TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduras' government deployed soldiers across the country as part of a plan to fight criminal groups, authorities said Monday, with official images showing hundreds of soldiers being commissioned for the project.
The move comes after leftist President Xiomara Castro implemented a partial state of emergency last December in pockets of the country's largest cities, led mainly by members of the police.
"In this new stage we have the task of ending drug trafficking, crime and also capturing the leaders of maras (violent street gangs) and gangs. We will guarantee peace for the life of the Honduran people," Defense Minister Jose Manuel Zelaya said at a ceremony.
He did not specify the numbers of troops involved in this new deployment, though hundreds were seen at the commissioning ceremony in images shared by the government on Twitter.
The armed forces will assume security responsibilities in seven of the country's mostly semi-urban departments where drug cartels operate and cocaine leaf plantations have been discovered, according to the government outline.
The state of emergency, which suspends some constitutional rights, is set to last until April 20.
"People and criminals respect the military more than the police," Reinelda Lopez, a domestic worker, told Reuters, adding that she has been the victim of assault twice and now only goes out to the streets if necessary.
The move shows a change in tact by Casto, who has previously criticized the role of the military in previous administrations and pledged to "demilitarize citizen security" during her presidential campaign.
Honduras registers an average of 10 homicides a day, according to security authorities.
(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Writing by Valentine Hilaire; Editing by Marguerita Choy)