A representative from a leading NGO in Honduras says at least four high-ranking police officials head drug trafficking organizations, a claim that underscores the depth of police corruption and the difficulty of the job facing the country's new president.
Josue Murillo, coordinator of the Alliance for Peace and Justice (APJ) -- an umbrella group of Honduran NGOs that advocates for security and justice reform -- claimed four or five leading officials were involved in the drug trade and ran small criminal groups of corrupt officers operating within the national police. He also said that fear and collusion from within the police prevented investigation into the matter, reported El Heraldo.
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"Those who have led and are leading the national police are responsible for the organized crime and drug trafficking that has penetrated the core of the Honduran national police," said Murillo.
Murillo's claims emerged at the same time it was announced three high-ranking national police officers were under investigation for $7.4 million of property in their possession, a value inconsistent with their incomes.
InSight Crime Analysis
The infiltration of organized crime into the Honduran police is well-documented. In mid-2013, 1,400 officers from the Criminal Investigation Unit (DNIC) were suspended on suspicions of such links. Despite millions of dollars spent in an ongoing effort to clean up the force, little progress has been made.
The accusation that high-level officials lead drug rings highlights a major obstacle to implementing effective reform in the country: Honduran police not only take bribes from criminals -- as is common in the region -- but actively participate in organized crime. Corruption and illicit activity also goes up to the highest levels of the force, with the country's recently dismissed police chief previously accused of involvement in death squads.
In the face of a deeply corrupt and ineffective police force, the previous administration frequently resorted to using the military to fight crime. Recently inaugurated President Juan Orlando Hernandez seems set to follow this track, sending military police to the streets of the capital as one of his first acts of leadership.
However, this tactic raises human rights concerns and is not ultimately a solution to the problem of institutional flaws that allow crime to proliferate. Whether Hernandez will demonstrate the necessary political will to implement effective police reform remains to be seen.