TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Honduras declared a state of emergency in its prison system Tuesday, suspending its civilian leaders and replacing them with a special commission led by military officers.
The surprise move came four days after the slaying of Pedro Ildefonso Armas, the director of Honduras' maximum security prison. In October, Armas was chatting with accused drug trafficker Nery López Sanabria inside the prison when several inmates killed the inmate.
Presidency minister Ebal Díaz said officials decided “the intervention is necessary to stabilize and avoid having acts of violence and death continue."
The takeover is scheduled to last six months. Authorities want to use that time to root out corruption in the prison system.
Army Col. José González Maradiaga was named to head the commission made up of military and National Police officers.
Díaz said human rights would be respected.
Once the military has assumed control of all the prisons officials will evaluate what guards and administrators can remain in their jobs.
Armas was killed along a highway in southern Honduras on Friday. Gunmen on motorcycles stopped his vehicle and shot him. The following day five prisoners were killed at Armas' prison by another inmate armed with a gun.
Notebooks belonging to López Sanabria were used in a U.S. drug trafficking trial as evidence to convict former -congressman Antonio "Tony" Hernández, who is the younger brother of President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
On Dec. 4, four prisoners were killed by other inmates at a juvenile detention center and at least 17 escaped.