Mon, Dec 12, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Honduras votes to ban passengers on motorcycles after two drive-by killings

The Guardian, LONDON

Politicians in Honduras have voted to ban motorcycle passengers after two drive-by killings threw the spotlight back on to the country’s increasingly desperate security situation.

Members of parliament approved the law during a closed session on Wednesday night, arguing that it would help tackle a growing wave of drug-related murders in the Central American country, now a major hub for traffickers smuggling cocaine into the US.

“Given the current security situation, we believe that the appropriate response is to allow only one person [to ride] on a motorcycle,” Honduran Security Minister Pompeyo Bonilla told Congress.

The move followed two high-profile murders in the capital, Tegucigalpa.

On Tuesday, Luz Marina Paz Villalobos, a radio show host, was gunned down outside her home by men on two motorbikes.

The following day, Alfredo Landaverde, a prominent security expert and anti-corruption activist, was killed as he drove through the capital with his wife.

According to most estimates, Honduras suffers from the world’s highest murder rate. Last year there were about 82 murders for every 100,000 inhabitants, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Speaking to the Honduran newspaper La Tribuna, Tegucigalpa Mayor Ricardo Alvarez said his country needed outside support to combat the rise in violent crime.

“I think the entry of an international force in the country is something we must start to discuss and give serious thought to,” he said, adding that the ban on motorcycle passengers could be “part of the solution to Honduras’s plight.”

“We are reaching a point at which we either save Honduras or all Hondurans sink together. We must come together and row in the same direction,” Alvarez added.

Honduran Housing and Transport Minister Miguel Pastor rejected claims that the new law infringed human rights.

“Human rights are meant to protect all innocent people, those who fight criminality also,” Pastor said.

As Honduran politicians approved the ban on pillion passengers, there was outrage in Brazil’s economic capital, Sao Paulo, over similar plans intended to clamp down on motorbike-riding thieves.

Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin has, however, signaled he would veto the idea.

“We are enormously concerned with the question of security but we need to be careful not to punish workers and low-income people who use motorbikes as a means of transport or for work,” he said.

On the microblogging Web site Twitter, Luiz Eduardo Soares, a leading security expert, remarked that lawmakers might also want to outlaw the use of shoes or people walking in pairs.

“I’m astonished,” he wrote.

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