Criminal Groups Use Women to Move Guns in Honduras

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Authorities in Honduras say recent arrests of women transporting weapons indicate they are now being used by criminal groups for arms trafficking, among other tasks, another illustration that the role of women in organized crime is growing in Latin America.

According to a Honduran police spokesperson, six women have been arrested in recent days carrying weapons, reported El Proceso. Two of these women were caught September 2, after authorities stopped a bus northwest of Tegucigalpa. The women were carrying two M67 grenades, a 45-caliber pistol, ammunition, and police vests, reported La Prensa.

Nolasco said criminal groups are using women to move weapons on public transport, and that authorities are investigating whether international arms traffickers are involved in the recent cases. 

This use of women as “mandaderas” — or errand-runners — by criminal groups is often facilitated by family and romantic ties, said Migdonia Ayestas, the director of the Honduran Observatory of Violence.

Ayestas also said the rate of femicides — targeted killings of women — had reached 14.2 per 100,000 residents with around 700 women killed so far this year — a rate double that of 2011.

InSight Crime Analysis

Women have long been used by criminal groups in roles — such as transporting drugs — that exploit their vulnerability and perceived innocence. Female members of Central American street gangs are also used to smuggle illicit goods into jails and carry guns in public places.

There are signs this role is both growing and evolving, with Guatemalan women taking on increasingly involved roles as assassins and thieves. In at least one instance, female members of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel rose through the cartel ranks and occupy high-level, decision-making positions.

Despite these women’s value to gangs and other criminal groups, they continue to be disempowered and abused. Femicides in Honduras and the other two Northern Triangle countries, Guatemala and El Salvador, have risen along with the region’s importance in the drug trade, with criminal groups often using women as targets for revenge killings, or punishing them for gang rule infractions.

The recent Honduran arrests show women once again in the role of the transporter, the person most likely to take the fall for the illegal goods, but this time with firearms.

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