Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Honduran police implicated in murder of anti-drug crusading officials (April 6, 2016)

Honduras is abuzz with reports that high level police officers of the national force planned and executed the murder of the country's "drug czar" in 2009. 
Official documents leaked to El Heraldo in advance of the Monday night raid seem to show top-level police plotting that led to the December 2009 assassination of Julián Arístides González, head of Honduras' Dirección de Lucha Contra el Narcotráfico.

Two years later his former adviser and Alfredo Landaverde was gunned down in the street, as was prosecutor Orlan Chavez in 2013. The murders form part of a group of six justice officials murdered in investigations that have mysteriously failed to prosper, reports El Heraldo.

An investigative report from the Secretariat of Security's Inspector General's Office, published by El Heraldo, points to a "criminal gang of police officials and police officers" who seem to also be involved in the death of González, reports InSight Crime. In both cases, the documents show that a lack of political will prevented justice from prevailing.

The paper cites an internal investigation, a series of witness reports, and three videos and supporting photography that show how González was killed at the request of a Colón drug trafficker. The archived investigation demonstrates lack of will on the part of anti-police corruption bodies, as six years later the crime remains unpunished.

Separate reports published by El Heraldo focus on the deaths of Landaverde and Chávez, also at hands of police officers.
Reports published by El Heraldo show that two of the cops who assassinated González claim to have been paid $20,000 for the deed and threatened investigators who took their statements.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández promised to suspend several top police officials apparently involved in the crimes, reports the Associated Press. He also floated the possibility of eliminating the Policia Nacional altogether, reports La Prensa.

Efforts to clean up the force, based on indications of widespread corruption, have been ineffective reports the Associated Press. After nearly four years of background checks and testing, 33 of approximately 14,000 officers have been ordered fired, but only seven dismissal orders have been carried out.

Of the approximately 30 police officers involved in planning González's murder, at least five have since been killed, reports El Heraldo, as were two who helped guide investigators to incriminating video footage. They all died in a hail of bullets on the streets. Their deaths also remain unresolved.

But at least 18 of the cops involved remain in active duty, occupying high level positions, according to El Heraldo.

"The recent raid signals an important departure from the impunity Honduras' notoriously corrupt police force has enjoyed. The open cases will test other historically weak links in Honduran justice as it moves through the legal system," according to InSight Crime.

Organizations of civil society, including Transparency International and Alianza por la Paz y la Justicia, called on officials to purge the police force of "bad apples," reports La Prensa

Thirty cases under investigation link police officers to other murders over the past decade, reports La Prensa.

News Briefs
  • The family of slain Honduran environmental and indigenous activist Berta Cáceres is urging Washington to cut off aide to the Central American country until human rights defenders receive proper protection. They doubt the Honduran government's ability (desire?) to investigate the murder and are seeking an independent international investigation, reports the Miami Herald.
  • The Nation reports on critics of U.S. policy towards Honduras in the wake of the 2009 coup that ousted President Mel Zelaya. Specifically, the piece focuses on a USAID  to reduce violent crimes, "Honduras Convive," which critics say "was an attempt by the State Department to scrub the image of a country where security forces have a record of domestic repression that continues to the present day."
  • Marches across Peru, at least 30,000 demonstrators in Lima, protested presidential front-runner Keiko Fujimori yesterday, on the anniversary of her father's most infamous power grab, reports Reuters. Fujimori cancelled campaign events yesterday, ahead of Sunday's vote. Though she is expected to get the most votes in April 10's election, stiff opposition to her could trip her up in a second-round. (See Monday's post.)
  • OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro criticized the expulsion of candidates ahead of the election, reports the Global Post
  • Equal consideration under the law: A Brazilian supreme court justice, Marco Aurélio Mello, ruled yesterday that Congress must consider an impeachment request against Vice President Michel Temer, as the lower chamber considers a request against President Dilma Rousseff. Temer is accused of the same fiscal crimes for which Rousseff is accused, but a request made last year against him was postponed by Eduardo Cunha, the speaker of the lower chamber, who is spearheading the effort against the president, reports the New York Times. Though the decision doesn't refer to Temer's potential guilt, it will likely embolden Rousseff supporters who view him as "the shadowy figure engineering the impeachment effort against her, from within her government." It could throw the country in even more political upheaval, raising the possibility of the country's two top leaders being ousted, notes the Wall Street Journal.
  • There are also increasing calls for early elections, reports the Guardian.
  • Haiti's oft-postponed presidential election may see yet another delay. The head of the new Provisional Electoral Council, the body charged with carrying out the elections, said the second round voting will not occur as scheduled on the last Sunday of this month, reports the Miami Herald. He said the root issues ailing the electoral process must first be attacked, and avoided questions regarding a recount of the first round results which have been maligned as massively fraudulent.
  • On the subject of Panama (see yesterday's post), Jon Lee Anderson has a colorful New Yorker piece on the various ways the country has specialized in helping launder ill-gotten funds, avoid national taxes, and even the warm welcome extended to high profile white-collar fugitives. "Panama, which offers up its national flag to international shippers, local addresses to ghost corporations, and an anything-goes banking system to anyone with money, has long been renowned as an accommodating place for business," he writes. The Wall Street Journal also writes about Panama's economic growth thanks to an influx of money from around the world, even as the country rejects a reputation for attracting dirty money.
  • Nearly 100 journalists from 15 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean reports the Knight Center's "Journalism in the Americas blog." Latin American and Caribbean reporters working on the project came from news organizations and investigative centers in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.
  • InSight Crime has a further roundup of the information about figures from across the region.
  • Venezuela's electoral board says it's the only body that could reform referendum rules that dictate how the country's president could be removed, a potential obstacle to an opposition plan to  push through a law accelerating the process to hold a referendum so the vote can happen this year, reports Reuters. (See March 9's post.)
  • The Mexican government is on the offensive against a potential Trump presidency in the U.S. Mexico abruptly replaced its low-profile ambassador to Washington with an experienced, well-traveled diplomat and put a public relations expert into its Foreign Ministry's top spot for American affairs, reports the Los Angeles Times. The move responds to popular anger in Mexico over Trump's rhetoric and demands of a stronger response.
  • A piece in the Guardian argues that the Mexican government has steadily attempted to undermine international investigation into the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students. The piece quotes Ilán Semo, political historian at the Iberoamerican University, who says a fight with the IACHR which is conducting an independent investigation into the case and is critical of the government's conclusions, is "forms part of a broader pattern of behaviour in which the government has questioned the legitimacy of human rights activists and international organizations."
  • The Mexican army says it discovered nearly an acre of opium poppies in the township of Ensenada, near the U.S. border. Poppies are generally grown further south, but Mexican cartels have been expanding poppy production to export heroin to the U.S., reports the Associated Press.
  • Forty percent of Mexico City's cars are not permitted on the road today, in response to high levels of smog, a rotating ban that is expected to stay in effect through June, reports the Associated Press. Cars are responsible for 90 percent of the pollution that has led to an ozone buildup over the city, reports the Wall Street Journal. But the new rules have left many scrambling for alternative routes to work and school in a city with already cramped public transportation.

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