Honduras will deploy 1,000 militarized police in its most violent cities to combat street gangs and drug trafficking groups Reuters reports.
As Reuters points out:
"This first deployment of a new military-style police force marks the latest tactic to curb an epidemic of drug violence that last year turned Honduras into the world's most murderous country with more than 85 homicides for every 100,000 people."
On paper, this sounds like a bold move to combat crime, especially if you consider that Honduras [pop.8 million] has a regular police force of just 15,000 officers.
It's a big investment too, as these new military cops will be paid twice as much as regular officers, in an effort to ensure that they do not become corrupt. But is throwing 1,000 militarized cops in the streets of violent cities really the most effective solution to the problem?
The online magazine Upside Down World, which covers activism and politics and in Latin America, points out that giving police bigger guns and taking a military approach to law enforcement can create a number of human rights issues.
Also, as we have seen in Mexico and Colombia greater numbers of law enforcement officers on the ground [whether they are military or police] don't always lead to crime reduction.
If police authorities do their work right, large numbers of well trained and non corrupt police can help ensure that some criminals are arrested. But prosecutors also need to do their jobs, and judicial systems need to be unclogged, so that criminals are actually tried for their offences.
In places like Honduras and Mexico, nine out of ten murder cases are never solved. Such high rates of impunity allow criminals to repeat their behavior, because the chances of being held accountable for their actions are so small.
If you consider that Honduras will have presidential elections in November, and that Juan Hernandez, the candidate for the governing party, is in a close race with opposition candidate Xiomara Castro, [who is the wife of deposed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya] this decision to send militarized cops into the streets does smell a bit like political theater.
After all, it is quite convenient right now for the government to show a firm hand against crime, which according to polls, is one of the main concerns of Honduran voters.
Watch for the government to play up the deployment of these special cops, and press ahead with its plans to increase the number of militarized police from 1,000 officers, to 5,000. How long this program will last, is another matter. It might depend on who wins the election, as Xiomara Castro's party has said that they do not agree with a militarized approach to crime reduction.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.