01/14/2014 10:36 am ET Updated Mar 16, 2014

Honduras Homicide Rate Drops Again

Good news. The homicide rate for Honduras dropped for the second year in a row in 2013. In 2011, the homicide rate reached a record 86.5 murders per 100,000 people, according to the National Autonomous University of Honduras' Observatory of Violence program, which monitors homicides in the country. The 86.5 figure is lower than the 91.6 given by the Organization of American States (O.A.S.) for that year, which explains why in some news articles you see a discrepancy. Oddly enough, both the Observatory of Violence and the O.A.S. agreed on the total number of murders for 2011 -- 7,104. Anyhow... the homicide rate for 2012 went down to 85.5 per 100,000, based on the Observatory of Violence's count. And it went down again last year to 83 -- again, according to the Observatory of Violence.

Now we have a definite trend, and fortunately it's downward. The homicide rate numbers began climbing during the last year of the administration of President Ricardo Maduro -- 35.1 in 2005 --- and continued to climb steadily throughout the administration of President Manuel Zelaya -- 42.9 in 2006, 50 in 2007, 60.8 in 2008, and 77 in 2009 -- and during the first two years of the administration of President Porfirio Lobo -- 82.1 in 2010 and the 86.5 in 2011.

Beware, though. You will no doubt continue to see a discrepancy in the homicide rate numbers reported by the press. While we do not know what figure the O.A.S. will come out with, there is a wide difference between the Observatory of Violence's figure and that of Honduras' National Police. The Observatory of Violence bases its 83 homicides per 100,000 on just over 7,000 homicides. The National Police, however, counts 6,427 homicides in 2013, and thus offers a much smaller figure of 75.1 homicides per 100,000. The difference in the counts is based on a new formula developed by Minister of Security and Defense Arturo Corrales a few months ago.

Minister Corrales has argued that the Observatory of Violence has failed to follow all the procedures for properly classifying the deaths as homicides -- procedures set forth under a mechanism called the "Standard Indicators for Citizen Coexistence and Security". His view is that the Observatory does not always have the complete information on murders, and so in some cases the killings cannot be registered as "homicides", but instead should be classified as "cases that need to be investigated as possible homicides".

Sounds a little dicey, particularly given the obvious political self-interest involved for the Lobo administration (and the National Party) in trying to lower the number as much as possible. Think about it... 75.1 would allow the Nationalists to boast that they succeeded in lowering the homicide rate to what it was prior to the Lobo years. Clever, but it really is more likely that the Observatory's number is the more accurate one. What the heck, let's just split the difference and be done with it -- 79.05.