Authorities in Honduras have touted a decline in homicides in recent years, but a series of massacres to start 2019 raises questions about the ongoing security situation in the Central American nation.
During the first two weeks of the new year, at least 30 people were killed in eight massacres* that took place across the country, from the northern Caribbean city of Puerto Cortés to western Olancho department and the capital Tegucigalpa, El Heraldo reported.
Local criminologists said rival gangs warring over territory and control of small-scale drug trafficking were responsible for the bloodshed, La Tribuna reported. A reduction in police operations after the Christmas season could also be contributing to the violence as gangs settle scores and seek extortion payments. The Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) are Honduras’ two dominant gangs.
When asked about the recent massacres, National Police spokesman Jair Meza told Confidencial that it’s important to remember that homicides are down in comparison to years past.
Homicides have dropped considerably since the country’s murder rate peaked at 86.5 per 100,000 citizens in 2011. The homicide rate was cut by more than half to 42.8 in 2017 and then to 40 in 2018, the lowest rate seen in more than a decade.
Experts told InSight Crime in November 2017 that a variety of factors have helped to reduce violence, such as the dismantling of large criminal networks and reforming and purging the national police.