A journalist has been kidnapped in Honduras, and an ex-police officer with suspicious ties to the incident has been allowed to walk free, seemingly illustrating both the degree of police corruption in Honduras well as the dangers of being a journalist in the country.
According to La Tribuna, HRN radio news manager Alfredo Villatoro was taken hostage by unknown abductors on his way to work in Tegucigalpa on the morning of May 9.
Authorities arrested ex-police sergeant Gerson Basilio Godoy in connection with the kidnapping, but El Heraldo reports that he was released after ten hours in custody. Basillo was dismissed from the police force in September 2011 for his alleged links to a kidnapping and extortion network.
He initially drew the attention of officials when he was seen driving a Toyota pickup truck which had been seen parked in front of Villatoro’s house yesterday morning, and which had a scratch on one side bearing paint residue apparently belonging to the journalist’s vehicle. There have been no other announced arrests in the case, and although Villatoro’s family has said they have been contacted by the kidnappers, his whereabouts are still unknown.
InSight Crime Analysis
The incident is yet another reminder of the dangers faced by Honduran journalists, and comes just days after the disappearance and subsequent murder of reporter Erick Alejandro Martinez. Martinez, a member of the Honduran resistance movement, went missing on May 5 and was found dead three days later. Human rights groups say he was the 22nd journalist to have been killed in the past two years under the administration of President Porfirio Lobo.
While police officials say that Basilio was freed due to a lack of evidence against him, the reports linking his vehicle to the kidnapping are incriminating. While the details of Basilio’s release are still unclear, this seems to highlight the endemic level of police corruption in Honduras, where up to 40 percent of police are suspected of ties to organized crime, according to the Congressional vice president.
As a means of tackling police corruption, the Lobo administration has given the military more law enforcement duties and created a commission to purge the police force of criminal elements. However, the commission has been met with a marked lack of cooperation on the part of police officials, and little progress has been made.