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Fiscal Crisis Forces Honduras to Turn Off Security Cameras

Graffiti protesting the lack of pay for state workers in Honduras Graffiti protesting the lack of pay for state workers in Honduras

Facing an internal debt of approximately $3 billion, Honduras' government is struggling to maintain basic security services, with power cut on street surveillance cameras and hints that the "911" emergency services phone line could be next.

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As newspaper El Heraldo reported, Security Minister Pompeyo Bonilla told a Tegucigalpa-based radio station that the government must pay 102 million lempiras (over $5 million) to a company that runs the surveillance camera system in the capital. The company suspended the service in early January after the government was unable to pay the debt, Bonilla said. There are thought to be some 800 cameras in crime hotspots across Tegucigalpa.

Bonilla added that the radio communication system that allows police to receive emergency calls could be next to go, due to a lack of funds.

Spanish international news agency EFE has called the situation "a fiscal crisis without precedent" in Honduras. Public sector employees -- from teachers to doctors to transport and housing workers -- are awaiting months of back pay. 

As the Associated Press (AP) points out, inaction by Congress bears some responsibility for the crisis, as lawmakers have only passed a partial budget and have not yet discussed any measures that would immediately address the deficit. It's also possible that public funds have been funneled into re-election campaigns ahead of November's elections, the news agency reported.

InSight Crime Analysis

Honduras' massive internal and foreign debt have already led to a dramatic deterioration in state services across the board. The gap in security services will only accelerate the country's decline, potentially driving up crime and violence rates, and could help organized criminal groups to cement their hold on the country.

Of particular concern is how long a bankrupt Honduras will be able to continue paying the salaries of its police and military forces. According to the AP, many soldiers have not been paid since September. Families of slain police officers have complained of not receiving life insurance payments since last year. The lack of payment could drive more members of the security forces to outsource their services to organized crime, or, in a worst case scenario, to openly rebel against the government.

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