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Kids killed in Honduras for refusing to join gangs

Members of the Mara 18 gang at the national penitentiary in Tamara, Honduras on August 6, 2013/AFP

Members of the Mara 18 gang at the national penitentiary in Tamara, Honduras on August 6, 2013/AFP

TEGUCIGALPA, May 10 – the cry of the grandmother was gut-wrenching as she watched the burial of her grandson, the second killed in just days in a horrific wave of violence against children in Honduras.

Kids, even very young kids, are often killed if they refuse to join powerful street gangs, a scourge plaguing the poor Central American nation reputed to be the world’s most violent place.

The wave of murders is one of the most pressing problems facing the new government of President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

“Don’t leave me, my children!” the woman cried.

This second grandson was only seven years old. He was shot and tortured, his body found wrapped in a sheet and dumped in a vacant lot in San Pedro Sula, north of the capital, Tegucigalpa.

The grandmother and the mother of the child were already in shock after the death three days earlier of another of their children, aged 13, in similarly grisly circumstances.

In the space of a month, six more school-age children were murdered in San Pedro Sula, and authorities say the reason was the same – they had refused to join a street gang.

In an interview with the newspaper El Heraldo, Hernandez said the killings could be a backlash against his government’s security policy.

“I pray to God that it is not true that this issue of the children is a response to what we have been doing,” he was quoted as saying.

Last week in San Pedro Sula, members of gang called the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) burst into a youth detention center, overpowered guards and detonated a grenade, killing five members of the rival Mara 18 (M-18).

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That same day, farther north in the town of Limon, a man stabbed a 13-year-old girl to death, and also killed her siblings aged 10, seven and two.

The heart-breaking scene of the grieving grandmother consumed with pain was broadcast on television.

Honduras has the world’s highest homicide rate, 79 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the Violence Observatory at the National University, but the latest news has shocked the country.

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