How the Honduran military and police profit from the illegal arms trade

How the Honduran military and police profit from the illegal arms trade

Honduras has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Guns are used in 75 per cent of these crimes. An investigation by InSight Crime and Transparency International Honduras (also known as La Asociación para una Sociedad más Justa) has found that many of these guns come from Honduran military and police stockpiles.

Military and police staff can take weapons and ammunition from storage and sell them on the black market, and the military’s arms retailer is able to sell any kind of weapon, in any quantity, to anyone without being held accountable.

They can do so because there is no transparent system to register and track seized or even legally purchased weapons. Additionally, civilians and companies can buy weapons from the military without registering their purchases with the police.

There have been several cases where weapons found at crime scenes or in the possession of criminal gangs have been traced back to the military: 20 per cent of weapons seized in 2014 from the Valle Valle group, one of Honduras’s largest narcotics transporters, had been purchased from La Armeria (The Armory), the military’s arms retailer. Additionally, in 2010, 22 rocket-propelled grenades were stolen from a military base and then resold.

That’s why Transparency International is calling for these reforms:

  • The military and police must fully report on their arms purchases, holdings and losses, and the Armory’s sales.
  • Civilians and private security companies must register their arms purchases and holdings with the police.
  • There must be a publically accessible and up-to-date national arms database.

Without these reforms, the spread of weapons will continue. For example, investigations show that 300 FAL assault rifles and 300,000 bullets disappeared from the police’s Special Forces unit in 2011 and were sold to the Zetas Cartel, one of the most brutal Mexican drug cartels.

The authorities must also crack down on private security companies that act as fronts for criminal organisations. An estimated 1,038 private security companies buy 70 per cent of some types of weapons from the Armory, including assault rifles that the military is actually prohibited from selling.

Some progress

Recently, the Honduran government has stepped up vigilance for arms trafficking at the country’s borders and introduced proposals to increase the maximum prison term for possession of an illegal weapon to 12 years.

A key step has been to establish The Special Commission for the Restructuring and Purging of the National Police. The commission, which TI Honduras is closely involved with, has ensured that 4,445 corrupt police staff have been removed from the service.

TI Honduras also influenced the government to create the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity. This anti-corruption body investigates and prosecutes illegal activity in the Honduran government, judiciary and security forces.

Consequently, there are now less police staff selling weapons illegally and less impunity for those who do. But there are still no measures to stop weapons from leaving military and police storage unrecorded. This means that the weapons remain available to criminals and Honduras’ homicide rate is likely to remain over five times higher than that of its neighbour, Nicaragua. 

Image: Creative Commons; Author: USASOC News Service 

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

Latest

Support Transparency International

#18IACC: Call for workshop proposals now open!

The 18th edition of the International Anti-Corruption Conference to take place in Copenhagen from 22-24 October 2018 is thrilled to announce that the call for workshop proposals is now open. Help us shape the #18IACC agenda! Anyone interested in the fight against corruption is welcome to submit a proposal.

A redefining moment for Africa

The newly released Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) provides a good baseline for the African Union (AU) anti-corruption efforts in 2018. This year’s theme for the AU is “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.” As the AU rolls out its plan, this is an important moment for Africa to take stock of the current situation.

Perceptions remain unchanged despite progress in the Americas

In the last few years, Latin America and the Carribbean made great strides in the fight against corruption. Laws and mechanisms exist to curb corruption, while legal investigations are advancing and citizen anti-corruption movements are growing in many countries across the region. However, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2017, the region continues to score poorly for corruption. How can we explain this contradiction?

Slow, Imperfect Progress across Asia Pacific

While no country in the Asia Pacific region scores a perfect 100, not even New Zealand or Singapore, which both experienced their share of scandals in the last year, our analysis reveals little progress across the region.

Europe and Central Asia: more civil engagement needed

In 2017, authoritarianism rose across Eastern and South East Europe, hindering anti-corruption efforts and threatening civil liberties. Across the region, civil society organisations and independent media experienced challenges in their ability to monitor and criticise decision-makers

Rampant Corruption in Arab States

In a region stricken by violent conflicts and dictatorships, corruption remains endemic in the Arab states while assaults on freedom of expression, press freedoms and civil society continue to escalate.

Digging deeper into corruption, violence against journalists and active civil society

To mark the release of the Corruption Perceptions Index 2017, we analysed corruption levels around the world and looked at how they relate to civil liberties – specifically, the ability of citizens to speak out in defence of their interests and the wider public good.

Corruption Perceptions Index 2017

This year’s Corruption Perceptions Index highlights that the majority of countries are making little or no progress in ending corruption, while journalists and activists in corrupt countries risk their lives every day in an effort to speak out.

Social Media

Follow us on Social Media

Would you like to know more?

Sign up to stay informed about corruption news and our work around the world