WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
By Jorge Cabrera
“Come in if you would like to and try to leave when you still can.”
Some weeks ago, I went to cover a soccer match in San Pedro Sula, considered the industrial capital of Honduras. It also bears the less honorable title of being the most dangerous and violent city in the world.
San Pedro Sula, the country’s second largest city after Tegucigalpa, has a homicide rate of 169 per 100,000 people and was named the world’s most violent city for a second year in a row. Lax laws allow civilians to own up to five personal guns, and arms trafficking has flooded the country with nearly 70 percent illegal firearms. Eighty three percent of homicides are by firearm compared to 60 percent in the United States.
I arrived when most of San Pedro Sula’s residents escape to the beach. Temperatures were hitting 40 degrees C (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in the shade and the heat was overpowering. I went out for a walk with a fellow journalist who only covers crime and while we were walking he described San Pedro Sula like a supermarket for journalists looking for dangerous stories.
We entered the emergency room of a local hospital and I could sense what he was talking about. It was packed with people, most of them from low-income neighborhoods, nurses and doctors were running around, trying to tend to everyone but it was obvious that there was neither enough medical staff nor materials to treat everyone.
I could hear screams from patients and the smell was suffocating.
Night had fallen and more and more patients with wounds inflicted by violence were arriving. A man with numerous stab wounds was brought in. His hand was almost dangling from his wrist – he had been attacked by members of the Mara 18 street gang who had wanted to kill him with machetes and then tried to dismember his body. He was crying while he was telling me how he had managed to escape to a road and how people helped him. But he moved and looked around as if nothing had happened to him. He seemed to be completely unconscious of his wounds and must have been in shock.