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Honduras Asks Bishop To Lead New Police Force

Thu., Aug. 21, 1997, midnight

Honduras’ Legislature has asked a Roman Catholic archbishop to oversee creation of a new civilian police force for the country, which is plagued by rampant crime and government corruption.

Lawmakers voted 126-2 Tuesday night to name Archbishop Oscar Andres Rodriguez to the new police chief post, citing his “enormous moral authority as leader of the Catholic Church to supervise … and purify the country’s police forces.”

But Rodriguez, undergoing medical treatment Wednesday in Houston for an undisclosed illness, has given no indication of whether he will accept the job.

The Vatican usually prohibits clergymen from holding government jobs without special approval from the pope. Rodriguez is president of the Latin American Episcopal Council, which includes all Roman Catholic bishops in the continent.

The new chief will supervise day-to-day law enforcement and oversee transformation of the current military-run police into a civilian force - including deciding which of the 6,000 military policemen to keep on.

Despite the huge support for Rodriguez, some doubted whether a clergyman was right for the job.

“Nobody doubts the honor of the priest, but each should play the role that belongs to him … and Rodriguez is not a policeman,” said Leo Valladares, the government’s human rights commissioner.

However, the daily La Prensa welcomed Rodriguez’s appointment, saying, “Crime has become so entrenched in Honduras that traditional measures no longer work, and that forces the search for exceptional remedies.”

Crime is rampant in Honduras, a nation of 5.7 million people, and some rights groups have accused policemen of links to criminal gangs.


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