The arrest of a mayor in Honduras for homicide and connections to criminal groups makes him the latest in a string of city hall bosses to be accused of corruption in the Central American nation, a pattern that is mirrored throughout Latin America.
Delvin Salgado, mayor of the town of El Negrito in northern Honduras, was arrested on September 7 on charges of homicide and illicit association, reported La Prensa. He is accused of committing two homicides between 2013 and 2014, as well as having links to a local gang and a “social cleansing” group, according to El Heraldo.
Prosecutors say a police officer had confiscated firearms from everyone in El Negrito who didn’t have a license to carry weapons, including members of the social cleansing group. Salgado allegedly ordered the weapons be returned to the group.
The police officer was ambushed and killed just days later as he was traveling to El Negrito, reported El Heraldo.
Salgado vigorously denied the allegations.
“I swear on my mother and my father who just died that I have nothing to do with this,” Salgado reportedly said while in custody in San Pedro Sula.
InSight Crime Analysis
In several instances, criminal organizations have been shown to have close relationships with Honduran mayors. Nine mayors across the country have been arrested for a range of crimes, including murder, drug trafficking and money laundering. (Two have been absolved of wrongdoing since their arrest.) As of April 2015, authorities were investigating no less than 35 mayors or deputy mayors for alleged links to organized crime.
The spokesperson for Honduras’ Security secretariat, Luis Osabas, recently asserted that mayors’ involvement in criminal activity is unrelated to the power they wield at the local level.
“This is not about denigrating the figure of mayor because these are personal acts and it has nothing to do with the figure or position they occupy,” Osabas said.
SEE ALSO: Honduras News and Profiles
But the decentralization of political power in Honduras and across Latin America has in fact given mayors greater control over municipal budgets and security forces. This autonomy has made mayors’ offices a favorite target for criminal groups, who seek to either co-opt local officials or place one of their own in a position of authority.
Although local corruption is rife throughout the region, the most notorious case came in 2014, when the mayor of the town of Iguala, Mexico allegedly ordered police and a criminal gang to abduct and likely murder 43 college students.