Honduras announced plans to create a new rural police force, part of a renewed effort by Congress to speed up police reform.
On Sunday, Honduran Congress President Juan Orlando Hernandez announced plans to create a new rural police unit. Hernadez said that the new branch is not intended to replace the National Police, but to aid in the fight against organized crime, according to Proceso.
Hernandez’s announcement followed a visit by representatives from the Chilean National Police, meant to advise Honduras on how to restructure the police force, reports the AFP. The Secretary of Security for the Organization of American States (OAS) also visited Honduras over the weekend in order to discuss police reform.
Honduras' Congress is currently debating a bill which would create an independent monitoring body, the Commission of Public Security Reform, charged with overseeing a purge in the police force. Debate on the bill is set to begin Tuesday. If established, the commission’s most sensitive points of debate will likely concern how to clean up and reorganize Honduras’ police. This could involve reshuffling the force, and perhaps creating a new specialized unit charge with rural security, as Hernandez suggested. In the most extreme case, police reform would entail rebuilding the force from the bottom-up.
Hernandez’s remarks appeared to hint at how sensitive the issue could become, when he made a point of emphasizing that the Honduran National Police “will continue to exist” despite the mass reshuffling planned for the force.
The spokesman for the National Police said that the emphasis should not only be on purging the police force of corrupt officials, but on the executive and legislative branches as well.
President Porfirio Lopez announced plans to push through with widespread police reform last September, after the country registered over 4,000 murders.
The issue of police reform became more hotly debated after police in Tegucigalpa were accused of killing two university students last October. These extrajudicial killings followed a series of other scandals, in which the Honduras police were accused of trafficking weapons and drugs.
According to one poll by the Central American University, over two-thirds of Hondurans believe the police are corrupt, and 77 percent percent blame President Porfirio Lobo for the current crisis.
Honduras finished 2011 with 6,273 homicides, or 86 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest murder rate in the world.