• Connect with us on Linkedin

WikiLeaks: Zelaya and Organized Crime

The U.S. cable with several references to organized crime's ties to former Honduran President Mel Zelaya is a tantalizing document on many levels, mostly because of the casual way in which then outgoing Ambassador Charles A. Ford describes the relationship, as if it were common knowledge.

Linkedin
Google +

Critics of the cable revealed by WikiLeaks – including Zelaya himself, who took to the airwaves on Sunday and sent the Associated Press a denial -- say that it does not present evidence of these ties. But a diplomatic cable is not an indictment; it is, in this case, the ambassador's perceptions, and these perceptions sting.

In addition to calling Zelaya, who was ousted in 2009 in what amounted to a military coup, a "rebellious teenager," Ford says flatly, "There also exists a sinister Zelaya, surrounded by a few close advisors with ties to both Venezuela and Cuba and organized crime."

What exactly Ford means by "organized crime" is not entirely clear. Numerous small aircraft, mostly from Venezuela, land with illegal drugs in Honduras regularly, and the country sees over 200 tons of cocaine go through its borders per year, according to latest State Department Drug Threat Assessment report.

But later Ford hints at something more.

"Zelaya's inability to name a Vice Minister for Security lends credibility to those who suggest that narco traffickers have pressured him to name one of their own to this position," he writes. "Due to his close association with persons believed to be involved with international organized crime, the motivation behind many of his policy decisions can certainly be questioned."

The organized criminal syndicate pressuring the president was the so-called Cachiros gang. Run by Nelson and Javier Rivera, the Cachiros were car thieves and cattle rustlers in the Colon province before entering the drug trade. They now receive and move large quantities of cocaine from the coast to the border with Guatemala for the Sinaloa and Gulf Cartels, among others.

The Riveras had their political contact, the senator and former mayor of Trujillo, Ramon Salgado Cuevas, pressure the presidency to name a candidate of their liking, Honduran intelligence told InSight. Ultimately Zelaya deferred to his own candidate. Salgado Cuevas was later assassinated.

What the cable does not mention are the persistant rumors about Zelaya's brother Carlos and his political benefactor, Ulises Sarmiento, and their connection to the drug trade. Neither has been accused of a crime, but in November 2009, gunmen attacked with automatic weapons and grenades the house of Sarmiento's son in Juticalpa, the capital of the Olancho department, while Sarmiento was visiting.

No one was injured, and Sarmiento's political allies said the attack was related to his support of Zelaya, who was then holed up in the Brazilian embassy trying to force the de facto government to put him back in power. However, the brazen assault bore the hallmarks of a battle between drug traffickers.

To be sure, Olancho, Zelaya's homestate, has become a hotbed for trafficking. Ranchers "rent" their land so the criminals can land their aircraft. The drugs are then taken through Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sula on their way north.

Former Honduran drug czar Aristides Gonzalez denounced ten airstrips in Olancho just days before he was assassinated last December.

The U.S. cable also shows the level of mistrust the U.S. had in Zelaya.

"I am unable to brief Zelaya on sensitive law enforcement and counter-narcotics actions due my concern that this would put the lives of U.S. officials in jeopardy," Ford writes, before adding this ominous ending:

"The last year and a half of the Zelaya Administration will be, in my view, extraordinarily difficult for our bilateral relationship. His pursuit of immunity from the numerous activities of organized crime carried out in his Administration will cause him to threaten the rule of law and institutional stability."

Zelaya lives in the Dominican Republic in exile.

Linkedin
Google +

---

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We also encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, provided that it is attributed to InSight Crime in the byline, with a link to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

InSight Crime Search

The Complete Organized Crime Database on the Americas

InSight Crime Social

facebooktwittergooglelinkedin

InSight Crime Special Series

The Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

Los Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

After the capture of Zetas boss "Z40," Nuevo Laredo is bracing itself for the worst. This investigation breaks down what makes the city such an important trafficking corridor, and what it will take for the Zetas to maintain their grip on the city.

See entire series »

 

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill

Uruguay: Marijuana, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

Uruguay is poised to become the first country on the planet to regulate the production, sale, and distribution of the drug.

See entire series »

El Salvador's Gang Truce

El Salvador's Gang Truce

The truce between El Salvador's two largest gangs -- the MS-13 and the Barrio 18 -- opens up new possibilities in how to deal with

See entire series »

Juarez After The War

Juarez After The War

As a bitter war between rival cartels grinds to an end, Ciudad Juarez has lost the title of world murder capital, and is moving towards something more like normality.

See entire series »

The Zetas And The Battle For Monterrey

The Zetas and the Battle for Monterrey

InSight Crime delves into the Zetas' battle for Mexico’s industrial capital, Monterrey, getting to the essence of a criminal gang that defies easy definition.

See entire series »

Slavery in Latin America

Slavery in Latin America

InSight Crime coordinated an investigation into modern slavery, looking at how Latin America’s criminal groups traffic human beings and force them to work as slaves.

See entire series »

FARC, Peace and Criminalization

FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

The possibility of ending nearly 50 years of civil conflict is being dangled before Colombia. While the vast majority of the Colombian public want to see peace, the enemies of the negotiations appear to be strong, and the risks inherent in the process are high.

See entire series »

Displacement in Latin America

Displacement in Latin America

InSight Crime coordinated an investigation into the new face of displacement in Latin America, where organized criminal groups are expanding and forcing people to flee.

See entire series »

Target: Migrants

Target: Migrants

The growth of organized crime in Mexico and Central America has led to an increase in violence and insecurity across the region, posing challenges to citizens, public security forces, and travelers.

See entire series »

Zetas in Guatemala

The Zetas in Guatemala

Mexico's Zetas have taken Guatemala by storm, and they are testing this country and the rest of the region: fail this test, and Central America sinks deeper into the abyss.

See entire series »

Most Read

El Salvador Gangs Teach Honduras Counterparts Secret Codes

El Salvador Gangs Teach Honduras Counterparts Secret Codes

Imprisoned gang leaders in Honduras are receiving instructions from their counterparts in El Salvador on how to transmit coded messages, reported El Heraldo, highlighting the collaboration between gangs in the two countries.

Read more

Internal Displacement in Brazil: An Inconvenient Truth?

Internal Displacement in Brazil: An Inconvenient Truth?

As Brazil works to project the image of a nation that is effectively addressing security challenges in its major cities, one important indicator -- internal displacement -- is being overlooked. 

Read more

El Salvador Investigates both Sets of Gang Truce Negotiators

El Salvador Investigates both Sets of Gang Truce Negotiators

El Salvador's attorney general has confirmed that his office is investigating the actions of both sets of negotiators in the country's gang truce, suggesting there will be no more semi-official attempts at mediation with gangs...

Read more

Latest Criminal Profile