An El Heraldo report revealed that top security officials have suppressed internal investigations into a police network that allegedly sold weapons to a Colombian guerrilla group in the early 2000s, yet another illustration of the institutionalized corruption within the force.
In March 2003, Estrada Izaguirre, a police officer on assignment in the southern department of Choluteca, sent a report to the director of Honduras’ Preventive Police division detailing a police-criminal network operating in the area, according to an investigation by El Heraldo. An aide to the Preventive Police director then sent a note to the head of a separate police division requesting an investigation into Izaguirre’s allegations.
Both whistleblowers were later killed; Izaguirre just months after filing the complaint, and the aide in July 2007, reported El Heraldo. Neither crime has been solved.
Izaguirre’s report also included the arrest of a Colombian pilot in Choluteca in 2002. According to El Heraldo, the pilot admitted shortly after his arrest that he had come to pick up 88 AK-47s and one M16 rifle that had been seized during the arrest of a Honduran police inspector in May 2001.
The pilot, who was reportedly in the reserves of Colombia’s Air Force and a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) guerrilla group, added that he and other pilots had gone to Honduras several times to exchange money and drugs for weapons.
A case file based on Izaguirre’s 2003 report, which was first registered in 2010 and has been updated as recently as 2016, reportedly shows that police directors and at least two security ministers knew of the investigation but never passed on the information to the Attorney General’s Office. Of the 30 police officials and low-ranking officers implicated in the criminal scheme, at least a dozen remain active, including six who serve as sub-commissioners, according to El Heraldo.
Moreover, a 2004 internal investigation based on Izaguirre’s claims was withdrawn by the implicated officers between 2004 and 2010, the newspaper reported.
InSight Crime Analysis
El Heraldo’s report resembles an explosive investigation released last year which found that a network of corrupt police officers were behind the 2009 killing of Honduras’ anti-drug czar and the 2011 murder of his assistant. Multiple police directors and security ministers reportedly failed to act on allegations of criminal wrongdoing in both cases, amounting to what appears to be widespread cover-ups.
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These cases point to institutionalized corruption within the police that is sustained by the system rather than individual officials. It’s this type of corruption that authorities are now trying to rid from the police, but their efforts have already been met with resistance.
Last year’s investigation was the catalyst for the creation of a police reform commission tasked with purging corrupt and inadequate officers from the force. The commission has proven surprisingly effective at investigating and removing both high- and low-ranking officers. But this aggressiveness has created a backlash, with members of the commission reporting death threats and one of them even being the subject of an attack last December.