The Honduran Congress has approved a plan to add 1,000 more troops to the armed forces to combat organized crime, raising the question of whether merely adding more soldiers can improve security in a country where badly-needed police reform appears to have stalled.
The executive branch’s decree, which Congress approved on June 11, argued that the armed forces do not currently have enough personnel, reported El Heraldo. A congressional committee approved an additional 89 million lempiras (nearly $4.4 million) to pay for the new recruits.
Prior to its approval, the decree was subject to a fierce debate among legislators. Sergio Castellanos, a representative from the Democratic Unification party, argued that Honduras needed 1,000 more police more than the Army needed troops.
Castellanos is not the only legislator concerned about Honduras’ police. On June 10, Minister of Security Arturo Corrales appeared before Congress to answer questions on the status of the country’s police reform, which began over a year ago, as El Nuevo Heraldo reported. However Corrales, who took office six weeks ago, failed to provide any numbers on how police confidence testing is proceeding, claiming that the law prevented him from divulging the test results.
The minister did report that a police census had found that the total number of police had dropped from from 12,100 in February to 11,281 in May.
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Castellanos’s comments echo concerns that Honduras is increasingly militarizing its fight to control organized crime violence at the expense of its civil police force. Plans to create an elite military police force unit separate from the regular force police, announced earlier this month, combined with military deployments on the streets of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, indicate an overlapping of roles which could have significant human rights and security implications.
However, it is unclear if adding more police would help improve the situation while the reform process continues to flounder. One example of the disorganized state of Honduras’ police reform is the conflicting statistics offered by officials who are ostensibly working in unison, as the figures provided to Congress by Corrales differ significantly from police numbers presented in April by controversial police chief Juan Carlos Bonilla.
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