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HomeHondurasHonduras Launches Offensive to Regain Control of Prisons

Honduras Launches Offensive to Regain Control of Prisons

Hundreds of military police officers entered two maximum-security prisons in Honduras on Thursday as part of an offensive against gang members launched on Monday to regain control of the penitentiaries and seize weapons arsenals that had been brought in through bribes to authorities.

“The Armed Forces of Honduras, through the Military Police for Public Order (PMOP), have initiated Operation ‘Faith and Hope’ with the aim of regaining control, direction, and governance of the El Pozo prison in the Ilama sector of Santa Bárbara and the Siria prison in El Porvenir,” said a statement from the military command.

The Armed Forces released photos of drugs, including marijuana plants, and ammunition seized during the operations in El Pozo, the most feared maximum-security prison located about 180 km northwest of the capital, and in Siria, about 60 km north. The inmates were also shown grouped together in a courtyard, barefoot and dressed only in underwear.

El Pozo and Siria, each with a capacity of 2,000 inmates, were built primarily to house leaders of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18, the most feared criminal gangs that sow terror in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

El Salvador as a model

In El Salvador, President Nayib Bukele has managed to control criminal groups through a mega-offensive launched over a year ago, and Honduras began to follow its example this week.

Since the previous Monday, Honduran troops have entered the Penitentiary Center, the National Penitentiary for Social Adaptation (PNFAS), located in the Támara area, 25 km north of Tegucigalpa, as well as La Tolva, in the Morocelí area, about 60 km east.

Equipped with dogs trained to detect weapons, explosives, and drugs, the police officers managed to uncover powerful firearms such as AR-15 assault rifles, Uzi submachine guns, 9mm pistols, magazines, thousands of rounds, and grenades.

Not to be bribed

The commander of the PMOP, Colonel Ramiro Fernando Muñoz, urged his troops not to be bribed by organized crime, as the authorities who allowed those weapons to enter had done.

“No more corruption and collusion with prisoners,” he demanded.

The operations began by orders of President Xiomara Castro after the previous week, Barrio 18 gang members at the women’s prison broke out of their module and attacked rivals from the MS-13. They shot and set fire to the facility, resulting in 46 deaths.

Honduran prisons are considered by authorities as “crime academies,” where over the past 20 years, more than 1,000 deaths have been recorded, according to the state Human Rights Commissioner. The worst tragedy occurred in Comayagua, in the center of the country, where 362 people died in a fire in 2012.

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