Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras is currently one of the most violent countries on the planet that is not at war. The violence is carried out by transnational criminal organizations, local drug trafficking groups, gangs and corrupt security forces, among other actors. Violence is the focal point for the international aid organizations, governments and multilaterals providing Honduras with assistance, and it is the central theme of media coverage inside and outside of of the country.

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Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

As it tends to happen in Honduras, the news began as a well-heeled rumor: Javier Rivera Maradiaga, the oldest of the three Rivera Maradiaga brothers still alive and leader of the feared and powerful Honduran drug trafficking group known as the Cachiros, had handed himself in to United States authorities to face drug trafficking charges.

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Elites and Organized Crime: Methodology

This study focuses on four countries: Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Colombia. Each presents different challenges and opportunities for research, and makes its own contribution to our snapshot of elite groups and organized crime in the region.

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Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

On the morning of April 5, 1988, Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros left his palatial Tegucigalpa estate for a jog. Matta Ballesteros was wanted for murder, drug trafficking and other crimes in several countries, but in Honduras he felt safe. He regularly hosted parties for high-level officials at his home and had connections to military officers.1 He employed thousands of locals at his legitimate businesses, who sang his praises for providing medicines, building schools and donating to charitable causes.2 Legend has it that he once offered to pay the government’s mounting foreign debt, which at least one politician appeared to take seriously.3

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Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Organized crime and the violence associated with it is the preeminent problem in Latin America and the Caribbean today. The region is currently home to six of the most violent countries in the world that are not at war. Four of those countries are in Central America, where we centered our research. Public opinion polls also consistently show that crime and insecurity are at the top of the region’s concerns. Governments and multilaterals have channeled vast resources towards dealing with this issue, and international aid and humanitarian organizations have shifted their mandates to better confront its effects.

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