Corridor of Violence: The Guatemala-Honduras Border
Guatemala City/Bogotá/Brussels | 4 Jun 2014
Ending bloodshed in this neglected border region requires more than task forces: credible institutions, access to state services and continuing security are also needed.
Competition between criminal groups over drug routes has made the frontier between Guatemala and Honduras one of the most violent areas in Central America, with murder rates among the highest in the world. In the absence of effective law enforcement, traffickers have become de facto authorities in some sectors. Crisis Group’s latest report, Corridor of Violence: The Guatemala-Honduras Border, examines the regional dynamics that have allowed criminal gangs to thrive and outlines the main steps necessary to prevent further violence as well as to advance peaceful economic and social development.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
- The border corridor includes hotly contested routes for transporting drugs to the U.S. Traffickers, with their wealth and firepower, dominate some portions. On both sides of the border, violence, lawlessness and corruption are rampant, poverty rates and unemployment are high, and citizens lack access to state services.
- The arrest of local drug lords has been a mixed blessing to local populations, as the fracturing of existing groups has allowed a new generation of sometimes more violent criminals to emerge.
- To prevent further violence, an urgent shift in national policies is needed. The governments should send not just troops and police to border regions, but also educators, community organisers and social and health workers. If criminal structures are to be disrupted and trust in the state restored, these regions need credible, legitimate actors – public and private – capable of providing security, accountability, jobs and hope for the future.
- Guatemala and Honduras should learn from other countries facing similar security threats. The Borders for Prosperity Plan in Colombia and the Binational Border Plan in Ecuador and Peru can serve as examples for economic and social development in insecure areas. The U.S., Latin American countries and multilateral organisations should provide funds, training and technical support to embattled border communities to help them prevent violence and strengthen local institutions via education and job opportunities.
“Troops alone will not stop bloodshed where the state has long failed to provide law enforcement and economic growth” says Mary Speck, Mexico and Central America Project Director. “Tackling criminal violence requires sustained, concerted efforts to promote local development and guarantee rule of law”.
“Thus far, most international help has focused on border control and drug interdiction”, says Javier Ciurlizza, Latin America Program Director. “Guatemala and Honduras need a more comprehensive approach and the advice and support of other Latin American countries with similar experiences”.