Morrissey, Kate. 2020. A legitimate fear of death doesn’t always matter in the US asylum system. The San Diego Union-Tribune 11 October <https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2020-10-11/us-asylum-system-gang-violence-honduras>.
Elizabeth Kennedy, a social scientist based in Honduras, said it can be difficult for people from the United States to understand the lack of government presence in areas under gang control in Honduras and other Central American countries.
In these places, gangs often become a parallel or replacement authority with tight control over movement, business transactions and more.
Kennedy was the lead researcher on a Human Rights Watch report on hundreds of deportees who were killed or otherwise harmed in El Salvador, often by the people they had fled.
She said many of the report’s findings apply to Honduras, where she has done similar research. Villanueva’s neighborhood [in Choloma] is a prime example, she said.
“It’s not just a gang problem or even a cartel problem,” Kennedy said. “It’s a fundamental state problem.”
Children drop out of school because their families cannot afford to pay the costs of uniforms and supplies. The government provides a very limited number of teachers. If communities want more, they have to pay the salaries themselves.
To Kennedy, the researcher based in Honduras, these conditions are a sign that the government is “not paying attention to its people.”
“That level of poverty should not exist in the 21st century,” Kennedy said. “That level of poverty gives way to a lot of criminal groups that otherwise wouldn’t exist.”