Honduras Forming Elite Police Force to Battle Organized Crime

By Dialogo
February 20, 2012



The Honduran government plans to form an elite police force to fight against organized crime and to investigate serious offenses ranging from narco-trafficking to corruption and murder.
Juan Orlando Hernández, president of the country’s Congress, unveiled the new agency on Jan. 20. He said recruits will be required to undergo stringent training in investigation methods, and members of the new force will be expected to observe military discipline and respect human rights.
“The National Police will continue to exist, only there will be an independent branch with new agents that will fight certain types of crimes with an emphasis on criminal investigation,” Hernández told Congress. He added that while the new agency is being developed, members of the National Police will undergo screening — again with the assistance and advice of “foreign sectors who are willing to support us.”
Hernández noted that the Chilean model has been highly praised internationally and has been “successful in several countries.”
Honduran authorities have turned to Chile, whose national police have incorporated international human rights law into police doctrine and training under an agreement signed in January with the International Committee of the Red Cross. The accord “demonstrates the Chilean police’s commitment to human rights,” said Felipe Donoso, head of the ICRC’s regional delegation.
Intense crime wave alarms Honduran officials
The move by Honduran authorities to set up an elite investigative force comes as the country is being battered by an alarming increase in narco-trafficking and gang activity, and a corresponding jump in homicides. Drug traffickers from neighboring states have flooded in, fueling violence and corruption. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that 25 tons of cocaine is shipped through Honduras each month heading north for the lucrative drug markets of North America.
Chile isn’t the only country that has committed to help Honduras combat growing crime. Spain and Colombia also are advising the country, Honduran President Porfirio Lobo said in an interview with Radio HRN. The United States is sending technical security analyst to study the crime challenges and to advise on strategy.
Honduran officials said that Hugo Acero Velásquez, a Colombian security analyst, already is in Tegucigalpa advising the government on anti-crime strategies.
The Honduran president met in Miami on Jan. 18 with United States officials who agreed to send two technical security analysts, said Honduran Security Minister Pompeyo Bonilla.
“We will assess how to coordinate actions among several countries, such as Colombia and Chile, in order to resolve this problem of security,” Bonilla said at a news conference. He added: “We need to acknowledge that we have a large problem, but that there’s a will to find a solution to it.” The security minister acknowledged that the crime challenge has been exacerbated by corruption eating into state institutions.
UNODC: San Pedro Sula most dangerous city in Latin America
Honduras isn’t alone among so-called Northern Triangle countries of Central America in being affected by drug and gang-related violence. Guatemala and El Salvador have suffered crime waves, much of it following the migration of some drug operations into their countries by Mexican cartels.
The Honduran murder rate is now 82.1 per 100,000 residents, the world’s highest, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Nearly 7,000 homicides were recorded in 2011 — a 250 percent increase in six years.
San Pedro Sula, the country’s second-largest city, is more dangerous than Ciudad Juárez, said a report issued by Mexico’s nonprofit Citizen Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice. The 1,143 homicides that San Pedro Sula suffered last year was a rate of 158 murders per 100,000 residents, the group said.
The proposed new police force follows a series of other recent anti-crime measures introduced by the Honduran government, including allowing extradition of indicted traffickers and the setting up of a witness protection program for those reporting drug and corruption-related crime.
Lobo deployed hundreds of troops in the main cities, including San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa to combat criminal violence, and to patrol jointly with police in areas dominated by gangs last summer. Lobo said the aim was to “guarantee the presence of the authorities in the most conflict-ridden areas.”
He vowed to “do everything possible within the law to reduce the impunity that makes us all indignant.” The military deployment followed the firing of four top police commanders, after four policemen accused of murder were released. The Honduran Congress passed legislation to deploy the army for a longer term.
“This legislation will allow the armed forces to take on policing roles to confront organized crime and drug traffickers operating across the country,” said congressman Oswaldo Ramos, a member of Honduras’ ruling conservative party. Honduran officials claimed that the earlier temporary deployment of the military to support the police brought a 36 percent drop in homicides.
The pestilence of corruption in Colombia always affects the innocent and most serious people... Sincerely, silvio figueroa lopez, social-comunist christian, cartagena, colombia.
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