Honduras’ Congress has taken up the debate over the possible establishment of a military police unit as an answer to spiralling violence, a discussion that will likely touch upon the dangers of blending police and military roles.
On May 8, Congress debated a proposed law would create a specialized police force, known as the “Tigers” (based on the Spanish acronym for Special Response Team and Intelligence Troop Law). Congress approved the law in a first round of debates, with two more expected to follow.
The unit would receive military training and would focus on providing citizen security and battling organized crime, as La Tribuna reports. The force would be stationed at military bases and would fall under the command of the Security Ministry.
According to the proposed law, recruits would have to be between 18 and 22 years of age and would be subjected to a range of competence tests, including polygraphs, before being hired.
Lawmaker Mario Perez, the head of a congressional commission that handles security and defense issues, said that the Tigers would help the country resolve its security problems, and emphasized that its functions would be specialized and separate from those of the national police.
The proposal was first discussed in July 2012, but was rejected.
InSight Crime Analysis
Security is a primary concern in Honduras, which has the world’s highest murder rate and experienced a record number of murders in 2012. Reform of the country’s highly corrupt police is a major priority in this regard, but despite the removal of over 650 officers, efforts have continued at a slow pace.
It seems likely the new unit will further blur the line between the police and military in Honduras, which has already been distorted by military deployments earlier this year to the streets of of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, echoing a similar operation in November 2011.
As pointed out by critics of a similar trend towards the militarization of law enforcement in Mexico, this overlapping of roles can raise human rights as well as security concerns for the civilian population.