By Helen Montoya
The Constitution of 1982 approved at the beginning of the democratization process in Honduras, had a great influence of the Military groups that were, quote-unquote, relinquishing power and passing it to civilians. That, and the obvious institutional weakness in a militarized country and paired with the influence of economic elites, resulted in an expansion of Military tasks unlike any other country.
One of the biggest problems is the militaristic culture of the country and the broad powers the Constitution confers the Military. That Military culture is found at the top the legal and political levels. Backed up by the law, the Military has seek to militarize public and civilian spaces, in addition to obtaining various state roles thanks to its proximity to the economic and political elites of the country, but also thanks to external support.
Since the coup d'état of 2009, the Military began to consolidate the former power they held in past decades, by supporting the Honduran elites and being subordinated to the official party. Former President Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH), helped the Military obtain a larger budget, ease of access into civilian affairs and new places of power in the State.
Between 2010 and 2018, 36 legislative decrees were approved on the defense and security sectors. This allowed the Military to have the necessary legal frameworks to remilitarize public spaces, have the largest budget allocations and be present throughout the country in different areas of Honduran daily life.
Honduran remilitarization has meant the use of considerable resources allocated to the security and defense sector. The annual budget grows, in addition to receiving allocations from the Security Tax and resources from the OABI (Office of Administration of Seized Assets). These resources could be used to combat endemic diseases such as health, education, and housing in a country with so many economic and social problems.
The main reason the JOH government gave in favor of the remilitarization was a small reduction in the high rates of internal violence and impact of organized crime as a result of drug trafficking. In reality, it has been the perfect excuse used by governments to win over the elites of Military power.
According to a report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Honduras, is that in the last nine years the homicide rate has showed a downward trend. However, in 2021, with preliminary figures for the first semester, a rate of 39.0% is estimated, higher than in 2020.
To these positive results, however minimal, we need to add several claims of human rights violations by the Military, which lacks the training or the capability to act in the field of public security. Even if, oddly enough, their public security roles were increased after the 2017 elections.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras (OHCHR) in a report entitled "Human rights violations in the context of the 2017 elections in Honduras" indicated that "the State's response to the post-electoral protests resulted in serious human rights violations." And that "elements of the security forces, especially the Military Police of Public Order (PMOP) and the Army, used excessive, including lethal force, to control and disperse the demonstrations, resulting in the death and injury of demonstrators and bystanders."
That is why the process of remilitarization is seen as a setback in the incipient Honduran democracy. Honduras tends to have governments that affect giving more power to the Military, even greater than to other branches of government. There is also much complicity from the government branches, such as the National Congress, to reform and approve those laws and decrees that were approved after the coup d'état.
Likewise, the civilian power was completely invisible in the country. The Military undertook the role of civilian protection.
This is how, former presidents Lobo and Hernández (JOH, since he was a congressman and then president of the National Congress) fostered a strong alliance with the Military to stay in power; one had an impact on state decisions with belligerent Military in the political system. This gave way to a regime that survived thanks to the high degree of militarization that exists in the country, given its institutional weakness and support of the population and due to the lack of legitimacy, legality and recognition at the internal level.
Democracy was strongly affected after the coup d'état in 2009, and then, by the lack of institutionality and redirecting of the democracy in the country. Rather, remilitarization cut off any hope that Honduras would once again have a presidential administration based on freedoms, respect for human rights, and a real separation of the government branches.