This is the second in a series of articles exploring the “root causes” of the migrant crisis on the southern U.S. border, focusing on the four largest identified sending countries – Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
From the beginning of the current fiscal year on October 1, 2020, through June 3, 2021, Border Patrol agents reported 891,213 encounters with undocumented aliens on the southern border. Of these, 153,478 came from the Central American nation of Honduras (Southwest Land Border Encounters (By Component) | U.S. Customs and Border Protection (cbp.gov). What brought these people to the U.S. border? The answers are not hard to find.
Honduras is poor, extremely violent, and deeply corrupt. Honduras is the second-poorest country in Latin America; its per capita share of gross domestic product, estimated at $5,728, is one of the lowest in the region and 48.3% of the population lives below the poverty line. Unemployment is Honduras is about 5.6%, and at least one-third of Hondurans who do have work are underemployed. The increased productivity needed to break Honduras’ persistent high poverty rate depends, in part, on improving its educational system. While primary-school enrollment is near 100%, educational quality is poor, drop-out and grade repetition rates are high, and teacher and school accountability are low.
Honduras is the most violent country in Central America, with a homicide rate of 38.5 per 100,000 inhabitants. There are an estimated 7,000-10,000 gang members in Honduras, a country with a population of only about eight million people. Of these, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gangs are the most active and powerful.
Public corruption is deeply entrenched in Honduras, which ranks 157th (of 180 countries) on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. According to the Congressional Research Service, Honduran public officials, to include national legislators, regularly divert significant amounts of state resources into their pockets and political campaigns and use the state apparatus to protect and direct resources to their private-sector allies.
In the next part of this series, we will explore the “root causes” of migration from Guatemala.
(Sources for Honduras: “Honduras,” in Central Intelligence Agency, World Factbook, 2021, Honduras – The World Factbook (cia.gov); Congressional Research Service, Corruption in Honduras: End of the Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH), January 23, 2020, Corruption in Honduras: End of the Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) (congress.gov); “Honduras Is the Most Violent Country in Central America,” Televisión del Sur, May 10, 2021, Honduras Is the Most Violent Country in Central America | News | teleSUR English; Transparency International, Corruption Perception Index, 2020, 2020 – CPI – Transparency.org.); US Department of State, Overseas Advisory Council, Honduras 2020 Crime and Safety Report, March 31, 2020, Honduras 2020 Crime & Safety Report (osac.gov).)
Ed Cochran, a retired U.S. Army officer and a retired senior civilian employee of the U.S. Department of Defense, is a regular contributor to The Prickly Pear on national security issues. He holds an MS in Strategic Intelligence from the Joint Military Intelligence College (now National Intelligence University), and an MA in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College. His published work has appeared in The Journal of Strategic Studies, Israel Affairs, Parameters, The International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, and the International Bulletin of Political Psychology.
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