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Saturday, July 13, 2024

41 dead in gang violence at Honduras women’s prison

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Tegucigalpa, Honduras – Clashes between rival gangs at a women’s prison in Honduras left at least 41 people dead Tuesday, police told AFP.

The violence took place at a prison some 25 kilometers (about 15 miles) north of the capital Tegucigalpa, according to police spokesman Edgardo Barahona, who put the “preliminary” toll at 41 women, though it was unclear if they were all inmates.

According to Delma Ordonez, who represents family members of the prisoners, members of a gang had entered the cell of a rival group and set it on fire.

That part of the prison was “completely destroyed,” she told media.

The CEFAS correctional facility in Tamara held some 900 inmates, said Ordonez.

Deputy security minister Julissa Villanueva on her Twitter account vowed a tough response to the violence and announced a state of emergency as well as “immediate intervention with firefighters, police and military.”

Honduras is a country wracked by corruption and gangs that have infiltrated even the top levels of government.

Along with neighbors El Salvador and Guatemala, Honduras forms Central America’s so-called “triangle of death” plagued by the murderous gangs called “maras” that control drug trafficking and organized crime.

Drug trafficking groups and gang members are largely responsible for the soaring rate of homicides in Honduras, which at 40 murders per 100,000 inhabitants last year was four times higher than the world average.

Many young people have given up hope of a better future and think only of migrating to the United States.

– ‘Narco-state’ –

Honduras is a major transit country for Colombian cocaine and other narcotics headed mainly to the United States.

Former Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez was extradited to the United States on drug charges in April 2022 — just over a year after his brother Tony was sentenced in New York to life in prison.

US prosecutors say Hernandez turned Honduras into a “narco-state” involving the military, police and civilians in drug trafficking.

In May last year, former national police chief Juan Carlos Bonilla was also sent to the United States to stand trial for allegedly supervising drug trafficking operations on behalf of his boss, Hernandez.

The country’s new president, leftist Xiomara Castro, has vowed to tackle criminal gangs, last year temporarily lifting certain constitutional guarantees to allow police to make arrests without warrants.

One objective of the crackdown, Castro said, was to rein in rampant exortion by gangs, which she described as “one of the main reasons for migration and the shuttering of small and medium enterprises” in Honduras.

In neighboring El Salvador, President Nayib Bukele has led a “war” on gangs that has rounded up more than 60,000 suspected members so far.

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