Honduras freezes rights, imposes state of exception in 2 cities to fight gangs

Honduras has become the second country in Central America to impose a state of exception suspending some constitutional rights to deal with street gangs.

Honduras' measures pale in comparison to those in El Salvador, says analyst

Members of Honduras' military police prepare to be deployed at the border in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on Nov. 27, 2022. The country imposed a state of exception on Monday as part of an effort to fight street gangs, making it the second state in Central America to do so after El Salvador. (Fredy Rodriguez/Reuters)

Honduras became the second country in Central America to impose a state of exception suspending some constitutional rights to help fight street gangs when a decree took effect Monday.

The extraordinary measures target the capital Tegucigalpa and the northern business hub of San Pedro Sula, which have both struggled under the sway of powerful gangs like Barrio 18 and MS-13.

The decree published Monday will last one month, but lawmakers will have the ability to extend it, something that has happened repeatedly in El Salvador since a state of exception was imposed in March.

The Honduran measures affect constitutional rights of association, free movement, searches and arrests. The decree gave as justification the threat to life and property posed by the gangs in both cities.

Retired National Police commissioner Leandro Osorio said the measures would not only seek to prevent crime, but would also carry repressive actions.

"The intent is to penetrate these criminal structures to get to the [leaders]," Osorio said, adding it would also be important to go after lesser criminals and repeat offenders.

Still, Osorio said it would be difficult and require co-operation throughout the criminal justice system and all of government.

Security analyst Raul Pineda Alvarado says Honduras' state of exception so far pales in comparison to the all-out effort in El Salvador, where President Nayib Bukele has faced international criticism for repressive tactics.

While noting that El Salvador's example was indeed "authoritarian," Pineda said that it was showing real results in terms of the precipitous drop in homicides.

"What is being applied in Honduras is an imitation," Pineda said.