundo lugar, en 2012 el 19 y ahora ocupa la posición 37.

Del ranking salieron las siguientes ciudades que figuraron en 2012: Brasilia y Curitiba de Brasil, Barranquilla de Colombia, Oakland de Estados Unidos y Monterrey de México. Todas estas ciudades tuvieron tasas inferiores a la del lugar 50 (Valencia, Venezuela con 30.04 homicidios por cada 100 mil habitantes).

Al ranking de 2013 ingresaron las ciudades brasileñas de Campina Grande, Natal y Aracaju y la colombiana de Palmira. Asimismo reingresó al ranking la ciudad mexicana de Tijuana, que había figurado entre 2008 y 2010 y no figuró en los rankings de 2011 y 2012.

De las 50 ciudades del ranking, 16 se ubican en Brasil, 9 en México, 6 en Colombia, 5 en Venezuela, 4 en Estados Unidos, 3 en Sudáfrica, 2 en Honduras y hay una de El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica y Puerto Rico.

Descarga ESTUDIO COMPLETO

La abrumadora mayoría de las 50 ciudades más violentas del mundo se ubican en el continente americano (46 ciudades) y en particular en América Latina (41 urbes).

Esto confirma lo que revelan diversos estudios globales por país: que la violencia homicida en América Latina presenta una incidencia muy por encima de la media mundial.

La situación de América Latina no es igual en todos los países, claro está. El nivel de violencia es considerablemente menor a la media latinoamericana en países como Chile, Nicaragua, Costa Rica o Argentina.

Los países latinoamericanos con el mayor problema de violencia son Honduras, Venezuela, Guatemala, El Salvador, México y Brasil.

Asimismo el proceso más exitoso y encomiable en la reducción de la violencia es el de Colombia. Resulta especialmente meritorio que desde hace 11 años sigan bajando la incidencia de homicidios y otros delitos violentos debido a la cada vez mayor eficacia de la policía y no como resultado de la negociación con criminales (como es el caso de El Salvador).

Ahora bien, el mayor obstáculo que un esfuerzo de investigación como el que representa el ranking enfrenta, es la falta de transparencia de los gobiernos de varios de los países. Peor aún es la práctica de falsificar cifras que realizan gobernantes de algunas naciones, específicamente de México y Venezuela.

Respecto al gobierno de Venezuela por sus actos ha demostrado que no le interesa la transparencia y la rendición de cuentas sino el ocultamiento o la propaganda, muchas veces basada en mentiras. Esta política del gobierno venezolano de hacer propaganda en lugar de resolver el problema de la violencia, confirma el temor de que Venezuela se conduce hacia el abismo.

En México en teoría hay transparencia informativa, para lo cual se hace público mes por mes la estadística de incidencia criminal, desglosada en decenas de tipos penales y con grado de desagregación estatal y, desde 2011, municipal.

El problema es que los gobiernos de no pocas entidades federativas falsifican las cifras, para simular una incidencia criminal inferior a la real.

Esta falsificación se constata cuando se cotejan las cifras de homicidios (y otros delitos) que los gobiernos locales reportan con las que genera el Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática (INEGI), las cuales son más abultadas y resultan de un ejercicio más profesional y más honesto.

Al respecto quepa citar a manera de ejemplo los casos más escandalosos de discrepancia, que evidencian la manipulación de cifras y que tienen relación directa con el ranking, los cuales corresponden a los estados de Tamaulipas, Coahuila y Chihuahua. Los datos son 2012, pues el INEGI hasta mediados de 2014 dará a conocer sus cifras preliminares de 2013.

El caso más escandaloso de falsificación de cifras es el de Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. El gobierno del estado reportó 288 homicidios en 2012. Con esa cifra y una tasa de 72.85 homicidios por cada 100 mil habitantes, se ubicó en el octavo lugar del ranking de las 50 ciudades más violentas del mundo.

Pero el INEGI registró 544 homicidios, es decir, ¡un 88.89% más! Eso significa que la tasa de Nuevo Laredo en realidad fue 137.61 homicidios por cada 100 mil habitantes, con lo cual el lugar que le habría correspondido en el ranking sería el tercero mundial.

El segundo caso de falsificación de cifras se refiere al municipio de Torreón Coahuila. El gobierno local reportó al SE-SNSP un total de 462 homicidios en 2012, cuando que el INEGI registró 792, es decir, un 71.43% más.

El tercer caso notorio de falsificación de cifras corresponde al municipio de Chihuahua, capital del estado del mismo nombre. El gobierno local reportó al SE-SNSP un total de 363 homicidios en 2012, mientras que el INEGI registró 587, es decir, un 61.71% más. Es decir, en el lugar de la posición 32 en el ranking que tuvo Chihuahua con una tasa de 43.49 homicidios por cada 100 mil habitantes, en realidad tenía que haber sido la posición 12, con una tasa de 69.56.

Cuando el gobierno del Presidente Enrique Peña festina la supuesta baja de la incidencia de homicidios en México ¿cómo creer en las cifras oficiales cuando están basadas en estos fraudes?

Por lo demás no es de esperar una disminución significativa de la violencia en México cuando la nueva administración, como la anterior, carece de una política eficaz y ni siquiera es capaz de poner en práctica sus cuestionables programas como el de crear una nueva policía (¡otra más!), la gendarmería nacional.

Lic. José Antonio Ortega Sánchez
Presidente del Consejo Ciudadano para la
Seguridad Pública y la Justicia Penal, A. C.

Posición Ciudad País Homicidios Habitantes Tasa
1 San Pedro Sula Honduras 1,411 753,990 187.14
2 Caracas Venezuela 4,364 3,247,971 134.36
3 Acapulco México 940 833,294 112.80
4 Cali Colombia 1,930 2,319,684 83.20
5 Maceió Brasil 795 996,733 79.76
6 Distrito Central Honduras 946 1,191,111 79.42
7 Fortaleza Brasil 2,754 3,782,634 72.81
8 Guatemala Guatemala 2,123 3,103,685 68.40
9 João Pessoa Brasil 515 769,607 66.92
10 Barquisimeto Venezuela 804 1,242,351 64.72

Why is there so much violence in our country?

 

The violence in Honduras has old roots, but the newest ones have grown rapidly in the last 30 years. The accumulation of wealth, resources, land and power in few hands has generated levels of violence that now seem uncontrollable.

 

Ismael Moreno

 

No matter how much people may want to hide it, the Honduras we’re currently living in has escaped the hands of all sectors, including politicians, business people and even the US government. Everyone is experiencing the chaos, although not everyone admits or assumes responsibility for it. And everyone is trying to get the country back in check, but they’re doing so individually, which is yet another reason behind the current Honduran crisis.

Everybody’s affected by the violence, which in fact is governing the whole of society, controlling it, leading it, blackmailing it and threatening it. But the violence isn’t self-generated; it’s triggered, directed and sustained by people, and each sector blames the rest. By stopping to examine the violence, we can find answers to what has happened in Honduras and what could come, and can identify those responsible and their victims.

Three characteristics
of the last three decades

Honduras is a very violent society and nobody escapes it or the fear it produces. “Nobody knows when they leave the house whether they’re going to return” is a comment heard in all settings. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Frank La Rue, stated during a Latin American forum at the end of April that, in proportion to its population, Honduras has the most alarming violation of the freedom of expression in the world and is the country in which the most journalists have been killed in the least amount of time. San Pedro Sula is known as our industrial capital, but is now known the world over as the city that beat Ciudad Juárez to the title of the city with the most violent deaths. Honduras’ violence feeds off transnational criminal organizations. But what is there here that makes this external factor flourish so much in our country, that structures everything around violence?

In a search for answers, I’d like to explore three closely linked characteristics that have formed over the last three decades and help explain the violence. These decades represent the period of elected governments that started in 1982 and alternated peacefully and uninterruptedly until June 2009, when the process was abruptly broken by the coup promoted and provoked by the same people who had alternated in power up until that point.

First characteristic:
The concentration of wealth

The first characteristic of these three decades is the accelerated accumulation and concentration of resources and wealth in the hands of just a few families to a degree never before seen in Honduran history. It’s perhaps only comparable to the concentration of land and resources in the hands of the transnational banana companies that dominated national llife during almost all of the 20th century.

Social and economic analysts of the final decades of the last century used to argue that before the rise of these families, the lack of an agricultural and industrial modernization process in Honduras was due largely to the absence of a national bourgeoisie or oligarchy with the capacity to promote its own capitalist project, leaving the whole effort in the hands of the banana companies and their capital through the enclave model.

Today, a decade into the 21st century, that reading needs updating, as Honduras now has an oligarchy that controls all the strings of commercial, speculative, agroindustrial, energy, communications, tourism and transport capital, under the tutelage of multinational capital and with the backing of the state institutions. The decisions with real weight are made by these families, which include no more than a dozen surnames. They control, concentrate, exploit and convert into capital most of our natural and mining resources, at the same time crushing small and medium enterprise.

The same names
from breakfast to lunch…

The concentration of the country’s wealth in their hands puts these families at a great distance from the rest of society. They are families of really rich people, oligarchs in every sense of the word, surrounded by an extensive array of people who serve them: front men, administrators, employees, politicians and officials, middle men, suppliers and a vast range of professionals. Nothing worth money in Honduras, nothing that can be commercialized, is outside this power circle.

If you’re in the kitchen and decide to fry up some eggs and ham, the eggs, oil, stove, gas or whatever energy you use, the refrigerator where you keep the eggs and the coffee and sugar you’ll have with your breakfast are all sold by people with five surnames: Facussé, Canahuati Larach, Kafie, Ferrari and Kafatti. While having breakfast, you listen to the radio news, which is brought to you by a station owned by Farrari and Villeda-Toledo or Andonie Fernández. And if you prefer a TV debate program, you’ll watch it on one of the Ferrari and Villeda-Toledo channels. If a newspaper is more your cup of tea, then you’ll buy one owned by Canahuati, Rosenthal or Flores Facussé.

If you decide to go out for your lunch break and you call a friend to invite him or her along, you’ll be doing so with a cell phone from a company owned by the same families you acquainted yourself with during breakfast. And if you decide to eat at a fast food place, whichever franchise you choose will be in the hands of one of those same surnames. If you stop at a supermarket on the way home to pick up some soap and toilet paper, as well as soft drinks and snacks for the kids, all are associated with the same surnames from your breakfast and lunch. Remembering that that you need gas, you have the choice of filling up at any station under the control of the Terra group of Fredy Nasser, who is part of the Facussé family.

…and from supper to bed

Back home, you take a pill for a headache brought on by the hard day’s work. You bought it at the pharmacy chain owned by the Faraj-Atala family—who also own the Ficohsa bank—and by the same surnames that made their appearance at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Feeling better, you sit down in front of the television, which you purchased—using a Ficohsa bank credit card—at DIUNSA, Honduras’ largest import store, owned by the Faraj-Atalas, who jointly hold shares with the Facussés, Canahuattis and Ferraris. If you watch a national soccer match, the rights to whichever game you chose are owned by the Canahuatis, Ferraris, Rosenthals, Atalas and Abufeles. Even if you decide to watch the Real Madrid-Barcelona game, you’ll be watching a Ferrari and Villeda-Toledo channel, as they are the only ones with the rights for international games.

You finally go to bed to get some rest. Your bed is from a distributor controlled by the Faraj-Atalas. Perhaps before dozing off, you remember hearing on the news that there will be rallies of candidates from the two main political parties on the weekend. Well, the same surnames you breakfasted with are the leaders of both parties.

Your whole life is controlled by a group of families with no more than 12 surnames. They’re the same ones that have been taking a few cents out of their pockets over the year to donate to the Telethon, a charity initiative controlled by the Ferraris and the Villeda-Toledos.

This scandal generates violence

Such concentration of resources, wealth and decisions in so few hands spells disaster for small and medium enterprise as a result of extremely reduced opportunities to compete in commerce, industry and production in general, the loss of purchasing power due to increased unemployment, abandonment of the countryside, migration and inhuman growth of the urban centers, among other social and economic indicators. Moving from this host of shortages to crime and violence is only a matter of time and opportunity, because the violence has already been set up by the hoarders of resources and wealth. Their concentration of that wealth, those resources and that power is what triggers the instability and violence in the country. It’s scandalous and the scandal is growing because it has developed in just 30 years with a State that has passed laws to facilitate everything for them and give them carte blanche in the name of national development and the common good. And it has often been developed with the blessing of the top Church leaders.

Second characteristic:
Accumulation of conflicts

A second defining characteristic of the last three decades of formal and representative democracy are the conflicts that are not only unresolved but also accumulate. While the wealth has concentrated in few hands, the unresolved conflicts have expanded. There are conflicts over land, others related to deficient education and health care, around tax collection, over insecurity and violence… It’s like an enormous pressure cooker. If we had to order these explosive conflicts by priority, the land issue would occupy first place.

In the Aguán Valley, dozens of peasants have been murdered in recent years over agrarian conflicts. Recently, different peasant groups occupied lands in various areas of the country. They were later violently attacked and evicted by joint police and army operations. The argument for the evictions is the same: the peasants are invading private property and the State must firmly defend the owners’ rights. As one politician put it, in a comment like many others that filled the press in reaction to the occupations, “The peasants are being incited by politicians interested in destabilizing the government. This problem has to be confronted with the energy that must characterize a serious government and an equally serious republic.”

The man who made this statement is Juan Ramón Martínez, who was the minister of the National Agrarian Institute (INA) at the beginning of the nineties in the National Party government of Rafael Leonardo Callejas. That government saw the passing of the Agricultural Modernization Law, a juridical instrument that legalized the sale to private individuals of lands that had been the object of agrarian reform. It was a time in which we witnessed the land market phenomenon, with the organized peasants in the reformed sector being induced by diverse means to sell their lands at cut-rate prices so they could be extensively planted with African palm, particularly in the Aguán Valley region. As head of INA, Juan Ramón Martínez directed that land privatization and concentration process, using an instrument that was approved over and above the Constitution of the Republic.

Concentrating land
generates violence

The agrarian reform lands passed into the hands of Miguel Facussé, Rosenthal and a handful of other agro-industrialists who, with state protection, diversified their capital into all areas until they became a very powerful economic, agro-industrial, mining, commercial, financial and political oligarchy. Twenty years after implementing that juridically violent land grab mechanism, its main promoter is now calling on the government to use institutional violence against the peasants, who were the main victims of a process that only succeeded in accumulating the agrarian conflict around the nation. Using the law to argue for land concentration is not only unethical, it’s also like trying to put out a fire with gasoline.

A big private business leader told one media organization that “the peasant invaders are threatening private property, which is the life of Hondurans.” It’s true that private property is life, but only when ensured for the whole of society. When land is concentrated in just a few families at the cost of the hunger and precariousness of thousands of families, then private property threatens life rather than being the source of it.

Private property concentrated in just a few hands generates violence. As Rafael Alegría, a veteran peasant leader and current political leader of the National Grassroots Resistance Front, told envío: “For 20 straight years we have put up
with the policy of concentrating land, of commercializing land. Now people are talking about the alienation of land, which means that national land, which belongs to the State, communal land, which belongs to the municipality, and fiscal land, which has been donated by or bought from the State, is virtually in private hands. And those private lands can no longer be touched.”

In these 30 years, the buying up of land by agro-industrial companies has gone hand in hand with abandonment of the countryside and of the peasantry. A while ago now, economists from the Foreign Debt Social Forum showed us that for every 100 lempiras in the national budget, 70 remain in the capital city and only 5 are invested in the countryside. Such inequality in the resource distribution explains why 87 out of every 100 young people who emigrate to the United States leave from rural areas.

The third characteristic:
The political class controls the State

The third characteristic that defines the last 30 years and helps explain why there is so much violence in Honduras is
the subordination of the whole state institutionality to the political party system. All elections to public posts depend on
the National Congress and its decisions respond to calculations, negotiations and agreements among the top political leaders, subordinated to the discretionary power those same politicians have given to the Congress president.

His functions and attributions turn him into a monarch. Most of the bills debated in congressional plenary sessions first require the president’s approval. The negotiations he holds at his discretion are with the leaders of the political parties, controlled by the same surnames that control all the strings of economic life or by politicians loyal to that powerful oligarchy.

The independent surveys conducted in recent years put the political parties among the institutions most discredited with society. They are the paradigm of corruption, verticality, anti-democracy, impunity, blackmail and cynicism. Yet it is precisely that discredited party system that makes the state decisions. If the oligarchy needs a legal concept to make sure the fiscal policy never affects them, it just takes a few agreements and some money between the leaders of the political parties and the Congress president for the business class’ wish to become law. It only takes a few businesspeople interested in mining, forest and water exploitation so they can become even richer for the political party leaders and Congress president to hammer out an agreement for that wish to become law as well. And it only takes a few businesspeople interested in giving more power to the army and police to protect their businesses for the political leaders and the president of Congress to approving legislative reforms to make that happen. The same happens with the decisions taken in the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Supreme Court or any other state institution.

An institutionality that
generates violence

The filling of top public administration posts isn’t based only on professional competence. Appointments are also made as favors and on no few occasions to protect people with a long record of actions that are at odds with transparency, honesty and ethics. Such politicians generate violence and impunity. The State’s institutionality serves as a refuge for people who occupy themselves committing crimes, establishing alliances with transnational criminal organizations, and turning whole institutions into machineries dedicated to crime and criminality, as in the case of the National Police.

A consensus against this oligarchy

What can be done? Honduras needs a new national consensus. It needs to define a new course that breaks with the axis around which this concentration of resources and wealth is structured and that causes violence in society. We need a consensus against the oligarchy and its model, which is responsible for generating exclusion and impoverishment.

Public policies have to be agreed to consensually. One such policy should be a return to an agrarian reform that guarantees private land ownership based on productivity, social justice, security and food sovereignty and breaks with the system of latifundia and minifundia (vast estates and tiny landholdings), defining a the minimums for private land ownership.

Public policies that break with the current process of concentrating natural resources and wealth must be consensually agreed. The natural resources must be under the State’s direct responsibility and be administered based on national sovereignty and the welfare of the communities. All projects involving forests, water and minerals must be based on a harmonious relationship between the State, the communities and the private sectors, giving the State the last word.

Consensus also has to be sought around new fiscal policies that guarantee the disappearance of tax havens. This is
what Honduras has become for a few businesspeople and for the multinationals that invest and use the country’s resources tax free. We need a fiscal policy based on revenue, income and property in which those who earn more pay more and those who have less income are protected by the State. Until there is a new fiscal policy, there will be no way to break with the machinery that produces inequalities.

Furthermore, there is a need to build consensuses on public policies that promote, protect and provide incentives to small- and medium-scale enterprise, social enterprises and all productive, industrial and grassroots initiatives that generate employment, particularly for urban youth. Consensus is required around education, health, housing, energy, communication and the cleaning up and restructuring of the institution of justice in order to tackle impunity and defend human rights.

How can we re-forge politics?

There are small signs of the budding emergence of proposals aimed at breaking with the current system of political parties. But this bipartite system has always shown its capacity to capitalize on all political crises that we have experienced over these three decades and steer them toward its own ends, and there are signs it’s seeking to do so in the current situation.

The men who have sustained the top-down nature of the caudillo-producing patriarchal culture are the same ones who in the National Congress approved 40% participation by women in elected posts for the 2013 elections and 50% in the 2017 elections. That’s known as a coopting capacity, a maneuver the political parties are experts at performing.

Will the LIDER party achieve it?

A recently emerged new proposal is LIDER, a party that has just been legalized and is registered to participate in the elections. The party has five internal tendencies, ranging from the Left and unions to groups that split from the Liberal Party and continued supporting deposed President Mel Zelaya. LIDER also has a double consensus: all tendencies agree to Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro, as the party’s presidential candidate and Manuel Zelaya Rosales as its single leader and means of support.

LIDER is looking to capitalize on the resistance force that came together following the coup d’état. Will this young leftist party break with the logic, practices, verticality and corruption inherent in Honduras’ political party system? Will it attract new generations committed to ethics in politics? Or will it be co-opted, as all previously launched proposals for reforms and change have been?

Ismael Moreno, sj, is the envío correspondent in Honduras.

“More Terror” in Honduras, as Another Unionist Murdered

February 10, 2010

‘More Terror’ in Honduras, as Another Unionist Murdered

February 8
8:31 am
By Kari Lydersen

The body of 29-year-old Vanessa Yamileth Zepeda, still dressed in her nurse’s scrubs and killed by a bullet, turned up in the Loarque neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on February 4. Zepeda had young children and was a leader of the SITRAIHSS labor union (Workers Union for the Honduran Social Security Institute). She had been abducted that afternoon while leaving a union meeting.

The administration of the newly inaugurated President Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo has called Zepeda’s murder and other recent attacks common crime. But the Honduran resistance movement – mobilized since the June 2009 coup against then-president Manuel Zelaya – see it as a clear message.

Trade unionists, especially public sector workers like Zepeda, are among the strongest and largest factions making up the resistance coalition. Opposition to powerful unions was apparently among the motivations for the coup in the first place, and all the country’s major union federations are part of the resistance front.
Unions are an impediment to neoliberal pushes to increase privatization, and foreign companies fear clashes with unions or unionizing efforts in Honduras’ maquila (factory) sector.

Since Lobo’s inauguration on January 27, there have been 10 to 15 assassinations of resistance members and leaders, according to Victoria Cervantes, a Chicago activist who recently returned from meeting with unionists and other groups in Honduras with the group La Voz de los de Abajo.

Since the coup, a number of people have been killed and thousands arrested and detained. Most of the previous deaths involved police and soldiers opening fire on crowds or attacking people in the midst of protests. Such open state violence has ebbed in recent weeks.
But the targeted kidnapping, torture and assassination of a handful of activists like Zepeda is more chilling and evokes hallmarks of the ruthless right-wing death squads of the 1980s in Central America and more recently in Colombia, according to human rights groups.
(Jeremy Kryt has been reporting from Honduras on such human rights abuses for In These Times.)

“Before you might have had 300 army trucks storming through Tegucigalpa,” said Cervantes. “That could be terrifying, but what’s probably more terrifying is the idea that if you are identified as part of the resistance movement, you or your daughter could be snatched up and tortured. This is more terror at a lower political cost.”

Trade unionists and gay and lesbian groups, who have become increasingly visible and organized as part of the resistance, have been the main focus of recent attacks and intimidation. Campesino communities, especially those involved in contested land takeovers, have also suffered recent increases in violence and repression from police and landowners.
“Campesinos have always suffered some level of violence, but this is different,” said Cervantes.

There have reportedly been beheadings and a man’s tongue was cut out. Cervantes said Honduran officials known for paramilitary activity in the 1980s have also resurfaced as part of the coup and/or in Lobo’s conservative party.

“It’s the same actors as the ‘80s, and they’re desperate to terrify the resistance out of existence,” said Cervantes. “Again, it’s multinational companies tied in with the oligarchy. History keeps repeating itself.”

San Pedro Sula’s violence mirrors Honduras’ pain

Associated Press By ALBERTO ARCE April 9, 2012

http://news.yahoo.com/san-pedro-sulas-violence-mirrors-honduras-pain-154855635.html

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (AP) — This is a city besieged by crime in all its forms: gang violence, drug cartel killings and rampant extortion compounded by a fear of authorities.

Honduras is now among the most dangerous places on Earth. No other country matches its rate of 86 slayings per 100,000 inhabitants a year, according to a 2011 United Nations Report. That is roughly 20 times the U.S. homicide rate.

And it’s worse in San Pedro Sula, often cited as Honduras’ most violent city, with a murder rate almost double the national average.

In this Wild West city, gangs such as the Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, operate with impunity. MS-13 was born in the 1980s among Central American-born inmates in the prisons of California and spread to Central America when members were deported back home by the U.S. They found fertile ground in Honduras and other countries with underfunded police forces and corrupt officials.

Hondurans say gangs have imposed an almost unchallenged reign of extortion, murder and drug trafficking on this city and others.

Mayor Juana Carlos Zuniga recognizes that San Pedro Sula is threatened by violence that authorities cannot control. And the city’s location near Honduras’ Atlantic coast and border with Guatemala have put it on key international drug trafficking routes.

“As a local government we don’t have the necessary instruments to fight the well-defined and identified violence derived from drug trafficking that overwhelms us,” Zuniga told The Associated Press.

One night recently, the Catalino Rivas public hospital in San Pedro Sula could have been operating in a country at war.

There were not enough stretchers for the 19 wounded who arrived that night, and the people who brought them in had to shift the patients about. Pools of blood on the floor went unmopped.

Natalia Galdamez, the doctor on duty, received three patients with gunshot wounds. They said a gunman suddenly appeared and shot them without saying a word.

“It’s tough to believe. This was a paid hit. We hear the same story all the time,” Galdamez said.

Drug trafficking isn’t the only source of San Pedro Sula’s violence.

At a nearby taxi stand, a driver with 21 years of experience explained how each of the company’s 35 cars has to pay $30 a month to a gang. He said the drivers have to pay the same amount in taxes to the government, but each year, not each month.

“Who do you think has more power, the state or the criminals?” said the driver, who didn’t want his name used for fear of reprisals.