Peace Corps cites safety in pullout from Honduras

AP News
Posted: Dec 23, 2011 12:55 PM

Honduran officials on Friday lamented a U.S. decision to pull 158 Peace Corps volunteers out of the Central American country in January for safety reasons.

Foreign Minister Arturo Corrales said he believes the situation is temporary as Honduras works to restore peace and security in a country notorious for having the highest homicide rate in the world.

"The Peace Corps has done an outstanding job in our country," added Security Minister Pompey Bonilla. "We are dismayed by the pullout."

The government reaction came two days after the U.S. government announced it is suspending training for new Peace Corps volunteers in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and bringing home 158 volunteers from Honduras. The current volunteers will remain in the other two countries.

All three make up the so-called northern triangle of Central America, a region plagued by drug trafficking and gang violence.

A recent U.N. report said 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.

"The safety and security of all Peace Corps volunteers is the agency's highest priority," Director Aaron Williams said in a statement Wednesday. "During this time, we are going to conduct a full review of the program. We thank the people of Honduras for their strong support of Peace Corps over the years."

The Peace Corps has operated in Honduras since 1963, according to the statement, and more than 5,500 Americans have served there.