Honduras to build 20,000-inmate ‘megaprison’ as part of gang crackdown | Crime News

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President Xiomara Castro says new measures including ‘terrorist’ designations for gang members are in response to public complaints about rising violence.

Authorities in Honduras have announced a series of measures aimed at tackling organised crime, including the construction of a 20,000-capacity “megaprison”, as well as “terrorist” designations and collective trials for members of gangs.

In a late-night televised address to the nation, President Xiomara Castro said on Friday the “plan of solutions against crime” was in response to a “security emergency” and public complaints about increasing violence.

Flanked by members of Honduras’s National Defense and Security Council, Castro said the armed forces and police should be deployed to “urgently execute interventions across parts of the country with the highest incidences of gang crimes, such as murders for hire, drug and firearm trafficking, extortion, kidnapping and money laundering”.

The plan to build the 20,000-inmate “Emergency Reclusion Centre” in the sparsely populated area between the eastern departments of Olancha and Gracias a Dios will massively expand Honduras’s current prison capacity.

The authorities also said the Honduran Congress must reform the penal code so that drug traffickers and members of criminal gangs who commit specific crimes, such as those listed by Castro, are designated as “terrorists” and face collective trials.

Hector Gustavo Sanchez, who heads the national police force, said a list of “intellectual authors, leaders and gang members” was being distributed and that the immediate arrest of those on the list was being ordered.

Operations will also be launched to locate and destroy plantations growing marijuana and coca leaf – the key ingredient in cocaine – as well as centres being used to process illegal drugs.

The new measures echo neighbouring El Salvador, where President Nayib Bukele’s anti-gang campaign has drawn criticism from rights groups but has made him one of the most popular leaders in Latin America.

Honduras declared a state of emergency in December 2022, suspending parts of the constitution as it sought to crack down on a rise in crime it attributed to gangs. Last year, the country’s homicide rate stood at 34 per 100,000 inhabitants, almost six times the global average.

Prominent global human rights group Amnesty International has previously warned that the heavy-handed security measures introduced to tackle gang violence “have triggered a spike in abuses and deaths” and put “everybody in danger”.

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