Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald Staff

Despair wrought by corruption scandals also drives migration to the U.S.

TEGUCIGALPA    |    Hondurans don’t get riled easily. And they’re not known for takin’ it to the streets.

But this has been a year of loud and angry torchlight protest marches in Honduras — and for good reason. The impoverished Central American country is wrestling with perhaps the worst government corruption scandal in its history.

Or as Honduran protesters like Eldan Cruz put it: “Corruption on such a criminal level it’s basically sociopathic behavior.”

Luis Soto / AP via Miami Herald

After Sunday’s first round of voting, the leading candidate in Guatemala’s presidential run-off election next month will be a former comedian. But the anti-corruption wave sweeping Central America is no joke – and has been spreading next door to Honduras.

Guatemalan actor Jimmy Morales has never held elected office. But it’s not surprising that an outsider candidate like him got the most votes. Guatemalans are so angry about corruption that last week President Otto Pérez was forced to resign and faces charges in a major scandal.

Courtesy U.S. Embassy in Honduras

President Obama is asking Congress for $1 billion in new aid for Central America – especially violence-plagued countries like Honduras. One big goal is to reduce the massive waves of illegal immigration to the U.S., which we’re seeing in South Florida.

While in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa last week, I spoke with U.S. Ambassador James Nealon about how the Administration hopes to make this plan work – and about Washington’s growing realization that solving illegal immigration means improving conditions at its source rather than building walls at our border.

U.S. Southern Command

Honduras gives us so many reasons to cry. The world’s worst murder rate. Grinding poverty. All those desperate, unaccompanied child migrants who poured into the U.S. last summer – and who just might come knocking on our border again this summer.

These days Honduras is giving us some good laughs, too. As in: I’m laughing so hard I’m crying, because the Honduran hilarity makes me nervous about the fate of the $1 billion the Obama Administration wants to send Honduras and Central America this year.

Maria Murriel / WLRN

I admit I was scared the first time I went to Honduras, which was just last month. All I really knew of the place, aside from a little about the food, were this year's painful stories of Honduran children escaping to the United States because crippling poverty and gang violence have made their country the world's deadliest.

But my good friend was getting married, and I'd found a cheap plane ticket.

U.S. Southern Command

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández dropped by the U.S. Southern Command in Miami this week to talk about security in Central America. Or the utter lack of security in Central America. Honduras has the highest murder rate on Earth, and things are almost as deadly in neighboring Guatemala and El Salvador.

That’s why the Southcom visit was a nifty photo op for Hernández – who'd like the world to believe that he’s having to wage a war with vicious narco-gangs solely because Americans have an insatiable appetite for drugs.

Courtesy Jill Tahmooressi

There’s an old saying among Mexican officials when dealing with the United States: Always tell the gringos yes, but never tell them when.

That dance is the result of two centuries of tortured bilateral relations marked by U.S. insensitivity and Mexican hypersensitivity. And it’s most likely what’s playing out now as Washington and Mexico City haggle over the fate of a former U.S. Marine, Andrew Tahmooressi.

Keith Dannemiller / Photo courtesy of the International Organization for Migration. ©2014 IOM

There’s a network of freight trains that runs the length of Mexico from its southernmost border with Guatemala north to the United States. In addition to grain, corn or scrap metal, these trains are carrying an increasing number of undocumented immigrants who aim to cross into the U.S.

And despite the many deadly challenges it poses, more and more children—both with adults and alone—have been risking the journey. That prompted President Obama this week to warn of "an urgent humanitarian situation."

Michael McCabe / Aqua Quest International

Six U.S. crew members of the Aqua Quest, a 65-foot ship out of Florida, have been sitting in a jungle jail in Honduras for almost a month now. The charge against them: bringing weapons into the violent Central American country illegally. But the case is questionable – especially since Aqua Quest International, the Tarpon Springs ocean exploration and recovery company that owns the vessel, was invited by Honduran officials to carry out development projects like river clearing.

Miami Herald

What do you when you live in the most violent place on earth and you can’t take another day of it?

We’re not talking about Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan. This is about Honduras, in Central America, little more than a two-hour flight from Miami. It has the highest murder rate of any nation in the world today, more than 80 per 100,000 people. Its second largest city, San Pedro Sula, has the worst homicide rate of any urban area in the world, almost 175 per 100,000.