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U.S. Peace Corps pulls out of Honduras

The Americas Post - Honduran criminals won't have Peace Corps volunteers to prey on anymore

Worsening drug and organized-crime violence in Central America has forced the Peace Corps to pull out of Honduras and halt the flow of new volunteers to Guatemala and El Salvador, that organization has announced.

Last month Peace Corps officials reviewed worsening conditions and decided to withdraw all 158 volunteers from Honduras in January and suspend training for 29 recruits.  That evacuation has now been carried out.

“We are going to conduct a full review of the program,” Aaron S. Williams, the director of the Peace Corps, said in a statement.

Officials for the moment are retaining the 335 volunteers now in Guatemala and El Salvador, but not sending another 76 recruits who were to begin training there next month. The trainees will be redirected to other countries, the corps said.

In Washington, Peace Corps spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson said the moves were based on “comprehensive safety and security concerns” instead of any particular threat or incident.  However, Peace Corps Journals, an online portal for blogs by Peace Corps volunteers, does have an entry referring to a volunteer being shot in an armed robbery.

There was no immediate reaction from the governments.  All three countries have suffered a rash of violence related to drug traffickers using Central America as a transit point to ship cocaine to the United States from South America.

The wave of violence has hit particularly hard in Honduras, whose institutions are still recovering from a 2009 coup.  It has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world — the highest by some measures — and this month, Alfredo Landaverde, the country’s former antidrug and security adviser who often denounced corruption, was himself gunned down.

Ms. Edmunson said that the corps occasionally temporarily withdraws or restricts work in the 75 countries in which it has volunteers.