The arrest of a special investigations agent wanted for extradition by the United States over alleged connections to Honduran drug kingpins the Valles casts a new light on the ongoing failures of attempts to weed out police corruption in Honduras.
Wilmer Alonso Carranza Bonilla, an agent with 15 years experience in the police force who worked in a unit dedicated to investigating drug trafficking, money laundering and asset seizures, was arrested last week for colluding with drug traffickers from the Valles crime clan, reported Tiempo.
Carranza, who authorities say helped the Valles move drug shipments and avoid capture, is wanted for extradition on drug trafficking charges by the United States.
The head of Honduras' police internal affairs department, the Directorate for Investigation and Evaluation of Police (DIECP), admitted Carranza had previously been evaluated for corruption but had only been submitted to a polygraph test -- which he passed, reported La Tribuna. He also announced the DIECP will soon create a new investigative unit to identify and prosecute so-called 'narco police.'
InSight Crime Analysis
Links between the police and organized crime are firmly entrenched in Honduras, and the announcement of the new unit comes after millions of dollars have already been spent on police reform initiatives in recent years.
Confidence tests to weed out corrupt elements, including not only polygraphs but also other tests such as drug tests, psychological evaluations and asset analysis, have been a central part of these reforms. The Honduran authorities say these tests have led to the removal of hundreds of police from their positions -- but critics dispute this, claiming in reality there has been little effort to purge the force of those failing the tests.
SEE ALSO: The Valles Profile
The Carranza case raises another issue with the reform process -- whether the tests themselves can be relied on to identify corrupt elements. As in this case, much depends on how the tests are administered, and whether they are carried out completely. In a police force rife with corruption where under-resourced and poorly trained units are common, it may well also depend on who administers them.
In this environment, the creation of a new force to identify corrupt police may appear to be a step forward but its success will depend entirely on how the measure is implemented. A new unit can only succeed where other reform attempts have failed if it's agents are well resourced, properly trained, backed by the police leadership -- and clean.