2012 was a record year for homicides in Honduras

Bucking the downward trend seen in other Northern Triangle nations, Honduras registered an increase in homicides for 2012, an ominous sign that violence in the world's most dangerous country will not abate any time soon.

According to a new report by the Violence Observatory at the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), Honduras saw 7,172 murders last year, an increase of 68 killings on 2011's figure. This makes 2012 Honduras' most violent year on record, reported La Prensa.

Though the total number of homicides increased, the rate per 100,000 actually fell from 86.5 in 2011 to 85.5 murders per 100,000 inhabitants last year, due to an increase in Honduran population figures.

The Observatory's homicide rate conflicts with that published by the Organization of American States (OAS) last year, which put the 2011 figure at 91.6 per 100,000 while using the same total number of homicides (7,104) as UNAH.

InSight Crime Analysis

Regardless of the apparent uncertainty over Honduras' homicide rate, the 2012 increase in total murders puts it in stark contrast to its Northern Triangle neighbors Guatemala and El Salvador. Each of those countries saw a decline in homicides in 2012, with Guatemala continuing a three-year downward trend and El Salvador seeing a 40 percent fall (see graph, below).

The figures also fly in the face of President Porfirio Lobo's declaration last week that security in Honduras has improved, adding, "Everyone feels that it has gotten better."

Northern Triangle Homicides

The independent Commission on Public Security Reform (CRSP), a body that works to reform security and justice institutions in the country, expressed its concern following publication of these figures. It also pointed to the government's failure to pay a private security company in the capital Tegucigalpa as being detrimental to improving citizen security; following non-payment, the company turned off security surveillance cameras in the city, reported Proceso.

Some of the principal drivers of violence in Honduras are rival street gangs Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13). Between them they are estimated to number 12,000, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and operate primarily in Tegucigalpa and the northwest city of San Pedro Sula.