Peace Corps pullout hits Honduras, world’s murder capital

The World

Honduras has had a rough time of things lately, but things look like they're just getting worse.

A major city, San Pedro Sula, was declared the world's most violent city the other day, outranking even the dangerous border town of Juarez, Mexico, which has held the title for several years running.

The latest announcement today that the Peace Corps is pulling out of the country for safety reasons is another major blow. It's bad in part because it's not exactly clear whether a particular incident prompted the pullout, or whether the US was motivated by a general concern for its volunteers.

Per the Associated Press:

Neither U.S. nor Honduran officials have said what specifically prompted them to withdraw the 158 Peace Corps volunteers, which the U.S. State Department in 2011 called one of the largest missions in the world. It is the first time Peace Corps missions have been withdrawn from Central America since civil wars swept the region in the 1970s and 1980s.

The UN's Global Study on Homicide, released in October, showed that Honduras had the world's highest murder rate in 2010. Between 2005 and 2010, the report said that homicide rates in the country more than doubled. 

Read more: Murder rate spikes in Central America

The little Central American nation has been hit hard by spillover from Mexico's drug war, but Honduras has also suffered for other reasons.  

A recent GlobalPost story by Nick Miroff explored the problem:

Police officials and security experts blame the soaring murder rate on the drug trade, as Mexican cartels look to evade tougher enforcement further north by using Central America as a primary artery for moving cocaine. But thousands of ordinary Hondurans have been killed in recent years who appear to have nothing to do with the narcotics smuggling.

In Honduras, the problem is worsened by complicity from the police force designated to protect the people.

“The problem isn’t that the (police) are overwhelmed by crime. The problem is that they’re working with the criminals,” said Julieta Castellanos, the university president whose son, Rafael Alejandro, was allegedly shot at close range in the family car while returning home from a birthday party.

 According to the AP, the Peace Corps volunteers had been working on HIV/AIDS prevention and water santiation projects.

It's unclear what will happen to those efforts when they go. 

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.