A member of a commission set up to purge Honduras’ National Police said the reform effort has found more evidence of hit squads and other criminal enterprises within the law enforcement agency, but it will be up to the courts to bring those cases to justice.
Omar Rivera, a member of the Special Commission for the Purging and Reform of the National Police, told La Prensa the commission had found police linked to “networks dedicated to killing, robbery, extortion, to protecting drug traffickers, and to joint action with gangs that have harmed the population.”
The reform effort began in April with the review of top-level police officers, including former directors and police commissioners, and has proceeded to the review of sub-commissioners. Rivera told La Prensa that 40 percent of 152 mid-ranking officers would be purged from the institution. That is about the same percentage of top-ranking officers who were kicked off the force.
Although the commission has detected extensive police involvement in crime, Rivera said its work was administrative and ended with the officers being stripped of their badge, uniform and service weapons, and being removed from the force. Anything beyond that, he added, was up to the Attorney General’s Office.
Members of the commission, which was formed at the behest of President Juan Orlando Hernández, have persisted in their work despite being subjected to a steady stream of death threats.
InSight Crime Analysis
President Hernández announced the commission’s formation shortly after old police investigation files implicating top police brass in high profile murders were leaked to the local press. The files implicated top officers in planning and directing the 2009 murder of Honduras’ anti-drug czar Julián Arístides González, as well as his deputy Alfredo Landaverde. González’s killing was allegedly a murder-for-hire paid for by a drug trafficker.
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The Guardian reported this month that the Honduran military has also been implicated in death squad activity. First Sergeant Rodrigo Cruz told the publication that he had seen murdered environmental activist Berta Cáceres’ name on a hit list circulated to US-trained special forces units of the Honduran military.
Central American security forces have been accused of a long list of human rights abuses, stretching back to Cold War conflicts in the subregion and beyond. The failure of justice systems to hold anyone accountable for those crimes is part of the reason modern Central American soldiers and police enjoy such a high degree of impunity.
An apparent lack of judicial action in the Landaverde and González murders is an indication that the impunity will continue despite the police reform in Honduras.