In August, 2013 the Honduran Congress, led at that time by Juan Orlando Hernandez, passed a bill (decreto 168-2013) creating the PMOP as an added branch of the Honduran armed forces. Their mission, as defined, is essentially the same as the National Police. Rather than being Military Police, that is a police unit located in the military, policing military bases, they are a Militarized Police, soldiers policing the civilian population of Honduras. The argument urging their creation was that they were needed because one could not have confidence in the National Police because so many of them were linked to organized crime or corrupt in other ways. At the time the PMOP were created, it was going to take 5 years to review and vet the 12,000 National Police officers.
Juan Orlando Hernandez now wants to make them permanent, called for from within the constitution, the same way the constitution mandates the existence of the Honduran Armed Forces. This would make it harder for future legislators to dissolve the PMOP, because a constitutional amendment would require a 2/3 vote of Congress two years in a row. Hernandez stated:
"For me its important that the Militarized Police be permanent, because today I am the President, but if tomorrow someone else comes along and for ideological reasons dissolves the Militarized Police, we will fall back into the pothole that we all suffered; the Honduran people are not mistaken, if you ask the people who know the subject of security, in which they live all their days, they will tell you of the enormous support that the Militarized Police have."
Hernandez has portrayed opposition to this as either being unmotivated, or linked to support for the drug traffickers. But Hernandez faces a lot of opposition on this issue.
There's never been a unified opposition in Honduras, especially not since the 2009 coup, but on this issue the political parties not in power, PAC, Libre, PINU, and the Liberals, have all stated their opposition to this move. Its not that they're against the PMOP, they all have emphasized, its that they are against there existing two parallel police forces in Honduras with the same mission. Mauricio Villeda, who was the Liberal Party's Presidential candidate in the last election, argues that the PMOP does not need to be added to the Honduran constitution, that as part of the Military it already has all the status it needs. Villeda pointed out that creating a mandate for the PMOP within the constitution would be like creating a second armed forces, equal to the existing armed forces. He suggested that this move has more to do with Hernandez wanting to continue in power after his term runs out.
Manuel Zelaya (@manuelzr), leader of Libre, responded on Twitter:
"We are not opposed to the PMOP; yes to them having a parallel mission"
Salvador Nasralla, leader of PAC responded on his TV program saying:
"The Armed Forces are already in the constitution which clearly establishes their obligations, PAC is not against the Militarized Police who should work until the problem of insecurity in this country is resolved. We are against including [the PMOP] in the constitution and that they convert into a branch loyal to the President to defend him in his eager desire to continue in power clearly expressed in all the media."
The opposition has said it would welcome Hernandez putting this measure to a public referendum, as Hernandez said he might do if Congress fails to act.
The National Party is completely behind Hernandez, but lacks sufficient members in Congress to make this happen without some participation by those in other parties. Oscar Alvarez, head of the National Party caucus in Congress, claimed on Sunday that they had 80 solid votes for the change. Since there are only 76 National Party members in Congress, that must mean he's managed to convince 4 members of the opposition to vote with them. However, this bill needs 86 votes to pass to become law.
The current Congress has until January 24, when their session ends, to act.
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