Honduras imposed emergency measures in its major cities, including San Pedro Sula, in a desperate bid to end the reign of drug gangs killing businessmen that refuse to pay protection money.
The measure gives the police in Honduras special powers to apprehend and detain suspects without judicial intervention.
The decision comes a month after the government in neighboring El Salvador took similar measures to arrest thousands of gang members and their allies.
Bus and taxi drivers are said to be the biggest victims of extortion, with reports confirming that 50 drivers were killed this year alone.
Some entrepreneurs have fled the country after being unwittingly caught up in gang fights. At least three criminal gangs are operating in the country, all trying to blackmail business people.
Security analysts say that business owners face death if they pay protection money to two gangs and refuse to pay the third.
Jorge Lanza, a leader of local bus operators, told AP that businesses and drivers were paying over US$10 million per month to gangs in order to operate.
An NGO called More Just Society estimates that drug gangs could generate US$737 million annually, about 3% of the Honduras’ GDP.
Drug gangs have long been a major impediment to growth in many Central American countries. Gangs are reportedly often controlled by much more fearsome drug cartels in Mexico.