Low ranking police officers in Honduras went on strike Monday over pay and work conditions, raising the question of how to successfully reform one of the most corrupt forces in Latin America amid the highest homicide rate in the world.
In a statement, the officers said they would be striking across the country because authorities had not made good on promises agreed the previous week, reported EFE.
“Dignified salaries, relaxation hours, respect for our human dignity and above all, the reinstatement of our colleagues who have been fired in an unfair way without respect for due process,” were the demands listed by the policemen.
Almost 2,000 police walked out on April 24, reported the BBC, complaining they only earned around $150 a month and had to pay for their own uniforms and bullets. The government promised to improve work conditions and cancel plans to reduce the number of free weekends per month from two to one, said EFE.
InSight Crime Analysis
In a country where police corruption is so endemic that officers have been known to directly participate and even control criminal operations, police pay is a significant issue. While starting salaries for Honduran police officers remain so low, it is unsurprising that turning to the country’s booming drug trafficking trade to supplement income can become a temptation.
However studies of police corruption in Mexico have indicated police pay does not necessarily have a direct relationship with corruption levels, with factors such as the likelihood of being caught and the severity of penalties often playing an equally important role.
Honduras has been attempting to purge the force of corrupt officers since November 2011 but the process has been painfully slow, leading to the recent resignation of the two officers in charge of the operation. So far, of the force’s 14,000 officers, 3,200 have been vetted, of which 230 have failed one or more of the tests. Allegations of wrongdoing go to the highest levels of the force, with police chief Juan Carlos Bonilla accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings, and himself refusing to submit to lie detector tests.