Honduras suffers from high levels of violence. According to the Violence Observatory at the National Autonomous University of Honduras the homicide rate dropped to 68 per 100,000 in 2014, representing a marked decrease from the 79 per 100,000 murder rate previously recorded. Programs to boost the police force, justice actors, and the rule of law have helped advance this decline. However, Honduras continues to have one of the world’s highest murder rates.
Contributing factors to the high rate of violence include large populations of poverty throughout the country due to a stagnant economy. These challenges have enabled the formation of transnational gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street, which commit violence and traffic in drugs. Gangs participate in drug distribution in local communities and conduct illicit activities such as extortion, kidnapping, and human trafficking, compromising citizen security.
It is estimated that approximately 83 percent of the primary flow of the cocaine trafficked to the United States first transited through the Central American corridor in 2014. Honduras is a major transit country for cocaine, as well as some chemical precursors and synthetic drugs. The Northern Atlantic coastal region of Honduras is a primary landing zone for drug-carrying flights and maritime traffic. The region is vulnerable to narcotics trafficking due to its remoteness, limited infrastructure, lack of government presence, and under resourced law enforcement institutions. Transshipment from the North Atlantic coastal region is facilitated by subsequent flights north as well as maritime traffic and land movement on the Pan American Highway.
INL is committed to supporting the Honduran government’s effort to build efficient justice institutions and actors capable of countering transnational criminal organizations; reducing the flow of illicit narcotics; and improving citizen security while building Honduran institutional capacity. Programs primarily focus on the need for transparency and institutional change, especially with respect to everyday crimes that affect many Honduran citizens. We provide training and assistance to justice actors, including: police, prosecutors, defense attorney, judges and civil society to promote legal rights awareness, the rule of law, professionalization, respect for human rights, and accountability.
As part of its efforts to root out illicit activity in the security and justice sectors, the Government of Honduras expanded the use of financial disclosures, polygraphs, and other types of vetting for police and prosecutors, and used the results to remove dozens of police and prosecutors from their positions. The government increased the capacity of units and task forces composed of polygraphed and/or background checked Honduran police and prosecutors. A number of these vetted units received U.S.-supported training and had U.S. or international advisors assigned to them. One notable example is the Violent Crimes Task Force (VCTF). Established in 2011, the VCTF has investigated more than 215 cases leading to 51 arrests, 60 indictments, 17 trials, and 12 convictions.
To strengthen investigative institutions, the United States provided training for more than 1,200 Honduran police, prosecutors, and judges on a variety of topics. The United States also provided support to the Criminal Investigative School, which trained 1,482 justice sector actors from various entities in basic criminal investigations. As part of U.S.-Colombian cooperation, Colombia trained staff of the HNP, the Public Ministry and the Supreme Court in a variety of skills and provided on the job training to police officers. The course is now taught entirely by Honduran personnel.
In September 2014, the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras proposed a joint plan for prosperity outlining the collective changes they will strive to create in their countries over the next few years. These objectives include government transparency, spending and tax accountability, the creation of more jobs and economic growth, and strengthening citizen security by investing in justice sector reform.
On 16 April 2015, the Honduran National Police (HNP), with the assistance of the INL-supported TIGRES force, captured 14 people with arrest warrants for homicide, robbery, and other crimes. HNP also seized 16 weapons, including automatic pistols, revolvers, and shotguns along with small amounts of narcotics. A total of 20 houses were searched during the law enforcement operation. Several of those arrested are “Negro Lobo” family members, including siblings and close associates of Carolos Arnoldo Lobo (“Negro”), an international drug trafficker. Carlos Lobo was extradited to the United States in May 2014, and was recently sentenced to 240 months (20 years) for charges related to conspiracy to distribute more than 450 kilograms of cocaine.