Central American countries rank highest in world’s homicide rate

A new report released by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime brings light to the rampant violence and inequality in Central American countries. The global average homicide rate stands at 6.2 per 100,000 population, but Central America has rates over four times that, making it one of the sub-regions with the highest homicide rates on record. Of the top five countries with the highest murder rates, four of them are in Central America; Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize and Honduras.

UNODC defines homicide as “an unlawful death purposefully inflicted on a person by another person”, not directly related to an armed conflict.

Central America’s rise in homicide levels is mainly caused by the resulting violence related to drug trafficking, organized crime, and the relationship between organized criminal groups and the state. Honduras’ homicide rates ranks highest in the world with a 90.4 per 100,000 population, followed by Belize with a murder rate of 44.7 per 100,000, El Salvador with 41.2 per 100,000, and Guatemala with 39.9 murders per 100,000.

Women are more at risk than men. Intimate partner and family-related homicides disproportionately affect women. As of 2012, 6,900 women are killed by intimate partners and family members in the Americas. Read the rest of this entry »

DPLF works on judicial independence and transparency in Central America and Panama


The Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF) is working hard to monitor and evaluate judicial independence of Central America.

Judicial independence and transparency do not go hand-in-hand in Central America. This is the first conclusion we can draw from the most recent DPLF study: “Law vs Reality. Independence and judicial transparency in Central America and Panama”. The second conclusion is that there is a considerable gap between policy and its effectiveness, which is most notacible in regards to judicial independence: although there is a legal framework to guarantee it, this guarantee is not met in practice. There are various reasons for this, among others, the lack of mechanisms to enforce the rules and the existence of a political culture of disrespect for the law.

This study has an empirical base which affirms the best bases for judicial independence in the region. This research was conducted in the six Central American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama) according to a methodology of indicators and a thematic guide that allowed comparisons with homogenous criteria and showed the persistence of common problems, such as the politicization of the system and the appointment process, and the excessive power of the Supreme Court that threatens internal independence and limits transparency and accountability.

One of the main contributions of this study is that it breaks down the elements that make up both external and internal judicial independence, and identifies – for each country –the barriers that limit their full capacity.

Read the full report here. (comparative report, conlcusions, recommendations and methodologies)

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Seguir Adelante, a personal account of Guatemala, by Caitlin Terashima

Seattle University and the Seattle International Foundation carried out a research trip with ten student fellows to assess the impact of Asociacion Generando, one of SIF’s grantees working to end violence against women. Student’s analyzed how women’s leadership in Guatemala is a catalyst for long-term social change. Below is a reflection from Caitlin Terashima.  

Along with ten of my peers, three professors from Seattle University, and Michele Frix from the Seattle International Foundation, I travelled south to Guatemala this past June. I was selected as a student research fellow to investigate the impact of one of SIF’s grantees, Generando (ASOGEN), an organization based in Chimaltenango working to end violence against women.

Once I returned home, people would ask me “how was Guatemala?”, and I struggled to respond. Guatemala was beautiful. The countryside is lush, green, and stunning. The people I met are hardworking and kind. ASOGEN is creating social change within the country, and their work is inspiring. However, I also witnessed a very troubled side Guatemala. The Guatemala in which over 50% of women will experience violence from men in their lifetime. The Guatemala in which 98% of femicide cases, the murder of a woman because of her gender, remain in impunity. The Guatemala that is amidst a war against women.

Caitlin and ASOGEN staff

I struggled to reconcile the two Guatemala’s that I grew to know over the 11 days that I was there. There was so much violence, fear, and injustice that I was hearing about and experiencing on a daily basis. I found myself at points getting caught up in, what it felt like, hopelessness. And yet, I was so movtivated by the women that were siguiendo adelenate, continuing forward. I watched women who were labeled as victims; show us that they were not victims, but survivors. These women were seeking to change Guatemala, not only for themselves, but for their families. I remember sitting with one of the beneficiaries, as she told me and my interview partner her story. Through tears, she told me that she had to set an example for her sons by leaving her husband. She told me that her dream for her sons is that they don’t treat their wives and girlfriends as she had been treated, that they treated them well, as they deserved. The tears continued to stream down her face, but these weren’t the tears of a victim, they were the tears of a survivor that was breaking the cycle of abuse and showing her sons the importance of respecting the rights of both men and women.

Despite the trip being a whirlwhind of emotions, what struck me most about it was ASOGEN’s impact. The number of women that we interviewed who constantly thanked us for supporting ASOGEN and the work that they are doing was countless. They were thankful not only for the necessary services provided or the workshops, but also for the act of attentive accompaniment. The women working for Generando are so dedicated to their work and to the cause, and the responses from the beneficiaries reflected this.  In concluding our interview, we asked if she had any additional comments. After remaining quiet for a minute, she said that thanks to ASOGEN, she now knows that “no estoy sola,”she is not alone, but that they are there to support her.

Join Seattle University faculty and students, as they present the images and findings of their research trip in Guatemala. The exhibition features photos from Sy Bean and Claire Garuette. The event is sponsored by the Matteo Ricci College’s Poverty Education Center, in partnership with the Seattle International Foundation. 

Americas Quarterly Launches second annual Social Inclusion Index


Photo: Americas Quarterly

Washington D.C.  – On July 24, the America Society/Council of the Americas held a pre-publication briefing of the second annual Social Inclusion Index, to be released in summer issue of the Americas Quarterly.

The 2013 Social Inclusion Index evaluates 16 countries in the Western Hemisphere on access to public and private goods by race/ethnicity and gender, attitudes toward empowerment and government responsiveness, and the protection of basic civil, political, and human rights.

The Index adds three new variables and four additional countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Panama), as well as new data on race and gender pertaining to women’s rights, LGBT rights, and financial inclusion. The publication of the Index was supported in part by the Seattle International Foundation.

At the event, AS/COA leadership provided an overview of findings and analysis of results for women and LGBT rights, financial access, and comparison to homicide rates in Central America. A discussion followed, with input from regional experts from the Inter-America Development Bank (IDB) and The World Bank. Introductory Remarks were given by Mauricio Vivero, CEO of the Seattle International Foundation.

To view the webcast of the pre-publication briefing please click here.

The 2013 Social Inclusion Index will be available starting July 31 at www.americasquarterly.org/socialinclusion2013 .

For more information, visit http://www.as-coa.org/issue-category/social-inclusion-development

Can El Salvador’s private sector play a role in violence prevention?


Gang member paints over graffiti as part of social reintegration program. Photo: EL MUNDO / TULIO GALDÁMEZ

El Salvador is one of the world’s most dangerous nations due to the war between the Mara Salvatrucha 13 and 18th Street Gang (Barrio 18). In March 2012, imprisoned leaders of the two largest street gangs announced a truce, thus leading to the suspension of violent conflicts between the two gangs. The leaders also announced that they would cease-fire in school zones, end forced recruitment, and stop extorting or “taxing” the small businesses that operate in their communities.

Since the truce in 2012, the National Civil Police (PNC) registered 2,675 murders; compared to the 2011 PNC figure of 4,371 homicides, according to EFE news agency. The number of people filed missing decreased as well. However, according to an article, 876 people disappeared in the first quarter of 2012, with more than 600 of those taking place since the truce went into effect. Additionally, the article states that since the truce, gang members have now begun to extort large businesses and prey increasingly on bus drivers and other transportation employees.

Experts say the current truce opens the door to a tremendous opportunity: Salvadoran society, government, private sector, and international donors should move quickly to use the pause in violence to help create social service and job programs in some of the poorest and most gang-ridden communities. Nonetheless, it still remains a challenge for businesses to deliver goods and services to gang-controlled neighborhoods.

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Voices of Women Human Rights Defenders

[Spanish version]

Written by Jessica Kuhn, SIF Graduate Fellow

On June 6, 2012, in Washington DC, the Nobel Women’s Initiative and JASS presented “Amplifying the Voices of Women Human Rights Defenders: 2012 Delegation to Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala.”  The presentation was in cooperation with Representatives Jim McGovern, Jan Schakowsky, and Sheila Jackson Lee.

It was an honor to be present at this hearing to see the faces and hear the stories of women human rights defenders from Mesoamerica.  It is essential that their voices be represented to Congress in such a forum to encourage and reinforce USG’s commitment to shedding light on these abuses and implementing policy solutions.

Lisa VeneKlasen, Executive Director of JASS, and Laura Carlsen of the Center for International Policy opened the presentation with startling facts regarding abuses against women in Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala.  In Honduras, femicides rose 257% between 2002 and 2010. 685 women were assassinated in Guatemala in 2010, compared to 213 in 2000. Moreover, more than 95% of crimes in the region are never punished. Read the rest of this entry »

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This blog was created to support the Central America Network and encourage dialogue around relevant research, news and poverty alleviation efforts in the region.
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