Honduras' Congress is set to approve a bill to establish a new elite military police unit to fight organized crime, known as the "Tigers," according to a legislator.
Representative Augusto Cruz Asencio said Congress would approve the legislation in a matter of days, and that there was consensus among lawmakers that the new unit was necessary to improve security, reported La Tribuna.
Armed forces chief Rene Osorio Canales said that the process to select the members of the elite unit had already begun, as Honduras Culture and Politics reported. The force will be made up of 200 officers drawn from the armed forces and police, and all its members will undergo confidence tests before joining.
In July, the government announced the plan to set up a new military police unit, made up of the best officers from the armed forces and military, to be established with a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank.
The Troop of Intelligence and Special Security Response Teams (Tigers, for its initials in Spanish), is meant to combat organized crime, and bring security to the most dangerous parts of the country.
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The planned police unit comes as part of a move towards greater militarization in Honduras' security policy. In November, the government issued an emergency decree that allowed the military to take on policing powers, including carrying out searches of property and making arrests. This was extended for a third 90-day period in June.
The authorities have justified bringing the army into a policing role on the grounds that the military was needed to face the extremely high rates of violence and crime, with police failing to measure up to the task.
In March, one congressman told press that the US had offered to help transform several army units into a specialized military police force. Representative Jose Azcona argued that this would allow the military to pull back from a domestic security role. However, it seems more likely that the new unit, drawn in part from the armed forces, would herald a greater militarization.
Honduras Culture and Politics interpreted the planned force as a continuing of the "troubling trend" of blurring military and police roles, commenting that the new elite force fitted in with President Porfirio Lobo's goal of merging the Security and Defense Ministries.