81 Honduras Police Officers Allegedly Worked for MS13 Gang

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An internal investigation alleges that 81 police officers in Honduras, including high-ranking officials, have been working for an MS13 gang leader and participated in horrific crime sprees that include the massacre of 12 people at a pool hall.

None of the officers in question have yet been charged for the alleged crimes. The report says eight of the officers were active participants in the March 5 mass killing at the pool hall attributed to the MS13, reported El Heraldo, which obtained a copy of the investigation filed with police commanders four months ago. The massacre took place in Comayagüela, which lays across the river from the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa.

The report was drafted by the National Police’s Strategic System for the Collection, Collation, Analysis and Storage of Information (Sistema Estratégico de Recolección, Cotejamiento, Análisis y Archivo de Información – SERCAA). SERCAA, made up of around 253 officers, is an elite foreign-trained police intelligence unit established to combat drug trafficking organizations.

The group of 81 police officers listed on the report were allegedly employed by the MS13 gang leader David Elias Campell Licona. Security forces recently mounted a raid to capture Campell Licona in the Rio Piedras neighborhood of San Pedro Sula, but El Heraldo reported that “without any logical explanation, the operation turned out to be a fiasco.”

The officers named in the report include several National Police commissioners and deputy commissioners. Of the 38 higher ranked officers implicated, one is currently in retirement, 17 were dismissed as part of a recent purge managed by a civilian reform commission, six had previously been kicked off the force, four have filed for disability but remain on the force, one is currently suspended, eight are on active duty, and another’s whereabouts are unknown. Of the 43 unranked officers, seven have been dismissed through the reform commission and the rest are still on active duty, reported El Heraldo.

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The National Police have long been associated with crime, corruption, and violence in Honduras. However, this is the first time that high-level officers have been accused of working for the violent street gangs that plague the country.

Police have been accused of working with drug trafficking organizations in the country. In 2016 a number of police officers were found to have been involved in high-level drug trafficking and extradited to the United States to stand trial. Additionally, 18 of the ranking police officials named as MS13 collaborators have been implicated in the 2010 murder of the nation’s anti-drug czar and the murder of his aid two years later, reported El Heraldo.

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Honduras has in recent months witnessed unprecedented reform via the much-lauded police purge and reform commission that dismissed more than 620 officers and referred more than 500 of them to the Attorney General’s Office for possible criminal prosecution. The Attorney General’s Office responded last week by creating a special unit to review accusations against police.

None of these officers has been charged despite the fact that the internal investigation concluded four months ago and the civilian reform commission was formed back in April amid credible allegations of hit-squads run out of police headquarters. That the reform process has not yet passed from the political to the legal realm raises questions about official willingness to prosecute corrupt officers. Whether the reform effort will result in sustainable change to the dysfunctional institution remains to be seen.

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