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Violence In Honduran City San Pedro Sula Spurs Migrant Caravan

Oct 30, 2018
Originally published on October 30, 2018 8:47 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It's been more than two weeks now since thousands of Hondurans left their country trekking north. They've been called a caravan. And there have been unfounded claims about who they are. Here are some facts. Most left the city of San Pedro Sula. It was once one of the most violent cities in the world. The murder rate has been dropping significantly. But apparently, that hasn't deterred people from fleeing. Here's more from NPR's Carrie Kahn.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: For an outsider to drive into the Rivera neighborhood of the sprawling city, it's best to have Daniel Pacheco visibly positioned in the front seat of your car with all the windows rolled down. The geography can be dangerous. Seven different gangs operate here.

DANIEL PACHECO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "We're just leaving the 18 gang's area and heading into MS territory," says Pacheco, an evangelical pastor.

PACHECO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: We head down a narrow street indistinguishable from the previous one. "This is now Batos Locos territory," he says. Pacheco, who runs a youth center and church here, is well-known and trusted in this poor neighborhood of small, single-story blockhouses. All the windows and doors are covered with metal bars. Pacheco's home is no exception.

PACHECO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Sitting on a tiny couch in the small front room with a dozen chickens pecking at the metal door leading to his tiny backyard, Pacheco says being young in this part of San Pedro Sula is problematic.

PACHECO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Not only is there violence and gangs, but he says, sadly, just being from this neighborhood makes life harder. "No employer will give you a job. Our neighborhood carries a terrible stigma," he says.

PACHECO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "What opportunities do our young have? None, definitely none," he adds. Not far from Pastor Pacheco's home is an abandoned lot. A 20-year-old known gang member, who didn't want his name used for fear of being punished by the gang, says he worries where he walks. Enemies are everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Like the police, they'll stop you just because you're young. They assume you're a gang member and rough you up," he says. Getting a factory job is impossible. He can't even safely go downtown. He says he plans to head to the U.S. if not on another caravan, then on his own next year. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez insists his government is making progress on reducing crime and corruption. He points to a recent double-digit drop in the murder rate. And insists, like on this recent interview with CNN En Espanol, that his political opponents are behind the mass exodus of Hondurans currently heading to the U.S.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JUAN ORLANDO HERNANDEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Radical Honduran political groups are motivating these people," he says. "They get support from those in South America," says Hernandez, repeating his claim that Venezuela has financed the caravan. But in a small house in the dangerous Rivera neighborhood, this woman, who was also too afraid to give her name, says the president is lying. She says he just needs to spend one night in her home, hiding under the bed as a gun battle rages outside, and he'll understand why everyone is leaving.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Who doesn't want to leave here? Who doesn't want to live without fear and be free?" she says. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

(SOUNDBITE OF RODRIGO Y GABRIELA'S "30 DE MARZO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.