Country Listing

Honduras Table of Contents


Public Security Force

Figure 10. Organization of the Public Security Force, 1993

Source: Based on information from Jane's Intelligence Review, [London], February 1993, 90-93; and World Encyclopedia of Police Forces and Penal Systems, 1989, 162.

The Public Security Force (Fuerza de Seguridad Pública--Fusep), the fourth major component of the armed forces, is responsible for maintaining public order and protecting private property. Police units were first created in Honduras in 1882, and a traffic division was established in 1933. When the PLH, led by President Ramón Villeda Morales, came to power in 1957, a Civil Guard was created to assume police functions. The Civil Guard, however, appeared to military leaders to pose a direct threat to their political influence and interests. After the 1963 coup that brought López Arellano to power, the Civil Guard was disbanded and replaced by an army-dominated Special Security Corps, which took over all major police functions. The Special Security Corps was organized into small detachments throughout the country with responsibility for regulating transit, patrolling the border, and investigating criminal activities.

Once they had gained control of police functions by absorbing the Civil Guard, the armed forces attempted to restore to police units a certain measure of independence. Although army officers controlled the Special Security Corps and later Fusep, which replaced the Special Security Corps in 1973, political reasons led the armed forces to distance themselves from the police. During the 1970s, military leaders such as López Arellano benefited from the perception among peasants that the armed forces were progressive and bent on implementing land reform.

Although Fusep continued to be controlled by army officers and was formally subordinate to the Ministry of National Defense and Public Security, by the early 1980s it had its own general staff and separate organizational structure. Fusep had regular-line police units and an investigative unit that is now called the Directorate of National Investigations (Directorio de Investigación Nacional--DIN). DIN was formed in 1976 and became heavily involved in the campaign to quell internal subversion and unrest. Fusep came to be viewed by the armed forces as the primary instrument for dealing with internal security problems. However, some military officers felt that Fusep was staffed with unsophisticated and sometimes brutal personnel, and they worried about the effect on their national image of too-close an association with Fusep.

In 1993 Fusep was made up of 5,500 active-duty personnel, making it the second largest service branch after the army. It is organized under a director general with commands for counternarcotics, traffic police, treasury, logistics, and the DIN. The DIN is made up of departments for criminal identification, intelligence and immigration, and a police laboratory. The traffic command is responsible for vehicle registration and inspection, licenses, traffic control, and investigation of accidents. A directorate of operations controls two special services squadrons (El Machen and Casamata); the Morazán signal squadron; police stations; and a technical and tactical police department, which includes an elite counterinsurgency battalion, the Cobras. In addition to their anti-guerrilla activities, the Cobras have also been used against labor unions, populist organizations, and student activists. The infamous Battalion 3-16, which was created in the early 1980s to function as a clandestine countersubversive force and which has been linked to the disappearance and extrajudicial execution of hundreds of Honduran civilians, is believed to be under Fusep authority (see fig. 10).

Data as of December 1993