Honduran Congress Increases Penalties for the Crime of Extortion

By Dialogo
March 05, 2012

The Honduran Congress has increased the penalties for the crimes of extortion and blackmail, by way of a reform of the Criminal Code with which it aims to halt the so-called “war tax” collected by gangs, legislative sources announced on February 29.

In a single debate the previous night, despite the fact that laws are normally passed in three debates, the 128 legislators from five parties established a penalty of 15 to 20 years in prison for the crime of extortion, previously punished by between six and nine years, following the reform of Article 222 of the Criminal Code.

The members of Congress agreed to waive the two other debates required by law.

For the crime of blackmail, the penalty will be between six and 12 years, instead of the three to nine years at which it was set until now.

The Congress legislated that for both extortion and blackmail, in addition to a prison term, there will be fines of up to 50 minimum salaries, around 15,000 dollars.

According to legislator Tony Zambrano, more than 6,000 businesses have gone bankrupt in Honduras in recent years because of collection of the “war tax,” and more than 200 people have been murdered for refusing to pay it.

According to complaints publicized in the local press, the “war tax” is collected by gang members, including police officers, from small retailers and haulers, and since last week it has been reported that they are also collecting it in schools.