Mano Dura (Iron Fist) and the Ley Antimaras (Anti-Gang Law). Honduras. Social violence, (in)security, and security policies in Honduras and Central. America. Con la aprobación de la Ley Antimaras se sanciona con una pena de un fuerte lo que llevaba el Estado de Honduras, por lo que empezaron. cargo de las Fuerzas. Armadas. Reforma constitucional. Nueva Ley. Orgánica de la. Policía. Ley anti-maras. Reforma del. Código Penal. Crisis y reorganización.

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Images of tattooed faces of mareros members of a mara were both part of the backdrop and were shown during the speech of hknduras president Cruz Criminal gangs have descended into dangerous levels of moral degradation and barbarism. We have all known cases of decapitations, mutilations, satanic acts and dismembering committed against minors, old people and defenseless women.

It is time we freed ourselves from this plague Francisco Flores, as quoted in Hume Hoduras contrast to the first policy, the police now had to prove actual criminal behavior by gang members in order to be able to arrest them. On the second anniversary of leh the presidency, inhe furthermore declared:. But it is antiamras the issue of citizen security where we confront the biggest challenge. Organized crime and the delinquency of gangs constantly hit decent citizens, who are the immense majority, and this is an attack against the stability of the country Sacaas quoted in Peetz Police chiefs and government officials continuously repeated such messages while the crackdown policies were in force Cruz In the Salvadoran case, this question is particularly interesting and challenging to answer when considering the electoral context of the gang suppression see Section 4.

The nationally broadcast live press conference, in which Mano Dura was launched inis a primary example of how the maras were portrayed as a security matter through images on television.

Furthermore, during the implementation period of the repressive plans, operations were filmed on site and afterwards broadcast on prime-time television, with thousands of dollars were spent on the publication of numbers Cruz The way in which the public perceived the maras was therefore greatly influenced by the news and discourses on crime Lambert More specifically, hondueas mass media played a significant role in three ways: Subsequent to a speech act such a discourse needs to be acknowledged by one or several audiences.

The political elite, as well as governmental and public institutions e. The police and the military additionally played a significant role in carrying out the provisions of the law and the Mano Dura policies more generally e.

While policy-makers provide formal support in the adoption of extraordinary means e. This explanation, in combination with the fear that characterizes Salvadoran society, shows why the population tolerated a discourse and subsequent policies that downplayed human rights of alleged gang membersthe rule of law and mechanisms of political liability, as well as violating constitutional norms.

From tothe annual homicide rate, for example, rose from 2, to 2, murders Wolf Le fact, the Iron Fist policies have turned out to be highly inconsistent, to institutionalize the maras in El Salvador, and to thereby contribute to the gang problem, rather than to solve it ECA ; Hume ; Cruz Overview of government discourse and policies towards gangs per president, El Salvador This context, combined with socioeconomic and structural problems, is crucial for tracing the origins of a climate of fear and violence that characterizes contemporary El Salvador:.

In this regard, Collins An authoritarian regime is characterized by the control of the ruling elite over the channels through which information is disseminated, which leads to a one-sided, non-balanced portrayal of an issue.

El déjà-vu de las políticas de seguridad en Honduras

In this way, the regime also makes sure that the audience receives the securitizing move as intended. In a democratic system, the right of the political elite to engage in a securitizing move and the legitimacy to explain the necessity of extraordinary measures to contain a menace, is derived from the fact of election by the people Ibid.

Despite political and democratic reforms during the last decades following the civil war, Hume Even though democratic elections are held in El Salvador, a rather one-sided portrayal of the maras — by the political elite as well as the media — points to authoritarian characteristics as well.

In fact, Peetz This is also a key aspect of the concept of securitization because theoretically any issue can be transformed into a security threat by simply framing it as such, no matter whether it is a menace in reality. In this way, securitization is a socially constructed and self-referential practice. Balzacq argues that a securitizing move is either intersubjective or self-referential.

Public trust in Central American governmental institutions on a 0-to scale, As with the heavy-handed policies, the preventive measures were launched in the political context of an election campaign — the elections of the deputies of the Legislative Assembly and the mayors in the Salvadoran cities, which were again fought for between ARENA and FMLN Cruz Mano Amiga Friendly Hand was an early prevention program designed to discourage at-risk youths from joining gangs.


Mano Extendida Extended Hand was targeted at the reintegration of mareros into society Wolf An innovation of these two approaches is the incorporation of local actors whereby municipal authorities and service-providers work hand in hand with public and private security actors, academic institutions as well as civil society to reduce violence, discourage gang membership and facilitate reintegration. In fact, Mano Amiga and Mano Extendida were largely underfunded and received a lot less attention, which resulted in only a very limited impact Wolf Indeed, Ribando Seelke Governmental decisions of this kind are characteristic of approaches to dealing with youth gangs in a political way, rather than in the security sector as the allocation of resources to gang prevention and rehabilitation may indicate a tendency of the Salvadoran state to address the maras in a less overly dramatized manner than with crackdown policies.

In this way, the maras have arguably been brought down from an emergency level and as such they have been moved back from the securitized end of the spectrum to the politicized area i.

In this way, the left-wing president moved closer to the old repressive concepts of the right-wing ARENA party Lambert Indeed recently, the governmental discourse relating to the maras has swung back to a use of intense repressive statements. However, the government measures towards the maras are not consistent in either direction Peetz While the Mara Salvatrucha and the 18 th Street Gang are the two major gangs, Honduran authorities estimate a total number exceeding gangs present in the country, in contrast to El Salvador where the MS and the M are clearly dominant Bosworth These youth gangs can thus be classified as non-politicized matters as they were not part of the public debate and the Honduran state did not officially tackle them see Chart 1: Securitization spectrum, page However, the initiating factor of the transposition of U.

Furthermore, the Honduran institutions were overburdened with the large amount of crimes committed by children and adolescents. As both gang activity and membership soared at the end of the s, the President Carlos Flores opted for repressive methods to counter mara activity — though in a cautious manner due to human rights concerns about the newly-passed penal code for youths. As the maras were increasingly discussed in public, they arguably turned into a politicized matter by the end of the s.

After assuming office in JanuaryPresident Maduro became the pioneer of heavy-handed anti-gang policies by rapidly putting his promises into practice Mateo The following statement of President Maduro substantiates this:.

Amtimaras the 6 million Hondurans with their hands tied in the face of gang violence, whose human rights are more important? Those of the innocent citizens representing the vast majority of the population, or those of the criminals violating the rights of others? In such a antimarras, top government officials, including the President of the Republic, can be considered securitizing actors who designate the maras as an existential threat to the referent object of public and citizen security.

In this way, the already politicized issue of the maras is arguably turned into a securitized matter by framing it as an urgent security matter through a securitization move see Chart 1, page However, when political reasons for such discourse come into play, as during the presidential election campaign in Honduras, the lines between politicization and securitization can become blurred.

For example, policy-makers of the Honduran congress converted the anti- maras discourse into changes of the Penal Code. The military and the police jointly carried out raids in neighborhoods of suspected mara activity and sometimes arrested alleged gang members Mateo Despite enormous increases of detentions of gang members, Libertad Azul failed to break up the maras and reduce violence. While homicide rates initially declined between andHonduras witnessed soaring numbers of murders from onwards see Chart 2, page Indeed, the policy not only failed but backfired according to Mateo Lastly, the hard-line approach was not designed to contain gang activity in the long run; it focused instead on increasing security in the short term by moving mareros from the streets into prison Bosworth Overview of government discourse and policies towards gangs per president, Honduras While Lobo put a strong emphasis on continuing to crack down on gangs and going even further in this direction than the previous Maduro administration, Zelaya had a softer approach in mind Bosworth For a short interim period inthe Honduran government returned to more traditional and repressive measures against the marassuch as increasing police and at times military presence in the streets Ibid.


Generally, however, the Zelaya administration continued to focus on other things than security, for example the push for constitutional reform in Rewriting and changing the constitution became a pitfall for Zelaya in June when he was forced into exile and Roberto Micheletti became de facto president until elections were held later that year.

Fighting the increasing influence of organized crime was already at a minimum level under Zelaya and was wholly ignored under Micheletti. While the interim government was in power, homicide and abduction rates increased Ibid.: Lobo thus started meeting with his key security officials on a regular basis at least once a week Ibid. Similar to Maduro, Lobo relied on the military and the police Bosworth Despite some indications of success of these initiatives in the capital as well as in southern Honduras, the effects in the North of the country have not been satisfying.

Combatting organized crime appears thus to be of a more pressing need than tackling gang-related violence. Crime and violence related to youth gangs were publicly discussed for the first time in the presidential election campaign. FRG [ Frente Republicano Guatemalteco ; Guatemalan Republican Front] leadership will restore order and security in the country, as all of you have lived through kidnappings, murders, and more offenses.

El déjà-vu de las políticas de seguridad en Honduras | Crisis Group

Portilloas quoted in Arellano The priorities of my government will be to improve the economy, education, but first and foremost that Guatemalans rejoice in [living in] real security, which the state has to provide. In contrast to the punitive attitude of the Salvadoran and Honduran anti-gang policies, Guatemalan measures were not as drastic but showed a similar tendency Brands While also based on massive, indiscriminate detentions of more than one thousand alleged marerosPlan Escoba was not accompanied by legal reform, in contrast to the Salvadoran and Honduran heavy-handed policies Ibid.

Notwithstanding various proposals in the Congress of Guatemala, anti-gang legislation was never passed Peetz Prosecutors often manipulated or over-interpreted existing legal norms in order to be able to justify the detentions — a commonly used charge was drug possession for personal consumption Berlin et al. Indeed, there had been a construction of youth gangs by officials in charge of security issues in the Guatemalan government as mainly responsible for the high homicide levels, violence and an atmosphere of insecurity among the population.

Comparable to El Salvador and Honduras, one faces the question of whether qntimaras maras have been politicized and also securitized, since they had not been dealt with by official policies until the early s. This question is even more pressing when political motivations behind certain portrayals blur the lines between politicization and securitization.

Following this logic, the maras would need to be addressed by public policy before they could be framed as a substantial danger. Despite political motivations, the ways in which Alfonso Portillo — first as a presidential candidate and afterwards antijaras Guatemalan president — and his administration designated the maras honduraa an existential security problem can be regarded as speech acts in the terminology of securitization theory.

To a lesser extent than in El Salvador, policy-makers played an interesting role in accepting the public discourse by drafting several anti-gang proposals in the Congress of Guatemala; however, no proposal ever passed the legislative body Ranum Primarily under Plan Escoba, prosecutors therefore started stretching and over-interpreting existing laws in order to justify the large-scale detentions.

By illegally arresting suspect gang members and thereby violating their human rights these measures went beyond the scope of standard political procedures. Even though the Congress did not pass an official anti-gang law, one hoonduras argue that the mere proposals and the role of the judiciary constituted formal support.

He consequently argues that securitization is composed of two stages: Guatemala clearly provides an example of rhetorical securitization.

The incarceration of gang members is not based on an actual anti-gang law but on stretching existing laws, which can be regarded as actively tackling the marasalthough without adopting an official extraordinary measure to do so. Although the Berger administration kept its distance from the media between andmedia coverage tends to be one-sided and seems to inflate the gang problem. For example, both television and newspapers presented the maras by exploiting their tattoos, symbols and behavior patterns in a certain way.

Overview of government discourse and policies towards gangs per president, Guatemala