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Honduras: Rudderless on Crime and Criminals

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On August 2, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) made public its Report on the Situation of Persons Deprived of Liberty in Honduras -- an in depth study of Honduras' prison system. The report was damning, to say the least. It found the conditions in the country's 24 penitentiaries appalling, specifically... "dehumanized, miserly, and corrupt."

The impression that one gets from reading the report is that the Honduran government has essentially abdicated all responsibility for its prisons and allowed inmates (about 12,000 in all) to take them over without even the slightest objection or resistance. In fact, the report suggests that all 24 prisons are controlled and run as something akin to private fiefdoms by the inmates themselves.

On August 3 (the day after the report was issued), President Porfirio Lobo ordered Honduran troops to take control of the central penitentiary in Tamara, just north of Tegucigalpa. The decision was apparently aimed at ending "the reign of criminals in our prison system," President Lobo said.

Of course, Mr. Lobo has known about the situation within the prisons for months, if not years. The report by IACHR was simply a confirmation of common knowledge. The question everyone in Honduras should be asking themselves is, "Why is the Lobo administration only now moving on this issue, and is it too late?" After all, the tragic prison fire that killed 260 people at the penitentiary in Comayagua occurred on February 14, 2012, exposing once and for all the inhumane and chaotic conditions within the prisons. Has Pepe just been waiting around for the IACHR report to come out before deciding to take action?

Liberal presidential candidate Mauricio Villeda on Sunday alluded to the situation with the prisons and the overall growth in organized crime and gang activity in Honduras in his critique of the Lobo administration. He said, "By not have a serious work plan, it's something that the government has allowed to grow, and it has become uncontrollable."

Mr. Villeda noted that an example of the government's lack of control over the crime situation was the explosion of a small bomb near the home of Mr. Lobo and his family last week. "It is undoubtedly a sign of a lack of security, because if the home of the very president of the country is not adequately secure, then how can the people in the slums and neighborhoods be secure," he said. Great point.