Ex-Guatemalan Congressman Arrested in Honduras

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Honduran authorities arrested a former Guatemalan congressman and a former top Honduran legal official in the city of San Pedro Sula on suspicion of participation in drug trafficking. Two other Guatemalans, one with possible connections to the Guatemalan government’s aviation board, were also captured. 

On December 6, police in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula arrested Juan Luis Gonzalez — who was congressional representative for the Guatemalan Republican Front (Frente Republicano Guatemalteco – FRG) from 2000 to 2004 — along with the former regional coordinator from the Honduran prosecutor’s office, Rafael Fletes, and two Guatemalan pilots, elPeriodico reports.

One of the pilots, Howard Gilberto Suhr Castellanos, was allegedly on the payroll of the Guatemalan government’s Civilian Aeronautics agency, elPeriodico says.

For his part, Fletes denied the charges in a press conference. 

El Tiempo in Honduras reports that the men were captured after a two week long investigation carried out by counternarcotics agents in Honduras, which linked them to a recent seizure of 10.5 tons of methamphetamine in the north-central department of Yoro. Some 80 other suspects have been arrested as part of the case, including Honduran deputy police commissioner Normando Rafael Lozano Lopez.

InSight Crime Analysis

Gonzalez was in the army and is also a helicopter pilot. While in office, he represented Alta Verapaz, a province known for its importance in the drug trafficking trade. For years, the area was run by Ottoniel Turcios, who in 2010 was captured in Belize and sent to the United States to face trial. Gonzalez was thought to be connected to the Turcios’ network, although he denied any connection to this group. Turcios’ organization was replaced by the feared Mexican organization, the Zetas.  

The allegations highlight the vulnerability of political parties, security forces, government and legal institutions in Guatemala and Honduras to organized crime. The reach of drug traffickers in Guatemala was underscored recently by the United Nations’ backed anti-impunity commission, known by its Spanish acronym CICIG, which released a report identifying 18 judges suspected of having criminal ties.

Drug trafficking groups in Honduras exercise a similar degree of control over elements of the government, especially the country’s notoriously corrupt police force. The government’s efforts to clean up the police there have been slow and seen little progress, and recently the Honduran Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional.

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