A unanimous congressional vote in Honduras moved the country closer to establishing a special military police force, highlighting the inclination for hard line anti-crime measures in the world’s most violent country, but giving few reasons to believe that this time it will actually work.
The legislation to create the Military Police of Public Order (PMOP) is likely to be ratified this week, with a thousand officers set to enter service within two months, reported El Heraldo.
In an indication of the security debates to come during this presidential campaign season, Congressman -- and presidential candidate -- Juan Orlando Hernandez was the architect of the measure.
“We need to make use of the military, and they should be in the streets until the day we establish peace,” he told congress, according to the Associated Press.
The new unit would eventually have 5,000 "special forces," who will be trained in "human rights" and "police patrols," Hernandez said. They would work essentially as a shock unit in areas where organized crime and street gangs have overrun or co-opted local forces.
InSight Crime Analysis
The unanimous vote confirms the preference among Honduran lawmakers for the so called “Mano Dura” (Iron Fist) security policies pursued by civilian governments throughout the Northern Triangle -- Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador -- since the early 2000s.
Honduras recorded a homicide rate of 85.5 per 100,000 in 2012, but endemic corruption among police has hampered efforts to tackle the bloodshed. Measures to clean up the police have stalled, despite hundreds of officers being fired or seeking voluntary redundancy before facing confidence tests.
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The government has used the military as a stop-gap, and this new policy measure is essentially an extension of the deployment of soldiers in Honduras’ most violent cities, which authorities have lauded as a success.
However, there is no reason to believe that this time these measures will work over the long term. As is clear, the military is never a permanent replacement for civilian-led police. They are trained differently and have limited judicial powers. What's more, the military police force will face the same temptations that its miltiary and police counterparts already struggle with throughout the country.