Miami, November 19, 2014—The plague of murders in Honduras makes no publicity splash in the United States unless it be connected with migrants crossing over from Mexico or, in the case of the Nov. 13 murder of Maria Jose Alvarado, killed along with her sister, by her boyfriend and an accomplice allegedly by her Alvarado’s boyfriend and an accomplice.
It made news in the US because she was Honduras’ Miss World beauty contest candidate. The case is also unusual because it appears the perpetrators are going to be charged in court.
This last fact is perhaps the most surprising of all. It is well-known that Honduras is the world leader in murders—about 90 per 100,000 population a year. It’s also an impunity leader. Almost no one pays for their crime. Fox News Latino quoted a professor at a Honduran university thusly: “If she had been any other girl, if she hadn’t been Miss Honduras, this would have been one more crime amid the impunity of Honduras,” said Jose Luis Mejia, director of the Technological University campus in Santa Barbara, where Alvarado studied. “They would have said what they always do: that this was the settling of accounts between drug traffickers, and they wouldn’t even have bothered to investigate.”
The government acknowledged as much last year. Honduras is at the violent intersection of poverty, drug traffic, corruption in both government and business and a totally ineffectual justice system and police force. Last February, Human Rights Watch put out a report I wrote on a land dispute in northern Honduras. It’s a battle between peasants and agro-industrial companies over land converted into palm oil plantations. The remote north is also a transit point for drugs and arms to the Mexican cartels. Not a single case of murder covered the report reached a court. Read it here.
The national bloodbath spills over deep into politics. The Autonomous University of Honduras’ Instituto Universitario en Democracia, Paz y Seguridad (The University Institute on Democracy, Peace and Security) noted in a report published in April, 2013, that, “In electoral political violence, homicides, assassination attempts and threats against candidates…and against party leaders stand out.”
It all serves as a reminder that the arrival of electoral democracy does not mean the arrival of justice. In the 1980s, the issue was whether Communism would take over the region. Now, it’s not even whether crime has taken over. It has. See, also: Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala.