April 20, 2016
Several prominent assassinations in Honduras’ recent history are clearly traceable to high-level police officials, according to newly leaked reports.
The assassinations include the head of Honduras’ anti-narcotics trafficking department — killed in 2009 — and a consultant in the same department, who was killed in 2011 — days after boldly stating on national television that 25 high-ranking police officials were involved in drug trafficking.
It was already public knowledge that the Honduran civilian police force is infiltrated by organized criminal groups, but these new reports — which include video recordings — indisputably connect high-level officials to the killings.
For years, AJS has pushed for proper investigations, prosecutions, and punishments for police linked to organized crime. While the Honduran government has taken action to remove some police from its rosters, there has not been any significant effort to prosecute members of the police force.
A coalition founded by AJS, the Alliance for Peace and Justice (APJ), has been leading the call for reforms in the police force. Among its spokespeople is Hilda Caldera, the widow of the official who was killed after speaking out on television. Hilda was sitting beside her husband in their car when assassins, under orders of police leadership, opened fire; she was hit but survived the attack.
During an AJS-organized press conference, Hilda demands justice for the assissnation of her husband and others.
The day after the reports were published in the Honduran media, Hilda stood with AJS leaders Kurt VerBeek, Carlos Hernandez, and Omar Rivera — along with other members of the APJ coalition — to demand urgent action by the government.
With a voice bearing the weight of both pain and moral conviction, Hilda called on Honduran officials to gather as much information as possible and bring corrupt police leaders to justice. It was a bold statement — a statement her husband would be proud of — spoken by someone who knows the cost of standing up to corruption.
AJS’s Omar Rivera addresses Honduran media with a list of demands from the Alliance for Peace and Justice, a coalition of civil society groups that AJS helps lead.
AJS Advocacy Coordinator Omar Rivera stood with Hilda and the other APJ members — leaders of religious, academic, and nonprofit organizations — to read a list of demands for change.
“The current situation and the poor results of the police purging process clearly evidence failure, and we are obligated to demand drastic measures to allow better effectiveness in the identification and punishment of [corrupt] police officers,” Rivera read from the list (available here, in Spanish).
Among the non-negotiable demands: an independent agency to investigate crimes committed by the police. This is in contrast to the current situation, in which the police are responsible for self-monitoring.
“The National Police cannot clean out itself; it wouldn’t be pertinent or possible,” Rivera said.
While there have been promising recent changes in the police force, not prosecuting the leaders responsible for these killings sends a message that undermines other efforts to recruit and train honest police, said AJS’s Carlos Hernandez.
AJS-Honduras President Carlos Hernandez takes questions from the media during a press conference demanding reforms in the Honduran police force.