Copying Bukele in El Salvador, Honduras declares its own ‘state of exception’

By Martin Mowforth

Because of the popularity of Nayib Bukele’s ‘state of exception’ in El Salvador, President Xiomara Castro has implemented a copy of the policy in Honduras.

El Salvador’s state of exception began in March 2022 when civil rights were suspended and the police and armed forces carried out mass sweeps and detentions of alleged gang members, most of whom were tattooed and young.  Estimates vary, but up to 70,000 people have been arbitrarily detained with their civil rights suspended. Despite the human rights implications, however, the move has proved popular with the public, many people have reported that they feel safer on the streets, and the rate of homicides has fallen considerably.

In Honduras, a massacre on the 6th March by heavily armed gangsters was the ninth massacre of the year and prompted President Castro to extend a state of exception that had already been established in half of the Honduran territory since December 2022. This was seen as the ‘Bukele effect’ or ‘Bukele model’, but has been a major cause for concern by human rights groups and civil society groups, as the following article by Meghan Krausch illustrates.

Quite apart from the suspension of civil rights and the right to due process for the detained, in El Salvador there have been several collateral effects of the policy. These include an increase in the rate of migration of gang members to other countries in the region, and a ‘mutation’ of the criminal structures involving moving their focus of attention from urban areas to rural areas.

Human rights groups also call attention to the need to attack the roots of the problem rather than the symptoms. They also note that the current progressive government of Honduras is spending a similar amount of public funds on the security forces as the previous narcotrafficking and gangster-ridden government of Juan Orlando Hernández rather than on education, health and the re-building of the public institutions which had degenerated into corruption and uselessness.