(CMR) Honduran President Xiomara Castro declared a national security emergency on Thursday to address a significant increase in the number of cases of extortion by violent criminal groups operating across the country.
This will see a new plan being implemented, allowing for the suspension of some constitutional rights in areas with predominant criminal gang presence, a deployment of 20,000 police agents, new security controls on roads and measures against money laundering.
However, Reuters reported that Congress must still approve the suspension of constitutional rights, though the security plan came into force on Thursday.
With a national security emergency in effect, the Honduran government can make extraordinary use of public funds to combat criminal gangs known for involvement in illicit activities such as kidnapping and drug trafficking.
Reuters reported that the plan follows pressure from businessmen, truck, bus and taxi drivers, residents and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who say extortion has worsened in recent months.
Gangs demand a “war tax” in exchange for protection or say that those who pay up will not be killed. The gangs have torched buses and killed drivers who did not pay the fee, prompting businesses and people to pay out of fear.
This extortion reportedly generates annual profits equivalent to $737 million for the gangs, nearly 3% of the country's gross domestic product, Reuters reported.