Honduran President Xiomara Castro has given the military permission to start taking control of the prisons across the country.
This comes after 46 inmates were killed after a gang dispute at a women’s detention center last week. The president stated that she would give the military jurisdiction over the prison system, which is a departure from a previous position that suggested demilitarizing security, per Reuters.
Hundreds of male inmates can be seen in official photos, without shirts and covered in tattoos, arranged on the floor of Tamara prison, Honduras’ high-security prison. The men can be seen with their hands over their heads, watched over by heavily armed military officers.
“Our mission is to defeat organized crime inside the prisons and we are (also) going after the intellectual authors operating from outside,” Defense Minister Jose Manuel Zelaya said.
Tamara reportedly houses 4,200 inmates in a crammed facility that was built to hold 2,500 inmates. With 20,000 inmates across Honduras, the United Nations reported that the country’s prisons are 34.2 percent over capacity.
The military seized weapons from the Tamara prison, including grenades, pistols, machine guns, ammunition, and magazines. The prison is known to be where the Barrio 18 gang operates, according to Colonel Fernando Munoz.
The female inmates were known to have smuggled in guns, machetes, and flammable liquid, per Sky News. The report also noted that gang members in Honduras have significant influence in the prisons, setting their own rules and selling prohibited items.
Munoz said: “The corruption in the prisons is over. We are going to control it and there will be no calls coming out of here to order extortions or executions.”The recent move by the Honduran government is similar to El Salvador, which sent 5,000 troops into a small town to hunt down cop-killing gang members. The Central American country currently has 68,000 gang members within its borders, and another 58,000 are still awaiting formal charges.