Honduras Deploys 1,000 Troops to Stem Crime Before Vote

Honduras deployed 1,000 military police in its two largest cities to bolster the fight against organized crime in one of the world’s most violent countries before presidential elections next month.

The force, which is being funded through a tax on private businesses imposed last year, was approved by Congress in August and is expected to reach 5,000 officers by the end of 2014. Starting yesterday, about 500 police were deployed in the northwestern city of San Pedro Sula and another 500 took positions in the capital, Tegucigalpa, military spokesman Colonel Jeremias Arevalo said.

“We are looking to lower the violence and crime rate, to stop extortion, so that, for example, the woman selling tortillas in the street doesn’t have to pay so-called war tax or protection money,” Arevalo said in a phone interview. “The officers are part of the military, but they are doing the work of a policeman, working for public order.”

Honduras’s homicide rate of 86 for every 100,000 citizens, almost 20 times the U.S. level, costs the Central American country about 10 percent of gross domestic product, the World Bank estimates. About 87 percent of all cocaine smuggling flights departing South America land in Honduras, the U.S. State Department said in a March report.

Hondurans vote Nov. 24 to choose the successor to President Porfirio Lobo, who is barred from running for a second term.

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