Honduras' homicide rate has reportedly fallen by 30 percent over the past four years, but there are worrying signs organized crime violence remains widespread in this Central American nation.
Honduras' murder rate went from 86.5 per 100,000 residents in 2011 to 60.0 per 100,000 residents in 2015, representing a 30.6 percent decrease, according to statistics recently presented by the National Autonomous University of Honduras (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras - UNAH).
While the homicide count in 2011 was 7,104 for an average of 19 murders per day, by 2015 this had fallen to 5,146 deaths, or 14 per day. (See graph below)
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UNAH's statistics differ from those provided earlier this year by Honduras' Security Ministry, which has been criticized for providing lower homicide statistics than the university.
"The manipulation is evident," José Guadalupe Ruelas, director of the non-governmental organization Casa Alianza, recently told BBC Mundo.
Less encouraging statistics have been released by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Mexico regarding the stark rise in unaccompanied minors fleeing Central America. According to UNICEF, the number of child migrants traveling alone grew 333 percent from 5,596 cases in 2013 to 18,650 in 2015, Animal Político reported. UNICEF statistics show 97 percent of these children came from the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
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The drop in murders may be a positive sign, but other indicators suggest Honduras continues to struggle reining in organized crime and violence.
The exodus of children from Northern Triangle countries is largely a result of social unrest spurred in part by gang violence and intimidation. At the same time, massacres in Honduras -- which are closely associated with organized crime -- rose in 2015 in comparison to 2014.
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These discrepancies are a good reminder that homicide statistics often conceal a deeper narrative within a country's criminal underworld. As recent cases such as a mafia pact in former murder capital Medellín, Colombia have previously demonstrated, declining homicide rates sometimes have more to do with negotiations and agreements between criminal groups than with government action.
Nevertheless, the numbers will likely be a good opportunity for the administration of President Juan Orlando Hernández to flaunt the successes of its security policies. The administration has largely favored a "Mano Dura," or "iron fist" approach commonly used across Central America, even though this tactic has been discredited for actually contributing to the evolution of street gangs into more sophisticated groups.