Honduran official angered by citizen perceptions of crime
Honduras' foreign minister wrote a stern letter after a think tank published a report saying more than 30 percent of Hondurans indicated they were victims of crime last year. Official crime statistics are lower, but many lack confidence in police and don't report all crimes.
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, Honduras Culture and Politics. The views expressed are the author's own.
The Fundacioé por la Paz y Democracia (FUNPADEM), in San Jose, Costa Rica, released the results of a public survey of public sentiment about security in Latin America. Honduras is one of the countries where the survey took place, and the results about public sentiment are reported in LAPOP 2014.
What the survey reported is that 66.4 percent of Hondurans feel safe in their community, which is better than Costa Rica where only 51.4 percent of those surveyed felt safe in their community. The Director of FUNPADEM told the press:
"In Honduras the people seem to be getting used to crime, its a society that culturally is beginning to tolerate living badly. They feel safer in the barrios when San Pedro Sula alone, second [largest] city in the country- the homicide rate is 182 per 100,000 inhabitants and here in Costa Rica we're scared when we have a homicide rate of 10 or 11 in prior years."
FUNPADEM Director Randall Arias lamented the attitude of the residents of northern Central America who favor mano dura [iron fist] policies over crime prevention:
"The paradox of Central America is that the countries of the north cry out for the army to protect them, the same army that 30 years ago killed their families. This is the last straw of preventative measures of security."
Only 38.8 percent of Hondurans have confidence in their police force. Note that the question did not distinguish between the National Police and the Militarized Police. Furthermore, 31.3 percent of Hondurans reported to FUNPADEM that they had been victims of a crime in the last year.
It should come as something of a shock to our gentle readers to learn that Arturo Corrales [Honduras's former security minister and now foreign minister], acting as a government representative, wrote FUNPADEM a stern letter demanding that they correct the information reported in their survey results, calling it erroneous because it doesn't correspond with official government statistics.
Specifically he rejects their aside on the homicide rate in Honduras, which admittedly uses 2012 numbers. Mr. Corrales wrote:
In the last year, Honduras promised to secure the peace, tranquility, and quality of life of its citizens, which has permitted us to achieve a reduction of more than 23 percent in the homicide rate, going from 86 per 100,000 inhabitants to 66 per 100,000 inhabitants during the period 2012-2014.
Corrales further wrote:
With respect to victimization [of a crime] in the last 12 months, your report notes an erroneous figure of 31.3. But actually the national and international observatories [of violence], particularly the Barometer of Latin America establish the rate at 18.
Remember what Corrales is objecting to here is that according to FUNPADEM, 31.3 percent of Hondurans report being a victim of a crime. Corrales doesn't seem to understand the difference between that and his official crime statistics, which document only 18 percent of Hondurans having been victims of a crime.
That Hondurans might not be reporting all crimes, particularly because of a lack of confidence in the police and the lack of investigation of crimes by police appears never to have crossed his mind. He concluded his letter demanding that FUNPADEM correct their statistics and publicize the new results.
FUNPADEM responded that they used the latest World Health Organization and UN numbers for any reported crime statistics. They offered to let Corrales publish an article in their newsletter detailing all the crime fighting steps Honduras has taken over the same time period, but they stand by their reporting of public sentiment...
In the meantime, Corrales is gearing up his foreign ministry to "correct" what FUNPADEM reported.
– Russell Sheptak, the co-author of the blog Honduras Culture and Politics, specializes in the study of colonial history and economic anthropology in this little-reported corner of Central America.
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