The Republic of Honduras is a Central American nation that borders Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Prior to being conquered by Spain in the 16th century, Honduras was the home of numerous important Mesoamerican cultures including the Mayans. The country received independence in 1821 and has officially operated as a republic since. However, the nation has suffered from political instability including four military coups, most recently in 2009. The formation of large and powerful gangs in Honduras, spawned by the operations of transnational crime syndicates that utilize the country as a transit point, has devastated Honduran society. It now has the highest murder rate per capita in the world. Meanwhile, the extreme poverty of the country prevents the government from effectively curbing the dangerous activity of the gangs. Meanwhile, the unstable conditions in Honduras has caused the immigration of over 500,000 nationals.