Peace Corps pullout a sad day for Central America

Because of worsening security, the Peace Corps is suspending operations in Honduras and freezing new applicants in Guatemala and El Salvador. It could be a long time before they return.

Fernando Antonio/AP/File
Police secure the area next to the vehicle of a former adviser to the government Public Safety Department who was gunned down while he was driving with his wife in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, Honduras Dec. 7. With violence increasing and Peace Corps volunteers in danger, Peace Corps has decided to pull out of Honduras in favor of other Central American countries.

In case you haven't heard, the Peace Corps is pulling its volunteers out of Honduras and freezing new volunteers to El Salvador and Guatemala. It's a sad day indeed.

Kristina Edmunson, a Peace Corps spokeswoman in Washington, said the moves stemmed from “comprehensive safety and security concerns” rather than any specific threat or incident. 

However, a Peace Corps volunteer (PCV) in Honduras was recently shot in the leg during a botched bus assault. I also heard that several PCVs in Guatemala were robbed on a bus about two weeks ago. The violence does not appear to yet have targeted PCVs, but they continue to be caught up in the violence that affects the Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Honduran people daily.

I said on Twitter that they should send the volunteers to Nicaragua. I wasn't really joking. It's a beautiful country. The volunteers could learn a lot and the people of Nicaragua could use the help. It's still in Central America. And it's a lot safer. 

The other destination is Colombia where the Peace Corps reopened in 2010 after a 29 year absence. There aren't that many PCVs serving in Colombia yet but the country should be able to handle more than the 20 or so that are currently placed.I sincerely hope that the Peace Corps does not pull out of El Salvador and Guatemala as I fear a return to the region will be a long time in the making.

--- Mike Allison is an associate professor in the Political Science Department and a member of the Latin American and Women's Studies Department at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.  You can follow his Central American Politics blog here

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