TEGUCIGALPA – Honduras’ feared gangs, known as “maras” have imposed curfews in a populous area west of the Honduran capital, where businesses are forced to close early and families must remain inside their homes, local media reported on Monday.
“We want to see businesses closed and people locked in their houses by 7 p.m.,” reads one of the signs that gang members placed on poles in the poor neighborhoods of Ayestas, Los Profesores, Campo Cielo, Las Crucitas and Mercedes in Tegucigalpa.
Residents – who refused to be identified out of fear of reprisals – told local newspapers that members of the Mara 18 (M-18) and another gang identified as “Los Chirizos” went door-to-door warning families that they are forbidden to leave their houses after 7 p.m. every night.
All residents have complied with the requirement, affecting businesses, bus routes and taxis. Even church members were forced to conduct their services before that time.
“We have maintained permanent police presence in the area. The Metropolitan Police and Criminal Investigation Police officers are always there,” Commissioner Héctor Iván Mejía, a spokesman for the National Police Department, said.
He added that “there have been no complaints from neighbors regarding threats from maras,” although he admitted that people might be keeping quiet out of fear.
The bodies of two young men who had their hands tied and were shot in the head were found Monday morning.
On Jan. 18, six young Hondurans sitting on a sidewalk in front of a house were killed by suspected gang members in Las Ayestas. Months earlier, on Aug. 19, police found the dismembered bodies of three young men.
Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the world, at 92 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to statistics from the United Nations.