Former Honduran Police Leader: We Should Learn How to Fight Gangs from El Salvador

Members of the MS-13 and 18 gangs remain inside their cells during a visit by the Director of the General Directorate of Penal Centers, Osiris Luna (out of frame), at the maximum security prison in Izalco, Sonsonate, El Salvador, on September 4, 2020. - Authorities from the General Directorate of …
YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images

A former Honduran national police leader called this week for his country’s government to send law enforcement officials to neighboring El Salvador to learn how to crack down on gang violence.

Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele launched a campaign last year to eradicate the pervasive gang violence in the country grounded in the imposition of a “state of exception” that has limited freedom of association and greatly expanded police authority to arrest suspected gang criminals. The government crackdown has reportedly forced gangs out of the country or into hiding.

“Police and prosecutors should be sent to El Salvador to learn about the territorial control plan that is successfully implemented in that country,” Leandro Osorio, former commissioner of the Honduran National Police, told the Honduran newspaper El Heraldo on Wednesday.

Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele speaks during the beginning of the delivery of computers to students in public sector educational centers, at the presidential house in San Salvador, El Salvador, on February 22, 2021. (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS / AFP) (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images)

Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele speaks during the beginning of the delivery of computers to students in public sector educational centers at the presidential house in San Salvador, El Salvador, on February 22, 2021. (MARVIN RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images)

Osorio, who resigned from his position in 2016 after receiving death threats, recommended to the nation’s leftist President Xiomara Castro “to evaluate if she really has trained people in all the police leadership.”

Facing rampant gang violence and an intense crime wave that resulted in 3,397 documented homicides in 2022, President Castro declared a “war” on criminal groups operating in Honduran territory in November. On that same day, Castro also declared a “war against extortion” to fight criminal groups that extort, threaten, and kill transporters and merchants.

“This Government of democratic socialism declares war on extortion, just as from day one – on January 27 – we declared war on corruption, impunity and drug trafficking,” Castro said.

To that end, the Honduran government declared a state of emergency in December to “combat extortion and related crimes committed by organized criminal groups.” The decree suspended some constitutional rights such as freedom of movement and assembly, allows police authorities to detain anyone who they suspect of being associated with criminal activities, and allows them to search homes and make arrests without a warrant.

The state of emergency, which initially only covered the capital city of Tegucigalpa and the city of San Pedro Sula, has so far been extended beyond its initial 45-day duration twice and expanded its coverage across 123 of the country’s 298 municipalities.

The government has documented nine massacres having occurred so far in 2023 under the emergency measures, leaving 40 dead.

The most recent massacre took place on March 6. Honduran police authorities found nine bullet-riddled bodies dumped in the Honduran community of El Portillo de la Mora in the city of Comayagua. One of the nine victims had initially survived, but was declared dead shortly after being discovered. Police authorities said criminals ambushed and executed the nine victims as they made their way back to their community.

Less than 48 hours before the March 6 massacre, six Hondurans were killed and two more injured in the city of Comayagüela when several armed men entered a hotel where the victims were staying and fired at them with high-caliber weapons, killing them almost immediately.

The back-to-back massacres prompted Castro to issue an ultimatum to the nation’s secretary of security on March 6, demanding the secretary present results and proposals to combat crime in the country within 72 hours.

After the initial deadline was extended, Castro met with representatives of the country’s police high command on Monday. El Heraldo reported on Tuesday that the over two-hour-long meeting between Castro and the police commission did not yield any concrete policy proposals.

Asked by El Heraldo about the potential adoption of El Salvador’s security model, Salvadoran criminologist Misael Rivas stated, “Here [in El Salvador], the situation is controlled by 55 percent, which is a huge figure compared to the reality we had because the lethal force of the gangs has been reduced.”

“This is not the case in Honduras and, therefore, I suggest that Honduran politicians look at examples and join forces,” Rivas said.

Retired Honduran General Luis Maldonado Galeas told El Heraldo, “the declaration of war by the president a few months ago did not correspond to the strategy applied,” pointing out that “the lack of a prevention policy causes the growth of criminality.”

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.


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