Saturday, January 21, 2012

San Pedro Sula Robbery Possible Impetus for Peace Corps' Departure from Honduras

For the benefit of our readers, I would suggest that you read the link below, "San Pedro Bus Shooting Prompted Peace Corps Exit," the article of which appeared in the January 19, 2012, issue of The Honduras Weekly. This article may very well shed some light as to why the US Peace Corps recently ended its Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) program in Honduras.

COMMENT: During the early 1970s, while I was pursuing a master's degree in justice studies at American University in Washington, DC, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 was enacted, after which the federal government produced a comprehensive publication entitled, THE PRESIDENT'S COMMISSION ON LAW ENFORCEMENT AND THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE (US Government Printing Office, 1967).

A secondary by-product of the President's Commission at the time was a crime-fighting process called CRIME PREVENTION THROUGH ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN (CPTED), which emerged in the 1970s, yet remains with us today, some forty years later. Actually, during my federal law enforcement career, I relied heavily on CPTED and used it years later as an expert witness on why people become victims.

Unfortunately, the Peace Corps as a federal agency, never knew about or applied CPTED in the protection of Peace Corps Volunteers. Conceived as a humanitarian agency at the urging of the late President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps could not have had a more honorable goal.

Yet, as the world began to change in the 1980s and 1990s, becoming much more violent, when organizations such as the Peace Corps, DFID, JICA, United Nations, the World Bank and thousands of non-governmental organizations began to be targeted by criminals and terrorists alike, the Peace Corps was essentially standing alone in its apparent unwillingness to better physically protect its volunteers, who through no fault of their own, became victims of armed robbery, burglary, assault, forcible rape and homicide. See the below link:

When the Peaces Corps first began, its philosophy was to live among the foreign cultures they were assigned to help. That meant that volunteers would live as did those they served. Unfortunately, that was in the 1960s and 1970s. As violence escalated abroad, though, the Peace Corps systematically failed to better protect its volunteers, particularly considering that they were not locals, but indirect representatives of US foreign policy.

By being forced by the Peace Corps to ride local buses and bicycles, by walking in local communities and by living in poorly secured houses, as do the cultures they help, the volunteers have been forced into becoming crime victims.

As a result, in recent years the Peace Corps, and because it has failed to effectively protect volunteers from violent crime, abroad it has one of the largest per capita rates of forcible rape of any occupational group.

Getting back to the San Pedro Sula incident, it appears that rather than appropriate funds to better physically protect volunteers from violent acts abroad, a broad application of CPTED, it seems that the Peace Corps would rather end their program in a country than succeed in preventing their American volunteers from becoming victims of violence.

In most societies, employers are civilly sued by their employees who become victims of foreseeable crimes while working within the scope of their employment. Apparently that applies to everyone but the Peace Corps.

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