Like its fellow countries in the north of Central America, El Salvador and Guatemala, Honduras suffers from high crime rates and severe poverty in the wake of civil wars in the 1980s. Street gangs roam unchecked in many urban neighbourhoods while drug traffickers ply the coasts and plague all levels of the state. A contested presidential election in 2017 spurred a wave of political violence, though all sides seem to have accepted the recent landslide victory of left-leaning Xiomara Castro. Chronic socio-economic ills, coupled with poor governance and rampant corruption, are the main drivers of northward migration, which has its own perils for those who venture the journey. Crisis Group studies the roots of the country’s persistent problems and pushes for policy solutions to break the cycle of forced departure and deportation.

CrisisWatch Honduras

Deteriorated Situation

Fighting broke out between rival gangs at women’s prison, leaving dozens dead and triggering military takeover; anti-corruption efforts continued.

Armed forces seized control of prisons following deadly riot. Riot 20 June at women’s prison in Tamara town, Francisco Morazán department (centre), left at least 46 people dead; reports said prisoners belonging to Barrio 18 gang attacked cell block housing rival MS-13 gang, burning, hacking and shooting victims. President Castro said riot was planned by gangs with “knowledge and acquiescence of security authorities” and fired security minister, replacing him with National Police head Gustavo Sánchez. In step away from promises to put civilian police in charge of penal system, govt same day placed all prisons under control of military for one year. Meanwhile, violence continued throughout country despite state of emergency, due to end or be extended on 5 July. Notably, unidentified gunmen 15 June killed environmental activist in Tocoa, Colón department (north); govt 25 June announced night-time curfews in Choloma and San Pedro Sula cities, both Cortés department (north west), following spate of violent incidents that killed 22 people previous day.

Anti-corruption efforts continued despite concerns. Govt and UN 16 June extended memorandum of understanding, aimed at supporting establishment of International Commission Against Corruption and Impunity (CICIH), until Dec 2023. Despite progress, experts and politicians continued to stress CICIH would prove futile unless Congress repeals decrees granting members of Congress immunity.

In another important development. After cutting diplomatic relations with Taiwan and formally establishing relations with China in March 2023, govt 11 June opened embassy in Chinese capital Beijing during Castro’s 9-14 June state visit.

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