Honduras orders massive offensive against gangs

Honduras orders massive offensive against gangs

Honduran authorities on Friday announced a series of measures aimed at reducing organized crime, including the construction of a new prison, mass trials and the designation of gang members as terrorists.

President Xiomara Castro said on a national network that security forces should be deployed to “execute interventions as a matter of urgency in all the municipalities of the country with the highest incidence of crime of hitmen, drug trafficking, extortion, kidnapping, arms trafficking, illicit association and money laundering”. The measures are similar to those taken by the Salvadoran president, Nayib Bukele, with the mass trials of alleged gang members and the construction of a “mega prison.”

In the neighboring country, the measures drew the ire of human rights groups that denounced abuses, but have reduced homicide rates, earning Bukele widespread popularity. Honduran government officials announced plans to immediately build a prison with capacity for about 20,000 people in an unpopulated area between the eastern departments of Olancha and Gracias a Dios. This would greatly expand the country’s current penitentiary capacity, which houses about 20,000 inmates in 25 prisons in overcrowded conditions.

Along these lines, they said that the country’s Congress must reform the penal code so that drug traffickers and members of criminal gangs such as the “maras” who commit specific crimes, such as those listed by Castro, are designated as “terrorists” and that they be face class action lawsuits. Héctor Gustavo Sánchez, head of the National Police, said that a list of “intellectual authors, identified leaders and members of maras and gangs” was being distributed for their immediate arrest.

Operations will also be carried out to locate and destroy marijuana and coca leaf plantations – used to manufacture cocaine – as well as illegal drug processing centers. Honduras declared a state of emergency in December 2022, suspending certain rights granted by the Constitution, to combat an increase in crime that he attributed to organized crime.

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