HomeNewsAnalysisHonduras President Selective When Targeting Criminal Crackdowns
ANALYSIS

Honduras President Selective When Targeting Criminal Crackdowns

ELITES AND CRIME / 27 FEB 2019 BY PARKER ASMANN EN

While he cracks down on gangs, the president of Honduras has largely ignored drug trafficking charges leveled at his family members and officials within his governing party, raising questions about his desire to take on corruption that implicates his inner circle. 

Beginning in late January, President Juan Orlando Hernández sent military and national police into the streets to take on gangs like the MS13. Amid this show of force, Hernández said that the Central American nation needed to increase the presence of its security forces, including elite units.

In addition, Hernández is pushing to create a remote maximum security prison with no satellite communication, saying that the country’s current prisons are “insufficient for so many captured criminals,” La Prensa reported.

The president's focus on hard-line security measures and combating the gangs comes shortly after federal US prosecutors accused two Honduran mayors of importing “massive quantities of cocaine” into the United States and using “heavy weaponry” like machine guns to protect drug shipments while working with other traffickers in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

Prosecutors say Amílcar Alexander Ardón Soriano, the former mayor of El Paraíso in Honduras’ western Copán department along the border with Guatemala, had access to at least one cocaine laboratory and a clandestine air strip.

He “leveraged his power by charging a per-kilogram tax” on cocaine shipments transported by other traffickers through the area under his control, according to the indictment. Ardón Soriano also allegedly used some of his drug revenues to “fund political campaigns in Honduras” for himself and other associates.

SEE ALSO: Honduras News and Profiles

During Honduras' 2013 presidential elections, Ardón Soriano was also accused of engaging in dirty tricks in favor of the governing National Party’s candidate at the time, President Hernández. He allegedly helped intimidate voters and block access to voting centers. Hernández secured more than 80 percent of the vote and went on to win the presidency.

Also charged with federal drug trafficking crimes is Mario José Cálix Hernández, the former mayor of Gracias in western Lempira department along the border with El Salvador. Prosecutors say he facilitated cocaine shipments and worked with drug traffickers who allegedly paid bribes to public officials, including to members of the National Congress and National Police, according to his indictment.

Cálix Hernández is the cousin of the head of Honduras’ Anti-Narcotics Directorate, Soraya Cálix. His co-conspirator, according to authorities, was former Honduran congressman Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, the brother of President Hernández. 

Federal US authorities arrested Tony Hernández in November 2018 on drug charges. Prosecutors allege he was a “large-scale drug trafficker” who went so far as to stamp his initials on drug shipments he handled.

InSight Crime Analysis

Aside from responding to the arrest of his brother, President Hernández has largely remained silent on the slew of Honduran officials charged with drug trafficking, of which Ardón Soriano and Cálix Hernández are just the latest examples. 

In 2018, US authorities charged former National Party Congressman Midence Oquelí Martínez Turcios with conspiring to traffic cocaine into the United States. Before that, in August 2017, Hernández’s former investment minister, Yankel Rosenthal, pleaded guilty to US charges that he laundered drug money.

Meanwhile, Hernández has chosen to hammer down on the gangs, rather than address the allegedly corrupt government officials linked to the country's drug trafficking groups.

In November of 2017, Hernández won a bitterly contested reelection bid that was defined by allegations of widespread fraud and the deadly repression of protesters.

“It is entirely implausible that Hernández did not have knowledge of the alleged criminal activities of these newly indicted individuals or of his brother’s criminal projects,” Dana Frank, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told InSight Crime in an email.

SEE ALSO: Honduras Elites and Organized Crime

Christine Wade, a Central America expert and political science professor at Washington College, said these latest indictments against two former mayors with ties to Hernández showcase the “systemic rot” of the country’s political establishment. 

“Organized crime and drug trafficking organizations have permeated Honduras’ state institutions at every level,” she added.

Despite all this, Hernández is still embraced by the United States as a key regional ally on security and anti-drug issues.

But Wade says that “mounting criminal charges in US courts,” in addition to what Ardón Soriano may possibly reveal through cooperating with US authorities in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), may make the misdeeds of those around Hernández "harder to ignore."

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ELITES AND CRIME / 9 MAR 2021

The naming of judges to Guatemala's high courts has turned into an escalating fight between political elites seeking to stack…

BARRIO 18 / 12 APR 2022

With a near unprecedented wave of arrests, the El Salvador government is doubling down and expanding on heavy-handed security policies,…

EL SALVADOR / 2 APR 2021

El Salvador President Nayib Bukele has appointed a new security minister whose alleged ties to officials and political operators accused…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…