Honduras’ president has replaced the head of the country’s police force, amid speculation that his decision was motivated by the former director’s opposition to militarizing security and his failure to purge the police force.
The Honduran Security Ministry announced the removal of former police director Ramon Sabillon on November 20, reported El Heraldo. President Juan Orlando Hernandez said Sabillon was replaced as part of a general reorganization of the security forces, but according to El Heraldo there are reports he was fired for opposing the government’s reliance on the military to fight crime, and delaying police reform.
According to Security Minister Arturo Corrales, Hernandez met with the police leadership — including the new police director Felix Villanueva — on November 25 and ordered them to “accelerate the purging” of the police force, reported AFP.
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If Hernandez did replace the former police director because of his failure to purge the police force, his removal could be a positive sign that Honduras is taking police reform seriously.
The country’s police have been accused of widespread corruption and human rights abuses. According to AFP, the Attorney General’s Office revealed in 2011 that entire police units were involved in organized crime. That same year, the vice president of the Honduran Congress said that up to 40 percent of police officers were involved in criminal activity.
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In early 2012, the Honduran government ordered the unit that investigates and evaluates police officers (DIECP) to purge the police force, but the process has produced few results. According to AFP, efforts to reform the police have been criticized for not resulting in the removal of high-ranking police suspected of corruption and embezzlement.
Meanwhile, President Hernandez has controversially pushed for the militarization of public security by expanding the role of the Military Police of Public Order (PMOP), to which he plans to add 1,000 new officers. Hernandez has also asked Congress to enshrine the military police in the constitution.