Honduras Deploys Soldiers on Public Buses

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Honduras will now station soldiers on public buses, a move that could prevent robberies and extortion in a transit system plagued by violence.

Since September 27, the Honduran government has tasked soldiers with patrolling the bus systems of the capital city of Tegucigalpa and the troubled industrial hub of San Pedro Sula. Two soldiers will be stationed on public buses, which work particularly dangerous routes in both cities, in an attempt to deter gangs from demanding extortion payments from bus drivers.

The Ministry of Security said the bus companies requested the army’s presence, and that the soldiers would be limited to 20 bus routes in Tegucigalpa and 12 in San Pedro Sula

Lobo began using the country’s military to boost security in 2011, when he stationed joint police and soldier patrols in high crime areas as part of “Operation Lightning.” This is the second time that soldiers have been placed on Honduran buses, according to the Associated Press.

InSight Crime Analysis

The Honduras government’s decision to station troops on its buses could bring security to a dangerous industry. As InSight Crime has reported, street gangs frequently extort bus companies in Central America because of the large amount of cash drivers generally have on hand. 

In Guatemala, for instance, bus extortion is a major problem. From 2005 to 2011 1,368 people were murdered on public transport in the country, 780 of whom were drivers.

In response, Guatemala installed a digital payment system on some of its bus lines, a move that some sources say has dramatically reduced murder and violent crime on those buses since the cashless system began in 2007. Parts of Honduras and El Salvador have installed similar systems.

In other countries considering a cashless system, like Colombia, bus drivers do not believe the lack of cash will stop extortion demands so much as cause them to shift their targets from the buses themselves to the company’s offices.

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