The homicide rate in Honduras has dropped dramatically in recent years, and authorities credit the efforts of the National Inter-Agency Security Force (FUSINA), a special unit comprised of Military Troops, National Police agents, members of the Attorney General's office, and other law enforcement agencies.
The country's homicide rate peaked in 2012, when Honduras recorded 86 killings per 100,000 residents. Since then, the rate of deadly violence has decreased steadily and significantly, to 75 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2013, then to 66 in 2014, and 56 in 2015.
The dramatic reduction in violence and improvement in public safety is attributable to the efforts of the elite security force, which officials launched in January 2014. “(FUSINA) has the capacity to confront organized crime groups as well as common delinquency,” explained Military Justice Lieutenant Colonel Santos Nolasco, a FUSINA spokesman, who went on to say that the organization was successful because of its “coordinated work.”
The security force is making the country safer in a variety of ways, including seizing large numbers of illegal firearms, drugs, and cash that criminal organizations use to finance their illicit enterprises. Since its creation, FUSINA has seized 5,769 firearms, 612 kilos of cocaine, and more than 297 million lempiras (approximately $13.15 million) from criminal suspects, in addition to recovering more than 500 stolen vehicles and motorcycles. Overall, the interagency unit has arrested more than 6,000 suspects.
Confronting violent street gangs, such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 (M-18), is one of the FUSINA's most important missions. The security force maintains a strong and constant presence in 115 communities with high levels of delinquency provoked by gangs. It carries out motorized and foot patrols to identify and capture members of such groups. Additionally, it has launched an education program in schools around the country with the purpose of training children and teens to resist getting involved with gangs.
And in an effort to combat drug trafficking, FUSINA helped destroy 56 clandestine landing strips used for narcoflights. FUSINA forces also dismantled almost a dozen “blind spots” -- illegal crossing points used by smugglers to move animals, money, drugs, and people -- along the border between Honduras and Guatemala.
While all of the security force's accomplishments are important, FUSINA's most crucial achievement, according to Lt. Col. Nolasco, is the dramatic reduction in deadly violence. The security force did not accomplish this on its own. Assistance from the civilian population, which provides security forces with information, is crucial to FUSINA's success, the Lieutenant Colonel explained.
Civilian population's role
“The cooperation of the population is also behind this achievement,” Lt. Col. Nolasco stated. “This will be part of our focus in 2016. We want society to get involved in these efforts one hundred percent.” FUSINA encourages residents to report crimes they have been victims of or have witnessed. “This,” Lt. Col. Nolasco said, “reduces impunity, which is one of our goals.”
While the security force has made much progress in improving public safety, it remains vigilant. “We understand we still face challenges. Honduras is still going through a difficult situation. Society should understand this. The state must continue to do its part as well. And this is how we are moving forward, fully aware of the difficulties, but with a renewed commitment, more so after seeing the positive results.
FUSINA’s leadership has set apart time to review and evaluate operations going forward. “Logically, we will continue to implement the strategies that brought about good outcomes. Those that gave us partial results will necessarily have to be modified,” explained Lt. Col. Nolasco. “This combat is dynamic, not static. As delinquency modifies itself, so will we.”
“Our work will be better integrated with more human resources, with more experience, with more technology,” Lt. Col Nolasco stated. “Therefore the results this year will have to be better as well. Again, we want to continue to carry out this work with the support of the population, and be stronger in 2016. And we will do it like we have done it so far, together.”