Violence in Honduras

Gunmen opened fire in a Honduras shoe factory killing 18 people on Sept. 7. While the motive remains unclear, it has been speculated that the attack was the result of a territorial dispute among rival drug gangs.

The country has had problems with gang violence for many years now and it remains an ongoing struggle. Alex Latta, a global studies professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, explained, “To a certain degree people turn to gangs for security because they don’t trust the state.”

The Sept. 7 massacre occurred just two weeks after a Honduran radio reporter was kidnapped and murdered, making him the tenth journalist to be murdered in the country this year. There were no suspects named in this incident.

Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Central America. Aproximately 50 per cent, or 3.7 million people, are below the poverty line. As such, violence is all too common. Through the combined efforts of the military and police, Honduras attempts to be strict and maintain control over the rising issue of gangs.

There have been repercussions in light of last year’s military coup, in which former president Manuel Zelaya was banished from the country. The military coup has had a huge impact on the lives of the Honduran people giving rise to insecurities.

There has been widespread protest and the country suffers from a strong social divide after the coup, commented Latta. He further explained that gangs in countries like Honduras are a way to “meet order” and to the Honduran society, where there is a lot of chaos in regards to the government and policing, “order is better than this disorder.”

Looking at the recent massacres in Honduras, Latta feels that “this kind of indiscriminant killing…seems strange.” Gang disputes often take place in order to defend territory. In the particular case regarding the shoe factory it is difficult to judge what the motive of a gang would have been.

With so much uncertainty surrounding the facts and motives of the incident, it cannot be determined if it was a result of gang rivalry.

In cases such as this where violence appears to be a random act, the only knowledge that can be drawn from it with conviction is the death toll.

“There is so much about this that we don’t know,” said Latta.