Honduras Police Under Fire Following Drug Czar Murder Scandal

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Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández is taking swift action against the National Police force following an explosive report on how high-level officials were involved in the 2009 assassination of the country’s drug czar. 

On April 6, Hernández sent to Congress an emergency decree that would authorize the purging of up to 1,500 National Police officers, reported La Prensa. Legislators passed the 12-month, special regimen the next day. The measure comes just days after official documents obtained by newspaper El Heraldo revealed how dozens of officers, including members of the high command, planned and executed the assassination of Honduras’ drug czar Julián Arístides González in 2009 and one of his former advisers two years later.

Hernández even hinted at the possibility of doing away with the national police completely if the government is not able to root out corruption that is deeply entrenched within the force.

“Either we eliminate the National Police or we create [a force] that enjoys the confidence of the public,” the president said.

InSight Crime Analysis

Hernández’s move to purge — and possibly even eliminate — the troubled force may appear to be an appropriate response given its history of corruption and impunity, as exemplified by these two cases. The government had labeled both Gonzalez’s murder and that of his adviser, Alfredo Landaverde, as “emblematic” crimes and has been working to solve them for several years.

But the sheer volume of evidence and detail of the initial investigations points to a massive conspiracy that succeeded in keeping police involvement out of the public eye for a number of years. The true test of reform will be how thoroughly that conspiracy is unveiled. Focusing exclusively on the police may not give Honduras’s public the full picture.     

That these cases have been brought to the public’s attention now, and through a massive leak to El Heraldo newspaper rather than directly via the Public Ministry and proper judicial channels, has caused some observers to question the motives behind Hernández’s assault on the National Police. The president has staked a considerable amount of political capital on reforming the force through systematic purges, including the removal of over 700 officers in December 2014.

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Hernández has also pushed a hardline security approach that included a failed attempt to enshrine the country’s recently created Military Police of Public Order (Policía Militar del Orden Público) into the constitution. Congress rejected his bid in January 2015, but the combination of a damaging scandal involving the civilian police force and another round of purges may provide a window of opportunity for the president to broach the topic once again. 

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