Honduras - Introduction
Honduras is located in the heart of Central America. It borders with three countries: Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. The country has two coasts, in the south Pacific and the north Atlantic in an area of 750 km of coastline in the Caribbean. Honduras has an area of 112,492 square kilometers (about the size of the State of Tennessee) and is surrounded by mountains. The highest point is Celaque with 9,275 feet. Honduras has an area of 112,000 square kilometers (about the size of the State of Tennessee) and is surrounded by mountains. The highest point is called Celaque with 9,275 feet. Because of the topography, the climate varies from region to region. The north is hot and humid, the central area is moderate and the south is hot and dry. The temperature varies from 22° to 35°C.
In a country of approximately eight million people, there are an estimated 7,000 street-gang members. The 18th Street and MS-13 ("Mara Salvatrucha") gangs are the most active and powerful. Gangs are not reluctant to use violence and specialize in murder-for-hire, carjacking, extortion, and other violent street crime. They are also known to control some of the taxi services. Violent transnational criminal organizations also conduct narcotics trafficking and other illicit commerce throughout the country.
The US Department of State has issued a Travel Warning for Honduras since late 2012 to caution American travelers about high crime rates. Crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere and at any time. Most resort areas and tourist destinations have lower levels of crime and violence than other areas of the country, though still high by international standards. The vast majority of serious crimes, including those against U.S. citizens, are never solved.
Since 2010, Honduras has had one of the highest murder rates in the world. The National Violence Observatory (NVO), an academic research institution based out of Honduras’ National Public University, reported a murder rate of 86.5 per 100,000 people in 2011, 85.5 per 100,000 people in 2012, and 79 murders per 100,000 people for 2013. The government reported that the rate had fallen to 66.4 per 100,000 as of December 31, 2014 (2015 final statistics have not been published at this time). Most of Honduras’ major cities and several Honduran “departments” (a geographic designation similar to U.S. states) have homicide rates higher than the national average, including: La Ceiba (Atlántida department); Trujillo (Colón department); San Pedro Sula (Cortés department); Tegucigalpa (Francisco Morazan department); and Yoro (Yoro department). Since 2010, the U.S. Embassy has recorded 42 murders of U.S. citizens; several U.S. citizens have been murdered in San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba shortly after arriving in the country. These may have been based on tips from sources at airport arrival areas. In 2015, there were two murder cases of U.S. citizens.
US citizens are victims of crime at levels similar to those of the local population. There is no information to suggest that criminals specifically target U.S. citizens and other Westerners. Tourists traveling with tour groups report fewer criminal incidents. However, the San Pedro Sula area has seen armed robberies against tourist vans, minibuses, and cars traveling from the airport to area hotels.
Honduran law enforcement reports frequent highway assaults and carjackings, including remote areas of Choluteca, Olancho, Colon, and Copan departments. Reporting indicates that these assaults are frequently executed by criminals posing as law enforcement. This criminal activity occurs frequently enough to present security challenges for anyone traveling in remote areas.
Armed robberies, home invasions, and extortions also occur, and closely guarded officials, business persons, and diplomats are not immune from these attacks. Even in neighborhoods with heightened security, there is street crime. Many people report that they have received threatening phone calls or extortion attempts, especially during the Christmas and Easter holidays. Typically, these calls are random calls that originate from imprisoned gang members using cell phones.
Travelers are warned to avoid all public transportation. Passengers on public buses are sometimes robbed en-route, at roadblocks, and at bus stops even during daylight hours. Some would-be muggers and gang members are known to keep to a daily schedule, riding city buses from one stop to the next, committing criminal acts with impunity.
Honduran road conditions differ significantly from those in the U.S., and driving can be very dangerous. Roads are poorly illuminated and marked. Because of a lack of enforcement of traffic laws, drivers must make an extraordinary effort to drive defensively. If traffic signals are working, they are often ignored, and passing on blind corners is common. Vehicles are often driven at night without adequate illumination, and animals and people wander onto the roads at all hours. Traffic signs, even on major highways, are often inadequate, and streets in the major cities are often unmarked. Major cities are connected by an inconsistently maintained, two-lane system of paved roads, and many secondary roads are unpaved. A significant percentage of vehicles are in disrepair, under-powered, and beyond their lifecycle, and do not meet U.S. road safety standards.
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