Alleged Honduras President Assassination Plot Raises Questions

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In a curious story that raises as many questions as it answers, Spanish news agency EFE is reporting that a group of Honduran, Guatemalan, Colombian and Mexican drug traffickers allegedly planned to assassinate the president of Honduras last year.

EFE reported the multinational gang’s plan to kill President Juan Orlando Hernandez in September 2014 was thwarted by Honduran authorities. Some of the would-be assassins — who were not identified — were reportedly arrested and deported back to their home countries. No other government that received these deportees is quoted in the story. 

Honduras’ Secretary of Foreign Relations, Arturo Corrales, told EFE the US government confirmed the failed assassination plan, but no one of the United States government is cited in the story either. 

Corrales added authorities have records of intercepted phone calls in which the alleged drug traffickers admit to the plan, but no further details are given about these phone calls.

Hernandez decided to not publicly reveal the plot against him because it would distract from Honduras’ concerted efforts to combat organized crime, Corrales said. Corrales called the decision “strategic, but also brave.”

Security Minister Julian Pacheco told EFE Hernandez has received threats since he was president of Honduras’ Congress from 2010-2014. During that time, Hernandez proposed more than a dozen laws to reduce violence, as well as combat drug trafficking and organized crime, according to Pacheco, which is what supposedly put Hernandez on the traffickers’ hit list. 

InSight Crime Analysis

President Hernandez’s efforts against high level drug traffickers have been impressive. His administration captured and green-lit the extradition to the United States of a number of high-level drug traffickers in the past year, many of whom were once considered untouchable because of their connections to Honduras’ elite. 

But the decision of several members of Hernandez’s inner circle to speak on the record about this alleged threat seems premeditated and almost strategic. These same extraditions have raised the specter that the alleged traffickers facing trial in the US might be talking to US prosecutors about the political and business elite’s connections to organized crime and how they used illicit proceeds to finance political campaigns.

Notably, two additional Honduran traffickers have ended up in US custody, apparently without the help of Honduran officials. Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga and his older brother, Javier Eriberto Rivera Maradiaga, the head of the once formidable Honduran transport group the Cachiros, handed themselves in to the US in January, presumably to avoid assassination that befell their cohort, the former governor Juan Gomez. 

One report, citing several unidentified sources, said that Hernandez met with his current Vice President, Ricardo Alvarez, in April 2013 on a property belonging to the Cachiros, to arrange their presidential ticket.

SEE ALSO: Honduras News and Profiles

Hernandez’s story about defying these traffickers may insulate him against any forthcoming accusations of ties to the Cachiros or other criminal groups. If nothing else, a reported assassination attempt carried out by a multinational drug trafficking force — which received headlines in several major Honduran newspapers — will earn him favorable standing with the Honduran population. 

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