In Honduras, the military has stepped up its presence in civilian life to quell deadly attacks on buses and other public transport routes. Days after approving a 180 day extension of a year-long, nation-wide state of emergency on 25 September 2012, President Porfirio Lobo ordered the military to expand its role further by patrolling urban buses. At least two soldiers began riding on more than 20 bus routes in the most dangerous areas of the capital city Tegucigalpa and 30 routes in the northern city of San Pedro Sula beginning on 27 September 2012.
Transportation companies have become a target for international cartels and local gangs known as maras. Taxi and bus companies pay extortion fees to operate in relative peace. But even these arrangements do not prevent bloody aggression along popular routes. Gangs assault buses to rob passengers and demand payments from drivers. Together, buses in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa suffered an average of 25 violent assaults each day during the first half of 2012, making bus travel among the riskiest activities in the Central American country.
The new program, known as “Security on Urban Buses,” aims to free up police officers who have been stretched thin patrolling streets as violence grows. Even with heightened military presence over the last year, violence has remained constant. Honduras still has the highest homicide rate in the world and gangs, often run out of over-crowded prisons, have infiltrated the local and national government, as well as parts of the police force.
Lobo also announced a boost in military deployment on the streets to assist and monitor the police. The military is seen as somewhat less susceptible to corruption than the police, but greater military occupation also strikes a nerve among human rights activists, given the country’s history of military dictatorship and the military’s recent ouster of elected president Manuel Zelaya. However, as security continues to deteriorate, the situation in Honduras has proved so desperate that popular support for military intervention remains high.
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