In Honduras, Gangs Control Everything, Making It One of the Most Dangerous Countries in the World
In the capital city, Tegucigalpa, a team of police and military officers patrol the streets to stamp down on illegal drug trafficking. They've arrested thousands of suspects and seized over 9,000 illegal firearms. The task force also conducts random searches and raids, bringing the country's homicide rate down by 30 percent.
However, the law enforcement units are after two of the most infamous gangs in Honduras- the 18th Street Gang, and the MS-13. Both gangs are known for the extreme amount of murder, extortion, and robbery they've committed over the years.
Both groups were founded in the United States by young Central American immigrants. In the early 1990s, they brought chaos to the Los Angeles state. American officials deported all convicted gang members in a bid to stop the spread of violence and eradicate their influence.
The deportation proved to be catastrophic to their home countries as deported gang members quickly form ranks and rule the streets of weak nations. Their operations have caused so much chaos in Honduras that experts say they can now be classified as a terror organization-putting them on par with ISIS.
In 2014, the country's homicide rate hit an average of 500 deaths a month. The gangs were turning the country dangerous and unlivable. Thousands of Hondurans fleed in search of a more peaceful life. They gambled their lives by making their way through Mexico and to the United States.
A sad truth is that life behind bars is relatively easy for gang members. In one corrections facility, inmates can cook and sell snacks, play pool, and even meet girls while locked up. They still give orders to subordinates and even smuggle in contraband, including cellphones, cigarettes, and guns.
In overcrowded prisons, however, the story is much bloodier.
In January 2020, a wave of violence in Honduran prisons killed dozens of inmates. Rival gangs staged a series of bloody riots and attacks against each other.
Horrifying levels of violence and deaths have long plagued the country's prisons. The disorder stems from inhumane living conditions due to extreme overcrowding. In one study, a prison was reported to be 193 percent above its capacity.
In December 2019, four underaged children and eight others were injured in a riot at the Renaciendo juvenile detention center. According to reports, the center's lack of service and deplorable living conditions caused the fight. Most juveniles who get out of the center are lost to society and have a high risk of being repeat offenders.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez hopes to turn the tide and eradicate the violence overtaking the nation. He believes a good share of the problem stems from the conditions inside the prisons. He said the facilities allow perpetrators to organize gangs and crimes.
Hernandez plans to reform corrections institutions by building newer and bigger facilities, improving security and living quarters with new technology, and hiring more trained personnel. The plan, he says, will make criminals realize that their actions call for consequences.
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