Bring in the Chileans
In early January I saw an interesting statistic in “La Prensa”: Honduras became the most violent country in the world in 2010-its official. Honduras has two cities in the world’s top ten most violent cities in the world: San Pedo Sula is number three and Tegucigalpa is number eight. Only Ciudad Juarez, entrapped in a border drug war, and Kandahar, with US drone assassinations and suicide bombings, have more homicides per capita than San Pedro Sula.
Only those who are confused, unable to analyze statistics or in denial with their “crime happens anywhere” mantra continue to think that the Bay Islands are somehow immune to Honduras’ growing violence. On Roatan, an island of roughly 65,000 people (according to Bay Islands Voice energy demand estimates), violent robberies, attacks and murders happen to people at their offices, homes, on the street and in front of churches. We live on an island where the mayor only moves under armed guard protection, and where a woman can be viciously stabbed at her work office. According to Alicides Vides, Bay Islands Police Chief, there were 22 homocides on Roatan in 2010. That islands homicide rate comes out to 33 per 100,000 people.
The economic situation on the mainland of Honduras aggravates the desperation of the poor that migrate here and contributes to the widening of the gap in income and education levels. The Bay Islands might not be America, but for many mainland Hondurans it is the easily accessible land of opportunity: the wages are higher, the place is a bit more organized and yes, a bit more safe.
It’s bizarre how many groups have attempted to tackle crime issues on Roatan just in the last eight years. First, in the early 2000s it was CANATURH-BI that had a security committee in which many issues of police funding and training were discussed. Next it was the Roatan Municipal’s vice mayor who ran the security committee. Then it was ZOLITUR that had the security committee which fizzled out like an empty balloon. Eventually an American business owner decided to form a crime watch type organization which organized police cruisers and radios for the Roatan Preventiva.
What has been lost is the big picture. Trying to solve individual components and particular elements within the overall system will not help. It is naïve to think that resources alone, salaries alone, training alone will make the difference in punishing the offenders and bringing crime under control.
The system of police, prosecutors, judges and penal officials is broken. Fixing just one element will do nothing other than frustrate and place in physical danger the people attempting to do this. I have witnessed several “idealistic police officials” who attempted to make things right, only to see their work being sabotaged by prosecutors, corrupt lawyers, bribed judges, or when all else works, prison officials who let their inmates escape.
According to Transparency International, Honduras ranks 136 out of 178 countries ranked, tying it with Nigeria and Zimbabwe in the 2010 corruption ranking. Honduras’ score has declined steadily from 2008 and 2009. Such a high percentage of people in the Honduran legal system are corrupt, unmotivated and incompetent, that I and most Hondurans do not see an answer in reforming the system.
I say that only cutting down a dead malignant vine tree and planting a new one from a healthy vineyard will work. When ethical values of public officials are skewed or nonexistent it becomes impossible to correct them.
So, out of desperation and no realistic alternatives what about firing all, and I mean every last one person, from the Honduran justice system. On a 10-year contract, 25,000 Chileans could come to Honduras–12,000 police officers, 4,000 prosecutors, 3,000 judges, 6,000 prison officers and yes, … 15 supreme court justices.
As far as Latin America is concerned, the Chilean justice system works, with officials who are dedicated and ethical. While this could actually work, it will never happen. [/private]