HONDURAS, September 8,2014 — He was always a hard worker, efficient, and honest boy complied. I remember him, high, medium build, brown skin, with long black curly hair and his inevitable hat; with his peculiar way of being: outgoing, happy and carefree. It was one of those people that despite having thousands of worries, he never complained and he bore all problems them with a cheeky smile.
Francisco was the electrician at a small company of architects who perform their own work task in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Anyone who knew him immediately felt empathy for him, for his cheerful and helpful character that won the appreciation of their co-workers, bosses and customers.
That is why the architect in charge of a small remodeling at the headquarters of the Agency for International Development (USAID) was concerned to see him looking dejected. When she asked what was wrong, the young man confided that he was concerned that criminals had kidnapped his brother, who was a taxi driver and used to work at the Multiplaza Mall at Tegucigalpa.
The criminals demanded 40,000L empiras (about $20,000) to release him, or else he would be killed. The trouble is that this amount was not very easy to assemble for a boy like him who was supporting his wife and three little children.
The Architect forwarded the payment of that week and contributed a small amount to relieve some of their burden. His grateful face was the ultimate thing she saw.
The rest of the week, Francisco did not show up to work. His co-workers assumed that things were complicated and that he was busy trying to raise the money he needed to complete the requirements of the thugs, so they understood the situation.
All who knew Francisco were in shock to learn that Monday morning that he had been killed.
The criminals very proudly declared responsibility, as if it were a gold medal won in fair competition. The culprits were a new group called “Los Benjamines.” Francisco and his kidnapped brother were murdered for not having given the required money. Not content with just murdering the men, the group dismembered them and scattered their body parts throughout the city.
Francisco and his brother became statistics in the Honduras violence a headline on the news and newspapers. For those who knew them, we feel the pain of the wasted lives of human beings and honorable fighters who deserved far a better luck.
The numbers are chilling, presumably 90.4 persons per 100 thousand die daily at the hands of criminal gangs, well organized. With this, this Central American country is in a state of lawlessness and impunity.
Violent gangs keep forming. It’s not just “The 18” and “MS 13”, but also smaller groups such as “The Chirizos” who were formed following the death of their boss, a drug dealer nicknamed “Black Cat.” Then came “The Combo that not allowed” and “The Benjamines”. They have entered a senseless struggle trying to compete for land with the main Maras.
To demonstrate their ferocity, they murder indiscriminately men, women and children regardless of age, and then quarter their bodies. That’s the price they pay their victims for not complying with the ransom amounts. Like other groups, they are involved in extortion, drug dealing, killings,weapons trafficking,car and motorcycles theft and misappropriation of homes.
In many areas of the city, entire families have been evicted from their homes by gangs which then use the houses to torture and kill their hostages. They have also imposed a curfew; residents can not walk the streets after 7:00 pm or turn the main lights in their homes.
Meanwhile, President Juan Orlando Hernandez warned that the organized crime gangs will be prosecuted and ruthlessly decimated. He called on them to surrender or leave the country. For his part, Commissioner Leandro Osorio, head of the National Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DNIC) has stated that there have been several arrests and Mayor Santos Nolasco, Speaker of the National Interagency Security Force (FUSINA) has said that it has prevented extortion payments over 60 million Lempiras.
Recently the Chief of the Southern Command of the United States, John Kelly, said he was very impressed with the work of the National Defense and Security Council and other agencies responsible for protecting citizens. He said he was pleased that the Southern Command was now collaborating with Honduras as part of the Regional Security Initiative for Central America.
The crime situation in Honduras has been exacerbated by high levels of government corruption, extreme poverty, and lack of opportunity.
Meanwhile, families who have lost loved ones in these acts of barbarism, the hundreds of displaced from their homes and businesses, and ordinary citizens are still waiting for their beloved Honduras return to being the friendly and peaceful country once was and that everyone can live in peace.