Effort to clean up Honduras police force stalls

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[US-back deathsquad states terrorize the people of Latin America. So what’s new? — NP]

Effort to clean up Honduras police force stalls

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — In the midst of a scandal over the police shooting of a university president’s son, the government of Honduras launched an unprecedented effort last year to clean up a U.S.-backed police force widely seen as deeply brutal and corrupt.

One by one, hundreds of police officers were called to a hotel in the capital and subjected to polygraph tests administered by Colombian technicians funded by the U.S. government. “Have you received money from organized crime?” they were asked in a series of questions about wrongdoing. “Have you been involved in serious crimes?”

Nearly four of every 10 officers failed the test in the first five months it was administered, some giving answers that indicated that they had tortured suspects, accepted bribes and taken drugs, according to a U.S. document provided to The Associated Press.

Then, despite the clear indications of serious wrongdoing, the police cleanup effort went nowhere.

By April of this year, the Honduran government said it had dismissed a mere seven officers from the more-than-11,000-member force, a vivid illustration of the lack of progress in a year-old effort aided by the U.S. to reform police in a country that’s swamped with U.S.-bound cocaine and wracked by one of the world’s highest homicide rates.

Some of the seven officers have since been reinstated, the minister of public security told congress. He said bureaucratic mix-ups had foiled efforts to dismiss more police.

Honduran rights groups say, however, that the government is either afraid or unable to confront the aggressive and well-organized police officers, whose strength was on display last week when dozens of officers simply refused to accept a mass polygraph exam, seizing a police building until the government backed down.

“Every day that passes without a cleanup of the police, a high price is paid in human lives, in sisters, mothers and sons who lose their loved ones because of the state’s inability to guarantee security in the country,” said Josue Murillo, coordinator of the Alliance for Peace and Justice, a coalition of civil society activists… read more

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