Honduras' newly sworn in president has deployed military police and a new police unit into the streets of capital Tegucigalpa, in a move that could be a sign of his promised hardline approach to security.
During the January 27 inauguration ceremony, President Juan Orlando Hernandez put the plan -- named "Operation Morazan" -- into effect and declared his intent to use "mano dura" (iron first) policies to combat violence and insecurity in the country, reported La Prensa. The operation will see the Military Police of Public Order (PMOP) and the "Tigers" -- a specialized police unit created to combat organized crime that went operational on January 26 -- deployed on the streets of Tegucigalpa and the adjoining city of Comayaguela to fight crime.
Hernandez said that "any policy established in Honduras to combat insecurity must have the fundamental goal of fighting against drugs, drug trafficking, organized crime, money laundering, and, thus, zero tolerance."
His strategy will include increasing both the military and police presence on the streets and on public transport, he said.
Minister of Security Arturo Corrales also pledged to reduce the homicide rate to seven murders per day -- from the 17 or more witnessed currently -- while Hernandez promised to decrease violence and extortion in the crime-wracked country in coming months.
InSight Crime Analysis
Hernandez's immediate deployment of soldiers as police onto the streets serves as a potential preview of the security policies his administration will employ while in office. Hernandez has been an active proponent of militarized security and was influential in the creation of the PMOP.
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The new president's security views have raised concerns among those who believe these kinds of iron-fist policies run contrary to civil liberties and human rights. Evidence also suggests that, rather than quashing crime, "mano dura" policies in Latin America can serve to increase violence and strengthen gangs.
Honduras, as the world's most dangerous nation outside a war zone, has a particularly challenging security situation. It has a high concentration of the Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) street gangs, who are deeply involved in criminality and exert social control. It has also seen a sharp increase in drug flights since 2009, accompanied by an influx of transnational criminal groups.
The country is also faced with severely weak institutions and a police force rife with corruption and organized crime links.
The previous administration began militarizing security partly as a way of mitigating the current police crisis, exacerbated by a stuttering reform effort. However, in addition to human rights concerns, this strategy has had little effect thus far and fails to address the institutional weaknesses underlying Honduras' security crisis.