Predictable. The police have gone on strike in Honduras… well, at least in seven districts of Tegucigalpa. It’s unclear how many of the 2,500 police officers in the capital (or 14,500 nationwide) have joined the protest, which began today. The officers are striking against a new order issued by the chief of police, Juan Carlos Bonilla, requiring them to work three weekends out of four, instead of the current two. They’re also demanding the pay raise they were promised in January, but have seen neither hide nor hair of.
Police are angry because they feel they’d been lied to and are being disrespected. One officer said, “We are not slaves of the government, but employees.” That about says it all. Once you get to feeling like a slave, then there is no option but to stand up and fight for your rights. The salary thing is surely a big one, given the officers make such puny sums. About five years ago, officers were making $200 a month. It’s unlikely that figure has surpassed $300.
The revenue from the so-called “security tax” which began being charged to Honduran businesses last year was supposed to fund salary increases for police, new recruits, training, equipment, uniforms, and other bare essentials (… like gasoline and tires for vehicles). But it seems that much of that money has either not been spent or has been siphoned off by unknown sources. It has not gone to officer salaries, at least not for street cops, who are still walking around in tattered uniforms, lack logistical support, and are sleeping on shabby old mattresses or cots in police barracks.
To add insult to injury, officers are now being told to work another weekend a month, making it even more difficult for many of them to spend time with their families. Often, police officers are assigned to communities hours away from their homes. Is it any wonder that officers are tempted to take money from organized crime groups and drug cartels? They’re expected to perform as professionals and put their lives on the line daily, but their employer treats them like dirt. And then when they finally succumb to the huge payments offered to them by criminals, everyone acts surprised and is horrified at their unprofessionalism.
Does anyone in the Honduran government even remotely understand the value of good morale?