Surviving in Honduras' Murder Capital

Collection with 15 media items created by Karim + Jenny

Honduras 02 Sep 2014 00:00

Text by Jenny Gustafsson and Photos by Karim Mostafa
San Pedro Sula, the industrial capital of Honduras, near the border with Guatemala. It is known for its tropical climate, its friendly attitude – and its murders. For years in a row, the city has topped global homicide statistics, with over 170 killings per 100,000 inhabitants yearly. People in the city have become accustomed to the violence – and drawn into it. Most residents of the city are affected in one way or another by killings and assaults.
The city’s zonas rojas (red zones) are hardened by gang criminality; in well-to-do areas, people live their lives behind locked and barbed-wired gates. Orlin, a cameraman at one of Honduras’ TV stations, drives his car on a dark road leading out from the city. He has two mobile phones in his lap, and a gun. Each night, he drives around collecting footage from crime scenes around the city. The channel he works for is known for broadcasting raw, uncensored footage. “Everything happens during the night. Shootings, assaults. This is what I do every day, since I started to work with this as a 16-year-old,” he says.
In another part of the city, ‘La Fresa’, a young man with a football t-shirt, agrees to meet in an empty office. He carries a weapon as well, puts it on the table in front of him. “I have several guns, fifteen all in all. But this is my favorite. It’s killed 32 people.” La Fresa’s life is conditioned by violence as well, in a very direct way. He’s a sicario, a hit man – works with assassinating people for money. “I feel no guilt. It’s their destiny. If I felt guilt I couldn’t do this.”
FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE ON REQUEST

Honduras San Pedro Sula Violence Criminality Gangs Honduran Assault Shootings Urban Violence Homicides Killings Security Murder Rates Homicide Rates Central America

Thumb sm
Honduras murder capital 01
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
By Karim + Jenny
25 Aug 2014

Violence and insecurity conditions much of life in the city. Many neighbourhoods are gated and guarded by security. People often avoid walking outside, and moving around many areas in the city.

Thumb sm
Honduras murder capital 02
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
By Karim + Jenny
19 Aug 2014

A street in central San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras. For several years in a row, it has topped the list of most dangerous cities in the world, with over 170 homicides per year per 100 000 residents.

Thumb sm
Honduras murder capital 03
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
By Karim + Jenny
02 Sep 2014

A member of the forensic medicine team investigates the place where a man was killed earlier in the evening. The body is not there any more, the relatives came and took it away. They prefer to take care of it and bury it themselves, not trusting the police and criminal investigation.

Thumb sm
Honduras murder capital 04
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
By Karim + Jenny
02 Sep 2014

A street in Chamelecón, one of San Pedro Sula’s ‘zonas rojas’, red zones, where levels of violence and insecurity are high. The police say they have restored safety in this particular part. But trust in the Honduran police force is low and their presence does not necessarily mean safety for residents.

Thumb sm
Honduras murder capital 05
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
By Karim + Jenny
02 Sep 2014

Hilma Fuentes, one of few remaining residents on a street that used to be a scene of recurring gang confrontations. Most of her neighbours have left, found temporary homes elsewhere in the city.

Thumb sm
Honduras murder capital 06
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
By Karim + Jenny
02 Sep 2014

A policeman in Chamelecón, a large suburb in southern San Pedro Sula known for its insecurity and socio-economic hardships. The text on the police car says “Serve and Protect” – but the Honduran police force, known to be corrupt and violent, enjoys little trust among people.

Thumb sm
Honduras murder capital 07
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
By Karim + Jenny
02 Sep 2014

‘La Fresa’, a 27-year-old with one son, has worked as a sicaro, hit man, since he was 16. He has killed 60 people he said, mostly politicians and businessmen. His ‘organisation’ has established rules, for instance to not assassinate women and children, and think of themselves as providers of law and order in a society that has none.

Thumb sm
Honduras murder capital 08
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
By Karim + Jenny
02 Sep 2014

Hilma Fuentes and her neighbour, in her small fenced-off garden. Many houses in San Pedro Sula have walls and gates – certainly in well-to-do areas but also in poorer parts like Chamelecón.

Thumb sm
Honduras murder capital 09
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
By Karim + Jenny
02 Sep 2014

Marciela Mayorga, a resident of Chamelecón who runs a church project to revitalize the area. Kids and youth are encouraged to join and plant corn on the land that used to be occupied by gang members.

Thumb sm
Honduras murder capital 10
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
By Karim + Jenny
02 Sep 2014

A man takes a nap at Cuerpo de Bomberos in San Pedro Sula, the city’s rescue service which has many volunteers among its ranks.

Thumb sm
Honduras murder capital 11
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
By Karim + Jenny
02 Sep 2014

Chris Padilla, a resident of San Pedro Sula who runs a yoga center, has had several personal experiences with violence. It was only by luck that she escaped a kidnap attempt, which changed her entire sense of personal safety. Recently, her uncle was shot by mistake by a hit man assigned to assassinate a person in the same car, and her sister was killed by her husband.

Thumb sm
Honduras murder capital 12
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
By Karim + Jenny
02 Sep 2014

Inside the main entrance of San Pedro Sula’s public hospital, one of only two big public hospitals in Honduras. The doctor Raul Zelaya says they are unable to help everyone who needs care, and patients often have to pay for essential things like anesthesia and surgery material.

Thumb sm
Honduras murder capital 13
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
By Karim + Jenny
02 Sep 2014

The public hospital in San Pedro Sula, which is constantly under-staffed and lacking resources. The army was last year placed in charge of the hospital – an example of what many claim is an increasing militarization of Honduran society.

Thumb sm
Honduras murder capital 14
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
By Karim + Jenny
02 Sep 2014

José Israel, the father of four, at the public hospital in San Pedro Sula. He was shot by mistake when someone opened fire at a bar. He still has two bullets in his cheek and leg, but lacks the money to have them removed. Good health care is expensive in Honduras, where 65% of the population lives in poverty.

Thumb sm
Honduras murder capital 15
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
By Karim + Jenny
02 Sep 2014

Outside the emergency ward at the main public hospital in San Pedro Sula, where military men now guard the doors. “The hospital now has boots and guns, but not even basic medicine,” says Karen Meija, a civil rights activist.