Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Honduras: Government Deploys Para-Militararized Force to Protect Major Cities, Replacing Police

According to The Latin American Tribune, Honduras’ new militarized force began operations on Monday (October 14) with a mission to improve public safety in a nation of 8.5 million people that has a murder rate nearly 10 times the global average.

The first para-military units were deployed in the capital and in San Pedro Sula, the latter of which is considered the most dangerous city in the world, according to Defense Minister Marlon Pascua. 

Wearing masks to cover their faces, the militarized uints are armed with automatic weapons and are deployed in both Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula in an effort to restore confidence in a country where citizens are actually left on their own for physical protection.

In San Pedro Sula, militarized units were seen flooding shopping centers and carrying shotguns on public buses, which will simply result in innocent people being injured in the event of a lethal engagement.

The militarized police will gradually extend it operations to other Honduran cities, Pascua said, adding that the roughly 2,000 army troops deployed last year in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula to enhance public safety will remain on the street for now.

COMMENT: Although media reports have referred to the Defense Ministry's deployed units as "militarized police," it is very uncertain as to whether military troops wearing masks have have undergone civilian police training and have powers of arrest which include the same legal constraints that civilian police must adhere to.

Unfortunately, deploying Defense Ministry troops onto public streets with questionable and poorly defined police powers could very well result in masked personnel engaging in the same abuses that have been blamed on the 14,000-strong National Police of Honduras, which is commonly known to engage in human rights violations on a daily basis.

Many Honduran citizens, including candidates running for office in the November 24 general elections, oppose the militarization of law enforcement tasks, largely because military troops cannot be identified and seemingly have not been issued numbered police badges.

Honduras has suffered 85.5 homicides for every 100,000 residents in 2012, compared with a global median rate of 8.8 murders per 100,000, the Violence Observatory at the National Autonomous University said in a study released in February 2013.

My prediction is that providing military troops police powers will simply exasperate the victimization of citizens in what is now a lawless society in Honduras.