Honduras extends, expands state of emergency meant to fight crime

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The state of emergency, in effect since December 6 in 165 areas of the two largest cities of Honduras, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, has been extended to 235 of the country’s 298 municipalities, said the national police.

Police Chief Gustavo Sanchez said that the decision, based on what he told reporters were good results during December, will allow a continuous reduction in crime and violence.

The measure, part of leftist President Xiomara Castro’s crackdown on gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18, suspends some constitutional rights and allows security forces to detain people they consider associated with or have committed crimes.

The effort comes amid complaints from business owners, the transport sector and ordinary Hondurans that extortion by criminals has increased in recent months.

During the first month of the measures, 39 criminal gangs were destroyed and 652 people were arrested, while 43 kilos of cocaine and thousands of grams and rocks of crack were seized, said the police.

Human rights defenders said they would monitor the measures.

Extortion generates annual profits of up to $737 million for the gangs, nearly 3% of the country’s gross domestic product, according to data from the Association for a Fairer Society, a non-governmental organization focused on security.

(Reporting by Orfa Mejia in Tegucigalpa; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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