Shielding the Honduran Border Results in the Arrest of Central American Gang Members
By Kay Valle/Diálogo October 20, 2016Shielding the maritime, air, and land borders through coordinated work between the Honduran Inter-Institutional Security Force (FUSINA, per its Spanish acronym), and the Guatemalan, Salvadoran, and Nicaraguan security agencies, has paid off, allowing authorities to monitor the movements of groups and individuals dedicated to illicit activities. These groups began their deployments as a result of extraordinary public safety measures implemented in El Salvador, where an elite force was designated to combat gangs, and in Guatemala, where operation "Rescate Sur" (Southern Rescue) was conducted. The two programs were created to fight criminal groups in the region. "We have captured 40 people from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua who were fully proven to have participated in criminal acts in our country, the majority of whom have ties to gangs," Honduran Infantry Colonel Selman David Arriaga Orellana, FUSINA commander, told Diálogo. He added that arrests were made in every department that has a border with countries in the Central American area. For his part, Edgardo Mejía, Honduran security consultant and auditor, said that the border populations cannot be forgotten. "These areas represent an opportunity for those who are dedicated to illicit acts". Mejía highlighted the security forces’ actions against criminals, since they are facing gangs that "easily cross the 158 blind spots between the countries of the Northern Triangle recognized by El Salvador’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” However, Mejía stressed the importance of continuing with the operations in coastal areas, given that they are areas in which "drug trafficking, illegal fishing, the lack of respect for the sovereignty, trafficking in persons, and smuggling" are being cultivated. According to the Analytical Report on the Drug Problem published by the Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Relations on September 18, 2014, criminal migration can be explained by the measures applied by states to strengthen their institutions. "In recent years there has been a 'gangland fragmentation' or 'criminal atomization' phenomenon that came about partly as a result of successful law enforcement proceedings in some states against the leaders of the main transnational and local organized crime groups," the report highlighted. Cooperation improves effectiveness For Col. Arriaga, the importance of these security operations is that they allow the country to fight crime in all of its forms and to improve the levels of effectiveness. “Shielding the borders not only means stopping the movement of people linked to gangs, but also allows for the development of operations geared towards combating common and organized crime activity, drug trafficking, arms and human smuggling, tax fraud, and the illegal smuggling of coffee, wood, and endangered species.” He emphasized, however, that of all the activities FUSINA engages in, the most important ones are those that prevent young people from being recruited into gangs. Once they join a gang and get caught up in a group and a culture that demands that they act in a violent and criminal manner, they usually cannot leave. Joint cooperation between citizens and the authorities Cooperation among regional authorities allows them to exchange experiences, information, planning, and hold joint operations. "As an example of cooperation, we have the Maya-Chortí Joint Task Force, which was created by the governments of Honduras and Guatemala in March 2015. Its objective is to neutralize drug trafficking and to reduce common and organized crime operations and related activity," said Col. Arriaga. Nonetheless, citizens bear the main responsibility in capturing individuals linked to criminal activity. Citizens can rest assured that every report submitted in a timely manner will be handled in the shortest amount of time possible, using proper technology and human resources to ensure the success of the operation. "Citizens should understand that reporting a crime means avoiding illicit activity, a homicide, or putting their physical integrity or their family's physical integrity in danger. Embracing the culture of reporting crimes as a basic means of saving lives and keeping the peace should keep people from being scared. They can make a report from anywhere in the country by calling 911,” affirmed Col. Arriaga. “FUSINA will safely respond and confront the threat. Trusting FUSINA is essential, and the culture of reporting is fundamental for combating criminal groups," concluded.