Honduras: Peace Corps volunteers evacuated under safety concerns
Peace Corps Honduras evacuated all of its 158 volunteers from the country on Monday, the Associated Press reports. The reasons expressed for the drastic measure are security concerns.
The Corps have been present in Honduras since 1962; a year after President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10924, establishing the Peace Corps on May 1, 1961. But the world was different then, and Honduras is different now too.
The region is plagued with gang violence and Honduras is considered to have the highest murder rate in the world. U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Ledy Pacheco said instructions for the withdrawal came from Washington, where the group’s head office is located, the AP reports. And while many lists of the most dangerous countries in the world may differ, several sources quote “a recent U.N. report” saying “Honduras and El Salvador have the highest homicide rates in the world with 82.1 and 66 per 100,000 inhabitants, respectively, in 2010. Guatemala had a rate of 41 per 100,000 last year. All three are more than double the homicide rate of 18 per 100,000 in Mexico, where drug violence has drawn world attention.”
Since its inception, Peace Corps has served in 139 countries, with over 200,000 volunteers. As of 2011, there are 8,655 active volunteers in 77 countries, according to official sources.
Univision News spoke with Kristina Edmuson, spokeswoman for Peace Corps who confirmed all volunteers evacuated are safe in the U.S. She also confirmed there have been other recent evacuations due to safety concerns: Peace Corps volunteers have been withdrawn last November from Kazakhstan, and from Niger in Jan. 2011.
“We started reviewing the situation in Honduras back in December,” she said. “Thus we made the decision to bring back the volunteers. We are still assessing the situation in El Salvador and Guatemala.”
A related press release on the matter says that PC has “cancelled its January 2012 volunteer training classes for El Salvador and Guatemala. Due to ongoing concerns, the agency is enhancing operational support to currently serving volunteers in these countries.”
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