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Addressing Civic Violence in New Democracies: A Comparative Analysis of Efforts to Establish Citizen Security through Police Reform in Argentina, Brazil, and Honduras
Unformatted Document Text:  this policy is what officials consider a basic choice between rights and order, reflected in a split between the government’s mano dura and the pro-civil rights “guaranteeism” of most criminal justice officials. Maduro focused on youth gangs (maras), who even police acknowledge commit less than a third of all crimes, but which seem to be blamed for all of them. Anti-mara rhetoric saturates the media and – with high levels of approval from the public, Congress, and the court s– dominates criminal law. 11 Penal code article 322 was amended to punish membership in a gang with nine to twelve years’ imprisonment, above all, while the Law of Police and Social Co- Existence (Ley de Policía y de Convivencia Social) of 2001 widened the police’s detention power. To fight narco-trafficking as well as the maras, the government also brought the military into regular policing. Since 2002, soldiers have been used in police sweeps and inundations of gang- controlled urban areas and in taking control of prison riots. Presidential Decree 123-2002 facilitated such actions by allowing police and military units to raid and search homes without a warrant if there is evidence of a kidnapping or other crime. Such policies prioritize short-term gains over long-term efforts – they boost arrests rates but are ultimately counter-productive because soldiers are trained for war, not citizen security. In April 2002, for example, 69 inmates died in a fire at the El Porvenir penal colony – most killed by soldiers who came to restore order. The accountability agencies that were part of Honduras’s police re-structuring have also been weakened. Two of the main accountability agencies are the National Council of Interior Security (CONASIN: Consejo Nacional de Seguridad Interior), which advises the government on criminal policy, and the Internal Affairs Unit (UAI: Unidad de Asuntos Internos), which investigates police wrongdoing. But CONASIN is rarely convened, removing an important check on state policy. 12 And when the Secretariat of Security was established in 1997, it was given control over nearly all police agencies, prompting a “process of counter-reform … characterized by halting the process of depuration of corrupt officers and those involved in right violations and in 11 Many Honduran officials and activists believe the media is paid by the government for favorable coverage. 12 Ramón Custodio, National Human Rights Commissior; Author Interview, July 4, 2005. 13

Authors: Arias, Enrique.
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this policy is what officials consider a basic choice between rights and order, reflected in a split
between the government’s mano dura and the pro-civil rights “guaranteeism” of most criminal
justice officials. Maduro focused on youth gangs (maras), who even police acknowledge commit
less than a third of all crimes, but which seem to be blamed for all of them. Anti-mara rhetoric
saturates the media and – with high levels of approval from the public, Congress, and the court s–
dominates criminal law.
Penal code article 322 was amended to punish membership in a gang
with nine to twelve years’ imprisonment, above all, while the Law of Police and Social Co-
Existence (Ley de Policía y de Convivencia Social) of 2001 widened the police’s detention power.
To fight narco-trafficking as well as the maras, the government also brought the military into
regular policing. Since 2002, soldiers have been used in police sweeps and inundations of gang-
controlled urban areas and in taking control of prison riots. Presidential Decree 123-2002
facilitated such actions by allowing police and military units to raid and search homes without a
warrant if there is evidence of a kidnapping or other crime. Such policies prioritize short-term
gains over long-term efforts – they boost arrests rates but are ultimately counter-productive because
soldiers are trained for war, not citizen security. In April 2002, for example, 69 inmates died in a
fire at the El Porvenir penal colony – most killed by soldiers who came to restore order.
The accountability agencies that were part of Honduras’s police re-structuring have also
been weakened. Two of the main accountability agencies are the National Council of Interior
Security (CONASIN: Consejo Nacional de Seguridad Interior), which advises the government on
criminal policy, and the Internal Affairs Unit (UAI: Unidad de Asuntos Internos), which
investigates police wrongdoing. But CONASIN is rarely convened, removing an important check
on state policy.
And when the Secretariat of Security was established in 1997, it was given
control over nearly all police agencies, prompting a “process of counter-reform … characterized by
halting the process of depuration of corrupt officers and those involved in right violations and in
11
Many Honduran officials and activists believe the media is paid by the government for favorable coverage.
12
Ramón Custodio, National Human Rights Commissior; Author Interview, July 4, 2005.
13


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