It's good to see the media begin to pick up on the fact that national police and government officials in Central American are involved in all sorts of crime. It's not just drug traffickers from Mexico and Colombia or gangs. (See the Miami Herald and McClatchy). Boz also has a write-up on Police Corruption in Honduras this morning.
A few things jumped out at me. I don't follow Honduran politics as closely as others, but how can you appoint a Security Minister to "lead a sweep of law enforcement" who had no idea that criminals were operating out of police stations? Maybe not to the extent that it was occurring, but not that it wasn't happening.
“It never occurred to me when I took over this ministry that inside police stations there were people committing crimes and acting against human life,” said Security Minister Pompeyo Bonilla, named recently to lead a sweep of law enforcement. “We have a serious problem.”
While the Miami Herald article wasn't bad, I can't help but notice that the 2009 coup against Zelaya wasn't mentioned at all. Perhaps the the violence would have escalated in Honduras had the June 2009 coup not occurred. Obviously, we'll never know. But it sure seems to me that violence committed by authorities has increased since that date. There's also the concern that drug traffickers stepped in to take advantage of the chaos that ensued following the coup. It should have been mentioned even in passing.
Tim Johnson also has a good article for McClatchy on Crime booms as Central Americans fear police switched sides. I definitely don't like the title. Maybe they could have changed it to crime booms as Central American police remains on both sides of the law. Maybe it's worse today but problem is nothing new.
Murder rates remain stubbornly high across the region. El Salvador tallied 4,354 murders last year, slightly under Guatemala's 5,618 and the 6,723 that Honduras registered. The Northern Triangle now approaches far more populous Mexico in the total number of homicides.
Now, not to be picky but these are not rates. It's also not good to present these numbers without taking into consideration population differences. El Salvador has a population of approximately 6 million, Guatemala somewhere in the 14 million range, and Honduras about 8 million.
Finally, changes in murder rates for each country do not look alike. While crime booms, the murder rate in El Salvador has gone up some years and down other years. In Honduras, it has gone straight up. And in Guatemala, it has remained pretty flat for the last few years. Unlike Honduras and El Salvador, it has declined two years in a row. Guatemala's murder rate has also been significantly lower than those for the two countries for just about every year under consideration.
A comparison of the three countries should take these differences into account.