Honduras homicides set to fall; anti-crime drive wanes: report

October 4, 2016 7:55 PM EDT

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TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Murders in Honduras are on track to decline in 2016 even as the government's military drive against organized crime is running out of steam, the Observatory of Violence at the National Autonomous University of Honduras said on Tuesday.

A report by the observatory, which analyzes crime statistics in the country, showed 2,568 violent deaths in the first half of 2016, down 3.4 percent from the year-ago period.

If the pace persists, Honduras would end 2016 with a homicide rate of 59.1 per 100,000 inhabitants, Migdonia Ayestas, director of the observatory, said in an interview.

In 2012, Honduras was the world's most murderous nation, with a rate of 90.4 per 100,000. Neighboring El Salvador is now more violent, with more than 100 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants last year, statistics show.

Since taking office in early 2014, President Juan Hernandez has deployed a new military police force to combat organized crime, and has increased the defense budget.

However, after the capture of local cartel bosses, their second-in-commands have taken over, and the gangs are devising new ways of evading security forces, Ayestas said.

"The strategy of using the military against organized crime has exhausted itself," she said.

Lenin Gonzalez, a spokesman for the armed forces, declined to comment.

(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Editing by Richard Chang)

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