NYT: Peace Corps to Scale Back in Central America

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Peace Corps to Scale Back in Central America
By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
Published: December 21, 2011

MEXICO CITY — The increasing drug and organized-crime violence in Central America has led the Peace Corps to pull out of Honduras and stop sending new volunteers to Guatemala and El Salvador, the organization announced Wednesday.

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Peace Corps officials said they had taken stock of the worsening conditions and decided to withdraw their 158 volunteers from Honduras in January and scuttle plans to send 29 recruits to complete their training.

“We are going to conduct a full review of the program,” Aaron S. Williams, the director of the Peace Corps, said in a statement.

In Guatemala and El Salvador, officials decided to keep the 335 volunteers already in those countries but not to send the 76 recruits who were to begin training there next month. The trainees will be sent to other countries, the corps said.

Kristina Edmunson, a Peace Corps spokeswoman in Washington, said the moves stemmed from “comprehensive safety and security concerns” rather than any specific threat or incident. However, Peace Corps Journals, an online portal for blogs by Peace Corps volunteers, has an entry referring to a volunteer’s being shot in an armed robbery.

There was no immediate reaction from the governments.

All three countries have endured a rash of violence primarily related to drug traffickers using Central America as a staging point to ship cocaine to the United States from South America.

A wave of violence has struck particularly hard in Honduras, whose institutions are still recovering from a coup in 2009.

It has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world — the highest by some measures — and this month, Alfredo Landaverde, the country’s former antidrug and security adviser who often denounced corruption, was shot to death.

Ms. Edmunson said that from time to time, the corps withdraws or restricts work in the 75 countries in which it has volunteers.