Honduran Armed Forces, National Police Disband 90 Criminal Gangs
By Dialogo October 01, 2015And will the employees whose assets were seized also be punished by kicking them out to the street?
The Honduran Armed Forces and National Police jointly dismantled 90 criminal gangs between January 1 and August 18 - including the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 (M-18) - as part of an ongoing initiative to improve public safety.
“These groups threaten the population in 12 departments [of the country’s 18]," said Deputy Police Commissioner Leonel Sauceda, spokesman for the Ministry of Security. “However, these daily operations have allowed us to arrest all members of these 90 gangs.”
Additionally, the joint operations resulted in the capture of 472 alleged criminals, from whom authorities seized 152 firearms, 77 cellphones, 36 vehicles, 29 military and police uniforms, 26 fragmentation grenades, and 700,000 lempiras in cash (about $31,000). In total, they detained 51 alleged gang leaders allegedly involved in a wide array of criminal activities, including extortion (which criminal groups call a “war tax”), murder, murder-for-hire, illegal possession of weapons, robbery, and drug distribution.
Reduced violence through international cooperation
By removing so many violent gang members off the street, the joint operations have helped reduce the number of homicides in Honduras, according to Infantry Colonel José Antonio Sánchez, an Armed Forces spokesman.
Between January 1 and September 10 of this year, there were 3,450 killings nationwide, according to figures from the Online Police Statistics System
- a rate that would likely total 4,600 homicides by the end of the year. That's a dramatic drop from 2014, when authorities counted a total of 5,891 murders.
Figures from the Online Police Statistics System
show that Honduras recorded 5,891 murders in 2014. If killings continue at this rate, there would be about 4,600 homicides by the end of 2015, a dramatic reduction from the 2014 total.
“The success of this security strategy can be seen in the notable decrease in crime rates,” said Wilfredo Méndez, a security analyst and coordinator of the Honduran Commission for the Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights (CIPRODEH). In pursuit of that strategy, he added, international cooperation with the U.S. and other partner nations has proven beneficial to everyone involved.
“The cooperation agreements the government of Honduras has signed ... with our neighbors Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, have allowed our border patrols to prevent the Barrio 18 and Salvatrucha gangs, and drug traffickers, from continuing to enter our countries and operate with impunity,” Col. Sánchez explained.
Additional support from the U.S.
Support from the U.S. has also proven a vital component in Honduras’ battle against transnational crime.
“The United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) is a key ally not only for Honduras, but for the entire Central American region. In 2014, Operation MARTILLO prevented 158 tons of cocaine from being smuggled into the country.”
In collaboration with forces from Canada, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain, the United States, and the United Kingdom, Operation MARTILLO is a maritime action aimed at combating transnational criminal organizations, limiting their ability to use Central America as a transshipment point. Between January 2012, when the operation was launched, and March 2015, that initiative has resulted in the arrests of 400 suspects and the seizure of 600 tons of cocaine, which had a market value of about $8 billion.
Additionally, in January 2014, SOUTHCOM supported Honduras's implementation of Plan Morazán, a joint security effort to protect Hondurans, reduce crime rates and improve citizen security by improving democratic governance, security, and economic development. The plan included the integration of the National Intelligence Investigation Bureau, the Armed Forces, the National Police, and other justice and government agencies to provide an interdiction and response capability able to execute counter drug operations, and actions against other illicit criminal organizations and activities, resulting in reduced crime rates and improved citizen security in Honduras.
“Organized crime is a transnational evil, and we must deal with it in transnational efforts. Only by uniting our efforts across the region, and with support from friendly nations, will we be able to defeat these criminals. There’s a saying that ‘the good outnumber the bad,’ and united we will show them that this is true, and we want to live in peace and free from drugs.”