Tuesday, August 30, 2011

60% reduction in crime?

Oscar Alvarez, the Security Minister of Honduras, claims to have reduced crime by 60% over previous levels. He "recalled that statistic" El Heraldo reported, when asked about cleaning up the police in Honduras.

Meanwhile, in the same edition, El Heraldo notes that the area around the capital city, Tegucigalpa, is a dumping ground for bodies, 12 bodies so far this month there alone.

(The source of the "statistic" Alvarez cited is unclear. The US State Department cites data from 2009, when Honduras was widely described as having the highest level of murder in the world. Since the actual numbers of murders in a variety of categories have risen, perhaps Alvarez's "statistic" reflects a dramatic decline in some other form of "crime".)

But never mind. Alvarez is busy clearing out corrupt police:
"There have been 196 police officers arrested this year,"

he told the reporter.

That's 1.7 percent of the police force arrested this year.
"You have to note the positive actions of the police,"

Alvarez continued. He promised that in September we'd notice the change.

Alvarez is happy to blame others for any remaining crime in Honduras. He again criticized the Public Prosecutor's office for being soft on crime.

As usual, though, his definition of what constitutes troubling crime and that of other commentators is somewhat distinct.

For example, Alvarez told the El Heraldo reporter
"When minor children take to the streets and take over schools and a prosecutor says that they are acting within their rights, I think that something is not right."

Yes indeed. If all those pesky citizens exercising their rights to protest were just arrested, then clearly, the number of bodies being dumped around Tegucigalpa would drop dramatically.

We need to underline that ever since Oscar Alvarez was installed as security minister, and as a direct consequence of the coup d'etat, policing-- the governmental function of providing safety to citizens in their everyday lives-- and military functions have been blurred.

The armed forces are deployed to the Bajo Aguan, with the rationalization that the appalling number of murders there-- most of which the security forces Alvarez directs insist are individual and unrelated acts of common crime-- are at the same time the reflection of shadowy forces (foreign guerrillas arming peasants? drug traffickers? drug trafficking armed peasants?) that constitute national security threats.

There is a reason the Honduran Constitution enshrined a division between the police and military. What happens when Oscar Alvarez combines the two, and defines citizens as enemies, is the kind of lack of accountability that reminds observers of the worst of the 1980s.

It is worth noting that Alvarez gave his interview on returning to Honduras after signing a new agreement with US Homeland Security Head Janet Napolitano to provide airline passenger information (the APIS system) to US Homeland Security for each flight originating in Honduras.

1 comment:

RNS said...

Today Alvarez clarified the 60% comment, claiming that there had been a 60% reduction in kidnapping, not crime in general. "There's still much to do there," he said.