TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — All 158 Peace Corps volunteers in Honduras left the country on Monday, weeks after the United States announced that it would pull them out for safety reasons.
The U.S. group said in late December that it was bringing home volunteers from Honduras and suspending training for new volunteers in El Salvador and Guatemala, though existing volunteers would remain in the latter two countries.
The region is plagued by gang violence and Honduras is considered to have the highest murder rate in the world. Honduras President Porfirio Lobo said Monday that the Peace Corps volunteers had been affected by rising crime, but neither he nor U.S. officials have cited specific attacks as reasons for the withdrawal.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Ledy Pacheco said instructions for the withdrawal came from Washington, where the group's head office is located.
The Peace Corps had operated in Honduras since 1963.
The three countries make up the so-called northern triangle of Central America, a region plagued by drug trafficking and gang violence.
A recent U.N. report said Honduras and El Salvador have the highest homicide rates in the world with 82.1 and 66 per 100,000 inhabitants, respectively, in 2010. Guatemala had a rate of 41 per 100,000 last year. All three are more than double the homicide rate of 18 per 100,000 in Mexico, where drug violence has drawn world attention.