Thursday, November 22, 2018

Terror of gang violence drives migrant caravans northward

By Delphine Schrank and Goran Tomasevic
November 21, 2018

Former Honduran policeman Ivan says he moved homes so many times to escape the street gangs that terrorize his Central American country that he lost count. Fearful his sons would have to join the gangs or be killed, he eventually joined thousands of Hondurans fleeing to the United States.

The 45-year-old, who asked to be identified only by his first name, is journeying through Mexico in a caravan of several thousand mostly Honduran migrants who are fleeing violence and poverty for a better life in the United States.

The former policemen said the final straw in Honduras came when gang members put a gun to his 15-year-old son Yostin's head.

They wanted Yostin and younger brother Julio, 13, to join them, threatening death if they refused, Ivan said during a break in the caravan's northward journey at a temporary camp in a Mexico City stadium.

So when a caravan set off on Oct. 13 from the crime-racked Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, where the family was hiding with friends, they never hesitated. Reuters was not able to independently verify their story.

However, their motives echo others in the caravan and are a reminder of the influence the gangs called 'maras' wield across El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala despite almost 20 years of efforts to crush them.


the murder rate in Honduras remains one of the highest in the world. Some international aid organizations such as the Norwegian Refugee Council operate in the country with the same precautions as in war zones, and say inhabitants face the same dangers.


For some Hondurans who fail in their pursuit of the American Dream, deportation can mean an entrance into gang life.

Henry Fernando, an active member of MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, said he walked more than 3,000 miles and almost died in the desert crossing from Mexico to find his mother, who had left him for Virginia.

Quickly deported, MS-13 was the only home he found, he said, recalling the girlfriends, or "jainas", that leaders offered, serving as payment for the marijuana and crack cocaine he sold. Reuters was not able to independently verify his story.


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