Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Glass Half Full? Glass Half Empty?

Proceso Digital reports that Porfirio Lobo Sosa has congratulated his administration for going nine days so far this year without a single murder in Tegucigalpa.  Mind you that's nine single days, not nine contiguous ones.  Lobo Sosa said:
"In Tegucigalpa we have achieved nine days with 0 murders.  I'm not saying [nine days] in order.  This is something historic.  I have no reason to lie to you."

Proceso Digital checked with the coroner in Tegucigalpa, and found that this is true.  There have been 9 single days when no murder victims arrived at the city morgue this year.  For the record, those days were April 30,  May 12, May 20, May 21, June 7, June 28, June 29, July 11 and July 13.  Lobo Sosa explained why he found this remarkable:
"Before we were always talking about 2 digits; there were more than 30 murders.  Today we have many days at a national level with only 1 digit.  We had one day with 5 [murders] in the country and this is not something to be happy about, but yes it's getting better, and its because of the police cleanup and the participation of the Armed Forces."

So is it really getting better?

The Observatory of Violence of the National Autonomous University begs to differ. 

Its director, Migdonia Ayestas, told La Tribuna today that so far this year there have been an average of 595 murders per month in Honduras, around 20 per day through May 31 of this year. 

There are four departments with low homicide rates: Valle, Gracias a Dios, the Bay Islands, and Intibuca, each with fewer than 33 murders per month. On the other hand, there are four with exceptionally high murder rates: Atlantida, Colon, Comayagua, and Copan, where the murder rates exceed 165 per month. 

Tegucigalpa, by the way, is in the department of Francisco Morazan, which is not in either list. 

While Ayestas didn't elaborate, those numbers, when extrapolated to the whole year, contradict Lobo Sosa's optimistic spin. 

If extended to the full year we can project about 7,140 expected murders in Honduras for 2013.  That's a murder rate approximating 85.1- 86 per 100,000 population, depending on what you conclude the population of Honduras will be at year end. 

By comparison, there were 7,172 murders last year (2012) giving a murder rate of either 85.5 per 100,000 (Observatory of Violence) or 91.6 per 100,000 (Organization of American States). 

(The reason for the difference is a disagreement about the population of Honduras last year. )

So, not much of a change from 2012: 32 fewer murders than last year, but about the same murder rate as 2012.

And still the highest murder rate in the world-- even if there have been nine days without a murder.


John (Juancito) Donaghy said...

What would be most helpful is an analysis of the causes of the homicides: Gangs, drug trafficking, political or social conflict (e.g., Bajo Aguán or Rio Blanco), vengeance killings, common crime (e.g., in the course of a robbery), domestic violence, inter- or intra- family conflicts, personal land disputes, etc.?

The department of Copán has a high percentage but Santa Rosa de Copán has almost none.

In contrast, in the parish where I work there have been several murders in the last few years. One was clearly to prevent someone from testifying in court about a murder (also in the area) over land. There almost was a domestic violence murder but we got her to the hospital for treatment. I'll have to do some more personal research as well as keep an ear out for what people are saying.

RNS said...

Agreed; the breakdown of causes of murders would be very useful and interesting. I don't know if the various coroners actually keep anything like those statistics.

That said, I did find a municipio by municipio homicide map for 2012 and earlier years here:

that was quite interesting. Santa Rosa is indicated in a color that I assume means a medium level of homicides while other parts of Copan around it are high.

RNS said...

There's a related and relevant post over at Central American Politics where Mike has put together a graph showing the homicide trends for each country in Central America.

Mike also links to an El Heraldo article from three weeks ago where UNAH reports a slight downward trend in homicides in Honduras and predicts by year end the rate will be 80 per 100,000.

Check Mike's post out: