Northern Triangle of Central America

Text written by our colleague Lydia Castillo

#Giveme1minutefortheRefugees from the most violent countries in the world.

An estimated 10% out of 30 million residents have left the region in Central America known as the Northern Triangle, which consists of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. In the 1980s, these countries were moved by civil wars that left a history of violence and fragile institutions in its past. Presently, Honduran institutions are especially unstable due to a coup in 2009 which ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

Violence within these countries is skyrocketing due to gangs. Crime often goes unresolved due the unstable institutions with the inadequate training of police officers, limited resources, and corruption. The people in this area also have little trust with the police and military because during the civil wars of Guatemala and El Salvador, the military and police were accused of human rights violations.

In 2012, the U.S. Department of State estimated that there were about 85,000 gang members within the Northern Triangle and the violence shows no sign of stopping. The murder rate in El Salvador has increased by 196% in just 3 years and in August 2015, there was “an average of one murder occurring every hour” (National Forensics Institute).

During the early 2000s, governments in this area endorsed a series of policies that expanded the powers of the police to enact punishments for gang members. These policies proved to cause an even bigger problem which indirectly increased gang membership. Prisons became overcrowded and gangs recruited thousands of new members inside.

In Guatemala, things have improved recently due to the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). This group investigates and prosecutes criminal groups who are believed to be within state institutions, causing corruption. Between 2009 and 2012, impunity levels fell by 23% and this group led to the arrest of President Otto Pérez Molina based on their investigation of a customs corruption scheme.

In 2014, efforts were made by El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to improve their institutions to curb violence. The three countries came together to create the Alliance for Prosperity which is a five-year $20 billion plan to promote economic growth, improve the safety of the public, and strengthen government institutions.

However, presently there is a threat of violence to the citizens living in the Northern Triangle and 3 million of these people are refugees fleeing their homeland.  Refugees who flee the Northern Triangle must face a perilous journey where they risk murder, rape, kidnapping, and extortion. In neighboring countries like Belize, Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama, asylum applications have rose 1,179.4% from 2008-2014 and in the United States, they have rose by 369.5% (United States Human Commission for Refugees). However, not all refugees are taken in to those countries for asylum. In 2015, only 82% of refugees seeking asylum in the United States were accepted and many others refugees were killed or kidnapped along their journey.

Efforts have been made by nearby countries to increase their admission of refugees from the Northern Triangle. As of January 2016, the United States announced that they are going to expand their refugee program to admit about 9,000 people each year from the Northern Triangle, along with providing $750 million to the Northern Triangle’s Alliance for Prosperity Plan. The U.S. is also trying to enlist the United Nations to assist in screening refugee claims from Latin America so that refugees of the Northern Triangle can have a new, less-violent, life.

You can see more information here

Northem Triangle

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