by Sibylla Brodzinsky, The Guardian, 15 May 2013

City in Honduras has a murder rate of 173 per 100,000 residents, reportedly the highest in the world outside a war zone

No matter the time of day or night, morticians stand guard by the gate of the city morgue, waiting for the next body to be released so they can offer their services to grieving families. In the most violent city in the most violent country in the world, they never have to wait for long.

“Satan himself lives here in San Pedro,” says one nervous mortician who asks to be identified only as Lucas. “People here kill people like they’re nothing more than chickens.”

Last year, an average of 20 people were murdered every day in Honduras, a country of just 8 million inhabitants, according to the Violence Observatory at the National Autonomous University of Honduras (NAUH). That’s a murder rate of 85.5 per 100,000 residents, compared with 56 in Venezuela, 4.78 in the US and 1.2 in the UK.

In San Pedro Sula, the rate is 173, reportedly the highest in the world outside a war zone. The city is the country’s manufacturing and commercial hub. Dozens of maquiladoras – export assembly plants – churn out New Balance T-shirts and Fruit of the Loom boxer shorts for markets abroad. It should be a bustling place, but there is little movement on the streets and the air is tense. At newsstands, headlines cry out details of the previous day’s grisly crimes. Few cars have number plates; most have black-tinted windows.

The small number of police patrolling the streets breed more fear than security among residents, given the extreme levels of corruption within the national force that reportedly go all the way to the top.

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