Wednesday, September 17, 2014

No Political Will to Clean up Honduran Police Force: Paving the Way for Further Militarization of Honduran Society

Military Police in Flor del Campo, October 2013

The role of the Honduran police is shifting (once again) and it has a lot to do with the expanding presence and role of the Juan Orlando Hernandez’s hybrid military and police units, the Military Police for Public Order and the Intelligence Policing Troops or TIGRES on Honduran streets.

Honduras is on a path of increasing militarization and we should expect more TIGRES, more Military Police, and more militarization proposed as the solution to the failed police reform and insecurity.

Both elite units are supported and trained by the United States government, funded by the “Security Tax”, and in the case of the TIGRES, funded by the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB).

Some recent developments that have caught my eye:

One. The recent decision by the Honduran government to send the TIGRES into take over a major police post “La Granja” in Comayaguela. La Granja is the command post for various neighborhoods and police posts in Comayaguela.

The reason it was taken over: Police corruption. The Honduran media is citing two specific cases to justify the take-over, both cases involving active police officers kidnapping and stealing from or bribing civilians. Definitely not new corruption issues.

Two. The closure of the police post in Flor del Campo, one of the highest populated neighborhoods in Comayaguela. The Military Police have maintained a permanent post in the center of the neighborhood since October 2013. This has not necessarily eliminated the control of the Mara 18 either. Taxi and bus drivers are still paying (and being killed over) the “impuesto de guerra” (war tax), business owners are still being murdered, and on August 14, a curfew was imposed allegedly by the Mara 18 and residents of Flor del Campo were told not to leave their houses after 7 pm or they would be killed.

The possible reason for closing the police post?: Flor del Campo doesn’t need a civilian police force when the Military Police have maintained a permanent presence in the center of the community since October 2013.

Three. One of the biggest proponents of police reform in Honduras, the head of the National Autonomous University, Julieta Castellanos is back in the media discussing La Granja post and police corruption. Castellanos is saying that the police reform “has been a failure.” She tells the University Press, “There is a change in the security model of this country, where the police are being displaced by new military structures that have been created, this change of model has to do with the corruption, the failure of the police and the failed reform process that began in the year 1993.”

Why this all matters? Police corruption is not new, neither is the idea that the police reform has failed. It was doomed from the beginning because of the lack of political will to adequately investigate and prosecute police involved in criminal activities.

Its failure will now be used to further militarize Honduran streets.