Criminals in Honduras have reportedly begun kidnapping entire buses full of passengers in order to rob them, reminiscent of attacks carried out by Colombian rebels and Mexican cartels and an illustration of the lawlessness in much of the country.
Buses traveling in the metropolitan area of capital city Tegucigalpa have been forcibly diverted from their routes and passengers robbed at gunpoint, victims told newspaper La Tribuna.
In one instance, two men who had earlier boarded the bus as passengers stood up and announced the assault, pointing guns at the passengers and telling them if they tried anything or got in the way they would get killed. The driver was pistol-whipped and forced to drive to a location where the robbers forced passengers to hand over wallets, jewelry and cellphones, with one youngster nearly shot when he protested having to hand over his tennis shoes along with his salary.
A victim of a similar attack told La Tribuna that their bus had passed through a police checkpoint while the assault was underway, but the officers had not noticed anything was happening inside the vehicle.
InSight Crime Analysis
Gangs of robbers who are able to take buses full of passengers hostage have no fear whatsoever of law enforcement, or no need to fear. In Mexico, there have been past reports of criminal organization the Zetas allegedly assaulting a series of buses and killing those on board. According to one survivor's testimony, the Zetas have also forced passengers to fight to the death, and "recruited" the winners to work for the cartels. During the peak years of the Colombian armed conflict, members of guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) would set up roadblocks on isolated highways and rob those passing by, kidnapping those who appeared able to pay a hefty ransom.
Criminals in Honduras enjoy widespread impunity, while the police force is one of the most corrupt and distrusted in Latin America. That robbers are able to pass through police checkpoints while holding bus passengers at gunpoint is a good illustration of just how weak the state in Honduras really is, and how easy it is for criminals to act without fear of consequences.