At least half of the Honduran households have at least one television. Public television has a far smaller role than in most other countries. Honduras' main newspapers are La Prensa, El Heraldo, La Tribuna and Diario Tiempo. The official newspaper is La Gaceta (Honduras).
Mestizos (European mixed with Amerindian) make up more than 90% of the population of Honduras. Amerindians are 6% of the population and AfroHondurans comprise 3%. As in other Latin American countries, the question of racial breakdown of a national population is contentious. Since the beginning of the 20th century at least, Honduras has publicly framed itself as a mestizo nation, ignoring and at times disparaging both the African component of the population and often also the surviving indigenous population that was still regarded as pure blood.
Because of social stigmas attached, many people denied having African ancestry, and after African descended Caribbean workers arrived in Honduras, an active campaign to denigrate all people of African descent, made persons of mixed race anxious to deny any African ancestry. Hence official statistics quite uniformly under-represent those people who have ancestry in favor of a "two race" solution.
A major political issues in Honduras since about 1990 has been the high level of violent crime associated with the maras (Spanish for gangs, predominantly of young people), and drug trafficking organizations involved in the transport of cocaine from South America to the United States. Although gangs existed in Tegucigalpa in the 1980s, the phenomenon exploded around 1990. The range of criminal activities that street gangs carry out is broad, from kidnapping and human trafficking to drug, auto and weapons smuggling, as well as domestic extortion. A recent estimate by the. FBI and their counterparts in Central America placed the total number of gang members in Honduras at 36,000.
The increase in gang membership is partly attributable to population movement between Honduras and the United States. During the 1980s, many Hondurans fled to the US to avoid civil war and strife, and emigration continued for economic reasons after that. Other than civil war, domestic issues endemic to Central America such as high rates of poverty and unemployment and lack of education make at-risk youth more vulnerable to join gangs. In Honduras, close to 30% of the population is aged 1524.
Many immigrant children formed or joined urban gangs in cities such as Los Angeles. This phenomenon began to have an impact in Honduras around 1990 because gang members completing prison sentences were subject to deportation. Deportees brought the two main gangs in Honduras, MS-13 and the 18th Street gang. In 2004, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Office of Immigration and Enforcement reported that Honduras received 2,345 total criminal deportations. However, it is unclear how many were gang-affiliated.
Almost a third of Hondurans feel a sense of insecurity related to crime. The report listed as causes and risk factors, "Lack of opportunities and alternatives for youth and adolescents, family breakdown, movement of Hondurans to and from the United States, and abuse of drugs and alcohol, and presence of weapons".
However, the "departamento" (political division) with more weapons per person than anywhere else in the nation, Olancho, is the only area with no gang presence at all.
The report adds however, that the "overwhelming attention given to gang violence by the media and the government" is partly responsible. Gang members often compete to see which crime receives the most coverage. It has been recently contended though that the media tends to exaggerate the gang problem, thus making Hondurans believe their communities less secure than they really are. Such attention is inevitable, just as in other countries such as the United States and Europe, because of the extreme violence that accompanies the crimes perpetrated by these gangs. Another reason for the inevitable attention is that they most affect the lower-income population disproportionately, and almost all areas of public activities were affected.
The murder rate in 1999 was 154 murders per 100,000; around 2005 this had fallen to 49 per 100,000. (To put this in context, the death rate from all causes is roughly 1000 per 100,000 population.) Most of the crime in Honduras takes place in the big cities of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. A survey by Mitch Seligson in 2004 found that 18% of the population thought public security and violence delinquency, crime, violence, drug trafficking, and gangs were the most serious problem facing the country.
There is a great feeling of insecurity amongst the population in Honduras. Honduras has been not only a transit point for cocaine running between Colombia and the United States, a pattern broken substantially after the arrest and exile of the ex-president Mel Zelaya, but also has an internal market, creating all sorts of inner city urban problems. The gangs sell the crack, commit other crimes, and hire themselves out to the organised drug smugglers. Those engaged in international trafficking are better resourced than the state authorities combating them. Although gang members have been arrested for selling drugs at the street level, it is still unclear how much interaction they have with the larger drug cartels and their operations within Honduras. Not fully understanding this dynamic makes it difficult to discern the type of relationship they have with one another.
Some would use this argument to justify increasing US military aid to Honduras to help fight the organised drug gangs, while others actually claim that Honduras would be better off legalizing drugs, thus avoiding military solutions to Honduran security problems. One of the most recent forms of U.S. aid that addresses the gang problem was the creation of the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). Originally seen as a part of the U.S.- Mexico Mrida Initiative, in 2010 the U.S. Congress separated funding for Central America totaling $83 million. Although some of the aid comes in the form of military hardware, there are components which focus on strengthening the receiving country's judicial system.
President Ricardo Maduro, a former chairman of the Central Bank of Honduras, ran on an anti-crime platform after his only son was murdered on 28 April 1999. During his tenure at thee Central Bank of Honduras, a banking license was given to Banco de Produccin. After leaving the Central Bank he became chairman and majority stockholder of Banco de Produccin, and general manager of the Central Bank, Ana Cristina Mejia de Pereira, became general manager of Banco de la Produccin. He came into power in January 2002 with a wave of measures against gangs and delinquency, the most noticeable of which has been soldiers patrolling the streets with the police. Many gang members have been jailed for illicit association. This "Mano Duro" policy (name used to describe Central American leaders taking a hard stance against crime) led to the creation of a penal code in 2003 which made street gangs like MS-13 and M-18 illegal and established jail sentences up to 12 years for proven membership.
Violent crime dipped noticeably under Maduro. These "mano duro" policies have significant downsides as well. For example, many of the youth are wrongly arrested for membership but are later become recruited to the gangs while in jail. Also, these gang round-ups have led to the overcrowding of the prison system. Regardless of these policy's initial sign of success, gangs learn to adapt and continue to carry out their activities. Some reports say that gang leaders from El Salvador come into Honduras to help stop their decline.
Under President Zelaya's term, the government stated that it would attempt to create dialog with the gang members in order to sway them to renounce their violence and re-integrate into society. However, this program has relied mainly on private groups implementing the actual re-entry programs. Zelaya also created a specialized anti-gang unit within the police force which he used to coordinate patrols with the Honduran military. Although these patrols led to the arrests of 1,200 gang members, the rate of violence in Honduras has yet to subside.
Their desperation resulted in a "declaration of war" against the government, and three major events over the last few years brought this tiny country to the attention of the world media: a massacre of 68 prisoners in the farm prison just outside La Ceiba on 5 March 2003, a fire in the prison at San Pedro Sula that killed 107 prisoners on 18 May 2004, and the massacre of 27 innocent men, women and children in San Pedro Sula, on 23 December 2004.
The massacre in the San Pedro Sula suburb of Chamelecn left 27 dead and 29 injured. The murderers left behind a message, claiming to come from the Cinchoneros, and railing against Maduro, Lobo, lvarez and the death penalty. The Cinchoneros are believed to be defunct, however. The attackers promised to commit another massacre before the new year. Fortunately, one suspected assassin was detained very shortly afterwards in another part of San Pedro Sula, and further arrests have since been made. It was later revealed by the local police that the gunmen were members of the street gang Mara Salvatrucha, and the supposed mastermind of the attack, Ebner Anibal Rivera-Paz, was later arrested in Falfurrias,Texas.
After Maduro left office. their resurgence was felt and their presence continued, although less than before, but now using the cover of anti-government demonstrations for their activities.