In a potential indicator of the increasing militarization of public security in the country, Honduras has appointed the first ever active-duty general as head of its security ministry.
On Sunday, the administration of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez announced that General Julian Pacheco Tinoco would take charge of the agency responsible for internal security and law enforcement policies in the country. He will replace Arturo Corrales as head of the security ministry on January 15.
As Reuters has reported, Pacheco’s appointment marks an important break with the past. When he takes office he will be the first non-civilian official to direct the ministry since its creation in 1998. What’s more, local paper El Heraldo reported that Pacheco is expected to continue his current cabinet position as the head of the National Division of Investigation and Intelligence.
The announcement is sure to cause backlash from human rights groups and security analysts in the region, many of whom have warned against Honduras’ increasing reliance on the military for law enforcement.
Pacheco’s appointment could also worsen frictions within the country’s police forces. Just last month, Police Chief Ramon Antonio Sabillon was reportedly dismissed over his opposition to the Hernandez administration’s support for expanding a new Military Police force at the expense of new funding for the National Police. As Angelika Albaladejo and Sarah Kinosian have noted in a helpful post over at Security Assistance Monitor, his replacement is an avid supporter of Hernandez’s security strategy and the new military police.
Despite concerns over militarization, there are signs that the new minister may bring positive changes for Honduras’ security approach. Last week the government announced that the security ministry will dismiss 700 police officers from their posts in an ongoing purge of the force. And General Pacheco, for his part, has shown some sensitivity towards concerns over his military background. In an interview published today by Proceso Digital, Pacheco said that he would be willing to retire from his intelligence and army posts in order to “avoid criticism” if the president asked him to do so.
While the general framed the military’s involvement in policing as a practical necessity -- and rejected warnings of Honduras’ “remilitarization” -- he also said he hoped to use his new office to further train and professionalize law enforcement in the country, “so that they can do their job.”
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