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Why are so many people fleeing Honduras? 

click to enlarge Manuel Zelaya

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Manuel Zelaya

Not long ago, Honduras wasn't a particularly violent or distressed country. In 2013, however, it was listed in a United Nations report as the murder capital of the world, with a rate almost double any other country. The average global rate for homicides is 6.2 per 100,000 people. In Honduras in 2012, it stood at 90.4.

  Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez says American drug policy is at the root of the strife. Others point to the 2009 coup d'etat that ousted Manuel Zelaya, the democratically elected president. Since then, the small country has rapidly spiraled into violence.

  "The out-of-control crime didn't start until after the coup," says Dr. Steve Striffler, professor of anthropology and Doris Zemurray Stone Chair in Latin American Studies at the University of New Orleans. Striffler says many Hondurans were happy to see the former president ousted, but the regime change left institutions broken and ripe for corruption.

  While Honduras was not a historical center for drug trafficking, the 2009 coup created new opportunities. In a January article in The New Yorker, Mattathias Schwartz wrote of the coup's aftermath: "During weeks of street protests, the new government fought to consolidate its control of the cities, a campaign that aggravated the already volatile security climate in Honduras. Mexican and Colombian traffickers took advantage of the chaos by strengthening their ties to Honduran elites and increasing shipments. Among the underpaid police, some resorted to friendly extortion; others hired themselves out or formed death squads."

  Following the coup, corruption and violence reigned, and youth increasingly have been targeted. More kids have been either the victims of violence, or the most desirable recruits for ruthless gangs battling for control of drug territory. There also are many reports of rumors and false promises among Hondurans, including guarantees of amnesty, or that their children would be automatically welcomed — in contrast to the reality of what awaits the undocumented kids in the United States.

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