Public Safety in Honduras: Obstacles and Solutions

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1552 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

Words: 1552|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

Table of contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Public Safety in Honduras: Obstacles and Solutions
  3. Gangs
    Drug Trafficking
  4. Past Reforms and Why They Didn't Work
  5. Proposed Reforms
  6. Conclusion


This paper will provide the reader with an overview of some public safety challenges a hypothetical newly elected President of Honduras is facing. Presence of transnational and local gangs, illegal drug trafficking, and extremely high levels of corruption in all sectors of society are identified as main public safety concerns. The paper will analyze what makes local population join gangs. It will also go over the role the country plays in illegal drug trafficking and explain the reasons behind it. The paper will review corruption that affects all government institutions in the country and its effects on the community. Then it will describe some failed attempts to reform the system made by the previous administration to include the Military Police of Public Order (PMOP) and Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH). It will explain why these reforms failed. Lastly, the paper will recommend practical solutions for still existing problems.

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Public Safety in Honduras: Obstacles and Solutions

Honduras is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. According to the National Violence Observatory (NVO), the murder rates have been slowly but consistently going down from 86.5 per 100,000 people in 2011 to 59.0 per 100,000 people in 2016. It means that about 15 people a day were murdered in 2016. The newly elected President, Mateo Copas, who is a populist, has always put needs of ordinary people first. Mr. Copas firmly believes in making citizen security his top priority. To address this issue, the new administration will have to face a number of challenges. We recognize street and transnational gangs, drug trafficking, and severely corrupt institutions as principal threats to public safety.


High levels of poverty and lack of opportunities for young people create a favorable environment for street and transnational gangs, which are the leading contributors to violence. They are responsible for murders, extortion, and kidnappings. Presence of transnational criminal organizations resulted in a horrific transformation in the modes of violence used by street gangs "maras". Subsequently, we see a rise in massacres and brutality.

Gangs became a part of everyday life for the majority of the population. "Moreover, not only have cartels now infiltrated local and municipal governments, but the cartels are known to invest in public works, providing public services that the state is often unable to supply" (Ana-Constantina Kolb, 2012, p. 215). It increases their popularity thus making membership more appealing. As stated by Lieutenant Colonel Marco V. Barahona Fuentes, Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO) use emerging gangs of young people for their dirty work by supplying them with drugs, weapons, and funds. The average age of new members is 12: children are easy to recruit, train and they cannot be prosecuted the same way adults would.

Drug Trafficking

Honduras plays a strategically important role in transnational drug trafficking. "Honduras has a vast, largely unpopulated territory, access to two oceans, and three borders that would make it difficult for any government to control". But it's not the only reason. As described by Steven Dudley (2010), numerous armed conflicts in the country between 1960 and the mid-1990s laid the foundation for the illegal trafficking of goods that we are witnessing today. Over the years, drag-traffic has taken control of the country.

Smuggling drugs is seen by many as a route out of poverty. The country became the first stop for the majority of cocaine transfers. Planes carrying cocaine from Venezuela and Columbia land undetected on improvised landing strips in remote areas, it gets transported by water and by land. Drug Lords are experimenting with turning Honduras into a producer state to save on the costs of shipping cocaine from elsewhere. All of this indicates that illegal drugs traffickers are continuously adapting to changing environment and searching for new opportunities.


Corruption has deeply penetrated all of the state institutions. The system itself was designed to support it. The lightest punishments for corruption allowed the accused to be easily let off. Bribes became a normal part of doing business.

The country's police are considered one of the most corrupt police forces in the region. "In addition to demanding bribes, passing information to criminal groups, and allowing drug shipments to pass unchecked, some Honduran police have reportedly participated in, and even directed, violent criminal operations". This increases distrust of the public towards the police and the government as a whole.

Past Reforms and Why They Didn't Work

The government implemented the "Iron Fist" strategy to discourage the Honduran youth from joining gangs. Innumerous arrests have been made based on racial and class markers. However, this strategy has proven to have a perverse effect on violence..., filling the region's jails with easy gang recruits. This also created concerns over the violation of human rights.

Some constitutional reforms were made. The Congress amended article 102 allowing extradition of criminals accused of terrorism, drug trafficking, and organized crime. For this law to work, the corruption has to be eliminated first. Corrupt criminal justice system means possible unfairness of judgment and improper sentencing. It also shows the public that the government chooses giving the right to prosecute Honduran criminals to the U.S. instead working on reforming and reorganizing its own systems.

Militarization of the police was another reform that the previous administration tried. Military Police of Public Order is the unit composed of soldiers who are deployed to the streets to combat crime. On one hand, it demonstrates the government’s desire to protect its citizens, but on the other hand, the government violated the constitution by blending together military and police roles. On top of that, these soldiers don’t get enough training prior to being sent to the streets, as a result there have been multiple reports of them using excessive force.

In 2016 the former President Hernandez and the Organization of American States signed an agreement forming the Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH). Despite that MACCIH encountered multiple obstacles posed by Honduran government. Mr. Hernandez's "allies have worked to sabotage much of the panel's efforts, freezing proposed legislation to protect witnesses and stalling the enforcement of new campaign finance laws". This led to resignation of Juan Jimenez who served as the leader of the anti-corruption panel and of Julio Arbizu, the panel's top prosecutor.

Proposed Reforms

The public safety threats listed above are interconnected which makes it impossible to combat them one at a time. People feel abandoned by the government and under threat from drug dealers. A complex approach must be used to tackle these problems. For as long as Honduras is driven by corruption, the war on illegal drugs and gangs will continue to show no visible results.

The previous administration was trying to eliminate corruption, drug trafficking, and gangs using the top-down approach. These issues are not only the problems of the government, they are the problems of the society. As the Chief Advisor to Mr. Copas, I think that until we eliminate the problems forcing Honduran people to steal and commit fraud to survive, citizen security will not be increased.

People live in constant fear of inability to support their families. This fear is the reason why a lot of them participate in illegal activities. The new administration needs to create jobs, increase salaries, provide education, and reorganize the police force.

A program supporting local farmers should be developed. Coffee accounts for a sizeable portion of the country’s export. Low interest loans could be offered to farmers. They would not have to pay them back until after the first harvest which should be within three or four years. The money for the loans could be borrowed from international coffee consumers.

The police reform should start with separation of the police and military. As stated in Top 3 Security Challenges (2017), the military police should focus on border operations instead of the street crime. The U.S. military has been helping Honduran military patrol boarders fighting drug trafficking. The same way they can help train and equip Honduran police force to fight local gangs. The country is in dire need of an effective and independent court system.

Youth are being recruited as gang members at an early age. Poverty and lack of opportunities makes them an easy target. Youth outreach centers partner with at-risk "communities to reduce violence, create safe spaces for youth and generate opportunity for learning, recreation and job training". Various international non-profit organizations could assist with building more centers across the country and providing schooling and care for youth and young adults.

Tourism is a very profitable industry. Honduras has something for everyone: Copan Ruins Archeological Site, Bay Islands, La Tigra National Park, Lancetilla Botanical Gardens, etc. Developing tourism will create new jobs and brings in additional revenue. Crime rates must be reduced first. Once Honduras is a safe place, it will be put on the map as a popular tourist destination.

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Honduras is drowning in violence and corruption. Human rights are being violated; the government has been infiltrated by the drug business. Previous reforms did not bring a lot of success. Not much can be done without the support from all Honduran people, starting with the lower-class citizens and ending with the government officials at the top of the ladder. Unless there is a shift in the mentality, Honduras will continue remaining one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Oliver Johnson

Cite this Essay

Public Safety in Honduras: Obstacles and Solutions. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 14, 2024, from
“Public Safety in Honduras: Obstacles and Solutions.” GradesFixer, 12 Mar. 2019,
Public Safety in Honduras: Obstacles and Solutions. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 Jun. 2024].
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