Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

The heartbreaking violence that’s become a daily occurrence in Honduras is regularly presented as a result of gangs and drugs — with victims chosen at random. But this problem cannot be understood without accounting for the current political climate. With farmers’ associations, indigenous activists and multinational companies at odds, victims are often targeted because of their occupations. These victims have included media professionals, human rights defenders, lawyers, peasant group workers and activists in the political opposition. The country’s already high rate of violent crime rose sharply after the 2009 coup d’état and has remained at record levels ever since. Commentators are certainly correct that violence is spurring many Hondurans to flee for other countries, mostly Mexico and the United States, but they often miss that it’s inextricably linked to a toxic political situation.

Photography and text by Francesca Volpi.

Reporting for this article was funded by an Adelante fellowship and a grant from the International Women’s Media Foundation.

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<p>Darwin mourns the death of his brother Marco at his funeral. His brother, 28, was gay and was kidnapped, tortured and killed. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

Darwin mourns the death of his brother Marco at his funeral. His brother, 28, was gay and was kidnapped, tortured and killed. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.
<p>The crime scene of the murder of two brothers, Carlos Amador 22, and Edwin Amador, 20, shot in cold blood during broad daylight in the streets of the Suyapa neighbourhood in Teguciaglpa, the capital of Honduras. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

The crime scene of the murder of two brothers, Carlos Amador 22, and Edwin Amador, 20, shot in cold blood during broad daylight in the streets of the Suyapa neighbourhood in Teguciaglpa, the capital of Honduras. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>Father and son pass by a pool of blood left by the body of a 20 year<br>old boy killed few hours before in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

Father and son pass by a pool of blood left by the body of a 20 year
old boy killed few hours before in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>During a military police operation in Hato de Enmedio neighborhood in the capital Tegucigalpa, a young men allegedly belonging to the 18th street criminal gang, or Mara-18, is escorted away. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

During a military police operation in Hato de Enmedio neighborhood in the capital Tegucigalpa, a young men allegedly belonging to the 18th street criminal gang, or Mara-18, is escorted away. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>The body of Marco Tullio Montoya is being transferred into the coffin. Marco was 28. His body had signs of torture when he was found two days later his disappearance. His murder is supposedly still being investigated, however apparently a week before his assassination, he was ordered to sell drugs for the local gang. He refused, and seven days later Marco’s corpse was found. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

The body of Marco Tullio Montoya is being transferred into the coffin. Marco was 28. His body had signs of torture when he was found two days later his disappearance. His murder is supposedly still being investigated, however apparently a week before his assassination, he was ordered to sell drugs for the local gang. He refused, and seven days later Marco’s corpse was found. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>During a military police operation in Hato de Enmedio neighbourhoood in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Young boys and girls, allegedly belonging to the 18th street gang, or Mara-18, lie on the floor while the police search their house before being escorted away. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

During a military police operation in Hato de Enmedio neighbourhoood in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Young boys and girls, allegedly belonging to the 18th street gang, or Mara-18, lie on the floor while the police search their house before being escorted away. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>Gates on classroom doors inside one of the schools in the capital Tegucigalpa, in a neighbourhood controlled by the Mara-18, a<br>very powerfull gang. It is also well known as “army of kids”, because of the young age of its members, which are often recruited inside the schools. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

Gates on classroom doors inside one of the schools in the capital Tegucigalpa, in a neighbourhood controlled by the Mara-18, a
very powerfull gang. It is also well known as “army of kids”, because of the young age of its members, which are often recruited inside the schools. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>A couple embracing on the sofa in the premises of the LGBT organization Arcoiris, in Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras. In Honduras having a different kind of sexual orientation or gender identity exposes people to danger an discrimination. This condition of vulnerability is worsened by the conditions of general violence inflicting Honduras, a country where 92% of killings get unpunished.<br>In 2017, there have been 34 murders of LGBT community members in Honduras, according to the observatory on violent deaths of the organization Cattrachas.<br>In Honduras people have spaces to express themselves, such as the annual Gay Pride Parade or beauty contests events, and in a way united they are stronger, but the reality is also that LGBT rights defenders are targeted and killed and homosexuals and transgenders have high difficulties finding a job and walk safely in the streets.<br>Despite the abuses, many of the LGBT members try to lively their nature and by doing so they aim to show the people a reality which they can look away from. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

A couple embracing on the sofa in the premises of the LGBT organization Arcoiris, in Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras. In Honduras having a different kind of sexual orientation or gender identity exposes people to danger an discrimination. This condition of vulnerability is worsened by the conditions of general violence inflicting Honduras, a country where 92% of killings get unpunished.
In 2017, there have been 34 murders of LGBT community members in Honduras, according to the observatory on violent deaths of the organization Cattrachas.
In Honduras people have spaces to express themselves, such as the annual Gay Pride Parade or beauty contests events, and in a way united they are stronger, but the reality is also that LGBT rights defenders are targeted and killed and homosexuals and transgenders have high difficulties finding a job and walk safely in the streets.
Despite the abuses, many of the LGBT members try to lively their nature and by doing so they aim to show the people a reality which they can look away from. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>A rally in support of Juan Orlando Hernández current president of Honduras, a conservative U.S. ally. The resuslts of the November 2017 elections were highly controversial. Hernández’s ran for a second term last year, after changing the constitution that prevented any president to be elected twice. Human rights organizations documented the murder of 14 people, 51 wounded and 844 detentions, of which 501 have occurred since the suspension of Constitutional guarantees on December 1, 2017, during post-electoral Honduran political crisis. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

A rally in support of Juan Orlando Hernández current president of Honduras, a conservative U.S. ally. The resuslts of the November 2017 elections were highly controversial. Hernández’s ran for a second term last year, after changing the constitution that prevented any president to be elected twice. Human rights organizations documented the murder of 14 people, 51 wounded and 844 detentions, of which 501 have occurred since the suspension of Constitutional guarantees on December 1, 2017, during post-electoral Honduran political crisis. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>Supporters of Alianza Party, opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla, with flags and posters outside a polling station during the presidential elections in November 2017 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Nasralla lost the elections and claims that the current president Hernández’s re-election is an unconstitutional power grab. Human rights organizations documented the murder of 14 people, 51 wounded and 844 detentions, of which 501 have occurred since the suspension of Constitutional guarantees on December 1, 2017, during post-electoral Honduran political crisis. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

Supporters of Alianza Party, opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla, with flags and posters outside a polling station during the presidential elections in November 2017 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Nasralla lost the elections and claims that the current president Hernández’s re-election is an unconstitutional power grab. Human rights organizations documented the murder of 14 people, 51 wounded and 844 detentions, of which 501 have occurred since the suspension of Constitutional guarantees on December 1, 2017, during post-electoral Honduran political crisis. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>A so called “popular vote”, in which the person who can’t read or write points to her preference on the poster at a polling station during the presidential elections in Santa Ana, Honduras. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

A so called “popular vote”, in which the person who can’t read or write points to her preference on the poster at a polling station during the presidential elections in Santa Ana, Honduras. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>Soldiers unload election materials for distribution at voting stations one day ahead of the November 26 presidential election in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

Soldiers unload election materials for distribution at voting stations one day ahead of the November 26 presidential election in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>Military police in a popular neighborhood during the presidential election in Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

Military police in a popular neighborhood during the presidential election in Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>Dina Meza, in court during a hearing where students from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras, are on trial following their participation to a demonstration. Dina Meza is a well-known Honduran independent journalist and defender of the right to information and freedom of expression. She works to investigate and denoounce human rights violations in cases such as those of protesting students and other violations of the right to freedom of expression. Meza currently serves as the president of PEN Honduras, and manages the online news magazine Pasos de Animal Grande. Her work as a journalist and human rights defender has resulted in persecution and multiple threats directed towards both Meza herself and towards her family. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

Dina Meza, in court during a hearing where students from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras, are on trial following their participation to a demonstration. Dina Meza is a well-known Honduran independent journalist and defender of the right to information and freedom of expression. She works to investigate and denoounce human rights violations in cases such as those of protesting students and other violations of the right to freedom of expression. Meza currently serves as the president of PEN Honduras, and manages the online news magazine Pasos de Animal Grande. Her work as a journalist and human rights defender has resulted in persecution and multiple threats directed towards both Meza herself and towards her family. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>Bertha Oliva of the organization Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared and Detained in Honduras (COFADEH). COFADEH is a Honduran human rights organization, which seeks justice for current human rights abuses and for “disappearances” by state security forces in the 1980s and trains local human rights activists. Honduras is the most dangerous country in Central America to be a human right defender. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

Bertha Oliva of the organization Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared and Detained in Honduras (COFADEH). COFADEH is a Honduran human rights organization, which seeks justice for current human rights abuses and for “disappearances” by state security forces in the 1980s and trains local human rights activists. Honduras is the most dangerous country in Central America to be a human right defender. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>Members of the organization Cophin, outside of the house where at the beginning of March internationally known environmentalist Berta Caceres, their colleague and friend was murdered in cold blood. Honduras is the most dangerous country in Central America to be an environmental rights defender. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

Members of the organization Cophin, outside of the house where at the beginning of March internationally known environmentalist Berta Caceres, their colleague and friend was murdered in cold blood. Honduras is the most dangerous country in Central America to be an environmental rights defender. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>A man in his backyard in a community outside the city of Tocoa in the Colon, Bajo Aguán region, Honduras. Another sector that has suffered a disproportionate number of attacks are peasants groups engaged in land conflicts with large agro-business enterprises – for instance, in the Bajo Aguán, where more than 100 campesino land rights activists have been killed during a drawn-out conflict with the Dinant Corporation. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

A man in his backyard in a community outside the city of Tocoa in the Colon, Bajo Aguán region, Honduras. Another sector that has suffered a disproportionate number of attacks are peasants groups engaged in land conflicts with large agro-business enterprises – for instance, in the Bajo Aguán, where more than 100 campesino land rights activists have been killed during a drawn-out conflict with the Dinant Corporation. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>Members of the small community of Guadalupe Carney, near the city of Tocoa, Bajo Aguán region, Honduras. Another sector that has suffered a disproportionate number of attacks are peasants groups engaged in land conflicts with large agro-business enterprises – for instance, in the Bajo Aguán, where more than 100 campesino land rights activists have been killed during a drawn-out conflict with the Dinant Corporation. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

Members of the small community of Guadalupe Carney, near the city of Tocoa, Bajo Aguán region, Honduras. Another sector that has suffered a disproportionate number of attacks are peasants groups engaged in land conflicts with large agro-business enterprises – for instance, in the Bajo Aguán, where more than 100 campesino land rights activists have been killed during a drawn-out conflict with the Dinant Corporation. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>Boys and men in a community in the department of Colon, BBajo Aguán region, Honduras. Another sector that has suffered a disproportionate number of attacks are peasants groups engaged in land conflicts with large agro-business enterprises – for instance, in the Bajo Aguán, where more than 100 campesino land rights activists have been killed during a drawn-out conflict with the Dinant Corporation. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

Boys and men in a community in the department of Colon, BBajo Aguán region, Honduras. Another sector that has suffered a disproportionate number of attacks are peasants groups engaged in land conflicts with large agro-business enterprises – for instance, in the Bajo Aguán, where more than 100 campesino land rights activists have been killed during a drawn-out conflict with the Dinant Corporation. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>A Garifuna woman and her child. Garifunas are the second largest indigenous group of Honduras. The Afro-Honduran communities that live mainly on the Atlantic coasts and the islands, oppose their forced displacement from traditional lands by tourism and residential development projects, and for this reason among others suffer repression and isolation. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

A Garifuna woman and her child. Garifunas are the second largest indigenous group of Honduras. The Afro-Honduran communities that live mainly on the Atlantic coasts and the islands, oppose their forced displacement from traditional lands by tourism and residential development projects, and for this reason among others suffer repression and isolation. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>A Garifuna man in his house with his children. The Afro-Honduran communities are an example of internal migration in the country. They live mainly on the Atlantic coasts and the islands, but some are forced to move to the big cities to find a job.<br>Garifunas oppose their forced displacement from traditional lands by tourism and residential development projects, and for this reason among others suffer repression and isolation. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

A Garifuna man in his house with his children. The Afro-Honduran communities are an example of internal migration in the country. They live mainly on the Atlantic coasts and the islands, but some are forced to move to the big cities to find a job.
Garifunas oppose their forced displacement from traditional lands by tourism and residential development projects, and for this reason among others suffer repression and isolation. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>A Garifuna woman in a bakery in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The Afro-Honduran communities are an example of internal migration in the country. They live mainly on the Atlantic coasts and the islands, but some are forced to move to the big cities to find a job.<br>Garifunas oppose their forced displacement from traditional lands by tourism and residential development projects, and for this reason among others suffer repression and isolation. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

A Garifuna woman in a bakery in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The Afro-Honduran communities are an example of internal migration in the country. They live mainly on the Atlantic coasts and the islands, but some are forced to move to the big cities to find a job.
Garifunas oppose their forced displacement from traditional lands by tourism and residential development projects, and for this reason among others suffer repression and isolation. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

<p>A Garifuna boy, on the beach of San Antonio, Honduras. Garifuna’s is the second largest indigenous group of Honduras. The Afro-Honduran communities that live mainly on the Atlantic coasts and the islands, oppose their forced displacement from traditional lands by tourism and residential development projects, and for this reason among others suffer repression and isolation. (Photo: Francesca Volpi) </p>
Violence, poverty and politics: Why Hondurans are escaping to the U.S.

A Garifuna boy, on the beach of San Antonio, Honduras. Garifuna’s is the second largest indigenous group of Honduras. The Afro-Honduran communities that live mainly on the Atlantic coasts and the islands, oppose their forced displacement from traditional lands by tourism and residential development projects, and for this reason among others suffer repression and isolation. (Photo: Francesca Volpi)

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