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Honduran President Wants His Own Private Army

By: Elena Toledo - @NenaToledo - Jan 16, 2015, 9:03 am

EspañolEver since the 2013 presidential campaign of Juan Orlando Hernández, his strong affinity for the military has been evident. It’s not surprising, considering he spent part of his education at a military academy. Even still, we could not have imagined the extent of this influence until very recently.

Once the constitutional amendment is passed, 5,000 new militarized troops will be added to the Honduran police force, all of whom will be forbidden from opposing the president of the Republic.
Once the constitutional amendment is passed, 5,000 new militarized troops will be added to the Honduran police force, all of whom will be forbidden from opposing the president of the Republic. (Juan Orlando Hernández)

A little more than a year after his election, he now aims to realize an idea he had while president of the Congress: the implementation of the Military Police for Public Order (PMOP), an offshoot of the Honduran Armed Forces (FFAA). Its purpose is to respond to the lack of police authority, and create the image of a strong government in the face of organized crime. The predominance of organized crime has overwhelmed the Honduran National Police, and is largely responsible for Honduras’s place as one of the most violent countries in the world.

While crime rates have gone down, Honduras is still not a country at peace. The numbers do indicate, however, that the government’s security strategies have worked on some level, including the PMOP. But the purpose of this new branch becomes highly questionable when we consider the attempts to grant it constitutional status, while the president maintains sole, absolute power over it.

President Hernández has used all means at his disposal, including radio and television addresses, to pressure other party leaders into voting in favor of this constitutional reform. The amendment would, in effect, place the PMOP on equal footing with the FFAA, thereby creating an institutional conflict.

The gravity of the situation becomes apparent when considering the proposed amendment to Article 274 of the Constitution would force the PMOP to answer directly and exclusively to the president, without any structures in place to allow the officers to question his orders. Such structures, like those in place within the FFAA, allowed soldiers to disobey former President Manuel Zelaya when he ordered the FFAA violate the constitution in 2009.

It is important to highlight that President Hernández is not the only one who’s wrong in this scenario. The opposition, instead of standing up for the country’s institution or the public’s security and safety, has used the opportunity to score political points. At no point has there been an attempt to reach common ground between the anarchy that progressives and other confused people propose and the militarization of society that the president advocates.

As a citizen, I am not of the opinion that the PMOP is constitutional, or that “drastic circumstances call for drastic measures.” Sadly, in Honduras, one must find a way to block certain initiatives that, for sectarian interests, the next administration will likely repeal. This occurred with the Public Ministry, which for decades operated without constitutional status and became a political hot point for successive administrations.

Just like any other sensible person, I am opposed to the idea of the president having his own exclusive branch of the military. Without inventing ridiculous stories about conspiracy, one can see how this would create serious problems in the long run. Power can be a sickness, and those with power will always want more of it.

Translated by Thalia C. Siqueiros. Edited by Guillermo Jimenez.

Elena Toledo Elena Toledo

Educator by trade, social-media apprentice, activist for a democratic Honduras, and free thinker. Follow her on Twitter @NenaToledo.