All 158 Peace Corps volunteers who were living and working in Honduras have now left the country after the organisation decided it was too dangerous for them to remain. Aaron Williams, director of the Peace Corps, announced last month that they would be scaling back operations throughout Central America due to “comprehensive safety and security concerns,” though they have not cited any specific concerns or attacks on volunteers as the reason for the change. The Corps will also not be adding any new volunteers to El Salavador and Guatamala, although those who are already in those countries will remain for now.
Drug violence and poltical unrest have plagued Honduras in the last several years and a U.N. report last year claimed that the country has highest homicide rate — 82.1 per 100,000 people — in the world. For comparison, Mexico, which is embroiled in vicious, headline-grabbing drug war is "only" at 18 per 100k. The country suffered a military coup in 2009 that has only divided the country further and increased human right abuses.
Still, one Peace Corps volunteer criticized the move in an op-ed in The Los Angeles Times, claiming that safety fears in Central America are overblown and that Americans are not the targets of this increasing violence. Only one volunteer has ever been murdered in Guatemala during the Corps's entire history. Peace Corp volunteers have been serving in Honduras almost since the group's inception in 1963 and the op-ed argues that pulling them out now would undermine the Corps' mission at a time when the people it serves need it the most:
Young Americans, and those young at heart, deserve the opportunity to venture unarmed and un-air-conditioned into developing countries to experience life as it presents itself to the majority of the human population. To deprive them of that opportunity unnecessarily is cowardly, and such cowardice — although perhaps appreciated by their mothers — is inexcusable considering the courage that potential volunteers exhibit just by signing up.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.