Friday, December 23, 2011

US Peace Corps to Pull Out of Honduras, Citing Security Concerns

Honduran officials on Friday (December 23) took issue with a US decision to pull 158 Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) out of the country in January for security reasons. Foreign Minister Arturo Corrales said he believes the situation is temporary as Honduras works to restore peace and security in a country notorious for having the highest homicide rate in the world.

COMMENT: The government reaction came two days after the US announced it is also suspending training for new PCVs in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and bringing home 158 volunteers from Honduras. The current volunteers will remain in the other two countries.

A recent UN report said Honduras and El Salvador have the highest homicide rates in the world with 82.1 and 66 per 100,000 inhabitants, respectively, in 2010. Guatemala had a rate of 41 per 100,000 last year. All three are more than double the homicide rate of 18 per 100,000 in Mexico, where drug violence has drawn world attention.

In recent months the Peace Corps has come under sharp criticism as a result of its poor success in keeping PCVs safe in a number of countries, particularly from the crimes of rape, robbery, assault and homicide. The reality is that the Peace Corps refuses to harden security for its volunteers, even as security threats worldwide have escalated.

Conversely, the UN, other humanitarian agencies and a multitude of NGOs have increased the personal security of its staff while the Peace Corps continues to believe that PCVs can ride bicycles and take local buses and live in poorly secured residences as they did when the Peace Corps was conceptualized in the 1960s.

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