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How Honduran street violence threatens children’s education

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Intimidation by street gangs in the violent areas of Honduran towns and cities is a fact of life for teenagers like Mariela*, 15, and her brother, Cesar*, 17. When a friend was murdered before their eyes, things got much worse. Friends had come to their house and were smoking on the porch when two youths walked up to one of them and shot him dead. The killers, members of a notorious gang, strolled away without a word. That was when the real danger began. “At school … outside, they threatened to kill us,” said Mariela. Gang violence has made Honduras one of the most dangerous places in the world outside a war zone. The gangs, or maras, carve up towns and cities into fiefdoms. Teenagers, and even younger boys, are threatened until they join. The usual offer is 24 hours to choose between recruitment or death. Girls are pressured into becoming “girlfriends” to gang members, in effect, their sex slaves. Hundreds of students have been killed in the past few years.

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