Honduran armed forces seize control of prisons to stamp out gangs | Crime News


The federal government of Honduras has introduced a crackdown on organised crime throughout the Central American nation’s jail system after an assault in a girls’s penal centre left 46 folks useless final week.

The Honduran Armed Forces stated on Monday that their push “to regain management of the prisons” had begun, dubbing the initiative “Operation Religion and Hope”.

Searches had been beneath method on Monday morning on the Tamara Penal Centre, the place the armed forces stated that they had recovered high-calibre weapons, grenades, ammunition, cell telephones and gadgets for web entry throughout the jail partitions.

The preliminary search appeared to concentrate on the boys’s jail, although Tamara was additionally the location of final week’s lethal assault within the Centro Femenino de Adaptacion Social (CEFAS), a girls’s detention centre that may home roughly 900 folks.

“Operations will proceed in different penal centres,” the armed forces stated in Twitter posts on Monday.

A woman in a white T-shirt holds a paper face mask to her eyes as she cries, surrounded by other bereaved relatives.
Family members of the victims killed on the Centro Femenino de Adaptacion Social (CEFAS) collect at a morgue in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on June 21 [File: Fredy Rodriguez/Reuters]

The June 20 assault in Tamara, roughly 50km (30 miles) northwest of the capital, Tegucigalpa, marked one of many nation’s deadliest jail riots in current reminiscence.

The violence broke out after girls from the Barrio 18 avenue gang confronted their rivals within the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) group within the starkly divided jail, in line with the authorities.

Officers have stated the gang members had been in a position to infiltrate a rival cell block with weapons, machetes and flammable liquids that they used to set their enemies on fireplace. Some even allegedly introduced locks to close their victims inside their cells as they burned alive.

Eighteen pistols, an assault rifle, two machine pistols and two grenades had been reportedly recovered after the assault.

Yuri Mora, a spokesperson for Honduras’s nationwide police, stated that 26 of the victims had died within the flames, whereas the remaining succumbed to gunshot and stab wounds.

The assault provoked a public outcry, with relations gathering exterior the jail partitions and President Xiomara Castro denouncing the violence as “monstrous”.

Re-militarising the jail system

Castro promised to take “drastic motion” within the wake of the jail conflict. Final week, she introduced that management of 21 of the nation’s 26 prisons would revert to the Navy Police of Public Order (PMOP), in an try and suppress organised crime.

It was a dramatic about-face for an administration that had as soon as sought to demilitarise sure facets of public safety. Final 12 months, Castro had eliminated the prisons from PMOP authority, placing them as a substitute beneath the nationwide police.

Castro additionally stated in her announcement that her administration would use islands off Honduras’s coast to accommodate “extremely harmful” gang leaders.

Lethal jail clashes will not be extraordinary in Honduras: Over the course of a single weekend in 2019, some 37 suspected gang members had been killed in jail violence beneath Castro’s predecessor, Juan Orlando Hernandez.

And in 2017, a government-run shelter for troubled ladies noticed 41 folks killed when mattresses had been set on fireplace as a part of a protest in opposition to abysmal situations.

Guards stand behind a long white table, where guns and ammo are on display
Members of the Navy Police of Public Order current weapons found at a jail in Támara, Honduras, on Monday [Fredy Rodriguez/Reuters]

However when the left-wing Castro got here into energy in January 2022, her administration marked a break from the previous. Not solely did she change into the first feminine president of Honduras, however her inauguration additionally ended 12 years of rule by the conservative Nationwide Celebration.

However, Castro’s administration has been accused of not doing sufficient to finish gang-related crime within the nation.

In December, she introduced a state of emergency to handle the gangs’ turf wars, however to date, it has did not dampen the violence.

On Saturday, armed males killed no less than 11 folks in a capturing at a billiards corridor in Choloma, a producing hub linked to the Barrio 18 gang. In response, the federal government imposed a 15-day curfew within the city and one other in close by San Pedro Sula in northern Honduras.

Officers indicated that the billiards capturing might be linked to an ongoing tit-for-tat between gangs.

“We don’t rule out these crimes might be some type of revenge for what occurred within the girls’s jail,” stated Nationwide Police Commissioner Miguel Perez Suazo.

Suspected gang members sit closely packed in lines on the ground, stripped naked except for boxer shorts, as armed guards watch over them from near a prison wall.
Images launched on Monday by the Honduran armed forces have evoked comparisons with photographs from throughout the prisons of neighbouring El Salvador [Honduras Armed Forces/Handout via Reuters]

On Monday, photographs launched by the Honduran Armed Forces confirmed the outcomes of the jail raid, with lengthy strains of suspected gang members stripped to their shorts and seated on the bottom beneath the watch of armed guards.

The pictures have evoked comparisons to neighbouring El Salvador, the place President Nayib Bukele has led a controversial “conflict on gangs”.

As Bukele expanded the nation’s penal system — to accommodate the greater than 65,000 folks arrested — pictures from the nation’s new “mega-prison” have proven related therapy, with male inmates packed tightly in strains on the ground, sporting little however boxer shorts.

A political determine with excessive approval scores, in line with public-opinion polls, Bukele imposed a state of emergency in March 2022, suspending sure civil liberties in its push to finish gang violence within the nation.

However critics have warned that the emergency order, which has been renewed since final 12 months, has led to widespread human rights abuses, together with indiscriminate arrests and imprisonment in addition to an absence of due course of.

Eric Olson, a fellow on the Wilson Heart, a worldwide affairs suppose tank, stated that nations like El Salvador and Honduras tend to “warehouse younger folks in prisons”. However that technique, he defined, can backfire.

“They throw them in over-crowded prisons. And whether or not they’re gang members or not once they go in, they arrive out as gang members as a result of that’s the one method they need to survive jail,” Olson instructed Al Jazeera.

“So in some methods, the prisons themselves change into factories for creations of gangs. And it’s a really mistaken notion you could simply incarcerate huge quantities of youth and clear up the issue.”

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