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Honduras calls in the police - from Chile

Lauded as among the best police institutions in Latin America, Chile's Los Carabineros are helping Honduras, one of the most troubled countries in the region right now.

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A more recent report by the Vanderbilt team, "The Political Culture of Democracy in Chile, 2010″ (in Spanish), states that, at the time of the study, los Carabineros were one of the most trusted institutions in Chile.

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In contrast, Elyssa Pachico reports for InSight Crime on popular perception of police corruption in Honduras. "According to one poll by the Central American University, over two-thirds of Hondurans believe the police are corrupt, and 77 percent percent blame President Porfirio Lobo for the current crisis," Pachico writes.

It’s worth noting that los Carabineros de Chile have been criticized recently for several incidents of police brutality related to the various popular protests. They have lost a measure of public trust and respect for their use of force in shutting down protesters – including the death of a protester in August 2011.

While police brutality (defined here as undue or unprovoked violence toward citizens) is never justifiable, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Edward Fox explains the unique dynamics that define the Honduran challenge.

"In both Brazil and Honduras, the police are deeply embedded in the very criminal structures they are tasked with dismantling," Mr. Fox writes. "But while Brazil has taken on a hugely ambitious (and to some degree, successful) project at police reform, Honduras is smaller, poorer, more politically troubled, and far more important as a transit country for the shipment of cocaine. All this will make police reform in Honduras a far more difficult task."

The specific areas in which los Carabineros de Chile will be advising President Lobo include drug trafficking, organized crime, extortion, killings, kidnappings, and car theft. Despite the previously mentioned critiques, los Carabineros de Chile are a good choice to help Honduras in these areas.

Because at this point, police handling of popular protests would probably be the least of Honduras’ worries.

--- Jackie Briski is a Latin Americanist and author of the blog cuando asi no sea.

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