The mayor of a town in western Honduras was killed by three armed men reportedly wearing “fake” military uniforms, raising questions about the degree of military corruption in the Central American country.
On December 4, the mayor of the western Honduran town of Dolores Merendon, Manuel de Jesus Guzman, was fatally shot while driving in a vehicle with his family. According to La Prensa, a preliminary investigation by authorities suggests that the official was killed by at least three gunmen, all of whom were reportedly wearing military uniforms.
After opening fire, the assailants immediately fled the scene. Guzman was declared dead upon his arrival at a local hospital.
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Although the paper, which appears to be the only Honduran media source to report the military attire of the gunmen so far, refers to them as “false uniforms,” there is reason to question this narrative. While the Honduran armed forces are seen as more trustworthy than the country’s notoriously corrupt police force, the military has a less than sterling reputation. Corrupt military officers have sold weapons to drug trafficking organizations, and retired soldiers have provided military training to the Zetas, one of the most powerful drug cartels in the region.
Because of its strategic location — it shares a border with both Guatemala and El Salvador — Ocotepeque, the province where Dolores Merendon is located, has been identified by Honduran officials as a hotbed of drug trafficking activity. In April 2011, Security Minister Oscar Alvarez named Ocotepeque as one of the four main areas in the country which Mexican drug cartels are believed to use as an operations base.
Given the extent of corruption among Honduras’ army and the area’s importance to the illicit drug trade, there is reason to question whether Guzman was murdered by corrupt elements of the military. If this turns out to be the case, it would cast doubt on the Honduran government’s current strategy of relying on the military in its fight against drug trafficking.