A high-level security official in Honduras has blamed recent massacres in San Pedro Sula on the capture of Sinaloa Cartel chief Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, but the spate of violence is more likely linked to the city's status as a strategic operational hub for international criminal organizations.
Since the beginning of March, San Pedro Sula has seen three different multiple homicide cases, with victims including foreign nationals.
Quintin Juarez, the San Pedro Sula chief of Fusina -- a newly created security force charged with violence reduction -- attributed the deaths to international drug traffickers vying for power after Guzman's February arrest, reported El Heraldo. Juarez also called the deaths "selective" and "the product of drug trafficking."
The wave of violence began March 3, when five people were ambushed outside a convenience store and shot dead by men in a truck. Days later, four men were killed during a suspected drug transfer gone bad, among them a Guatemalan, a Mexican, and a Belizean. Finally, on March 12, a Honduran mechanic and a Venezuelan were murdered in a pick-up truck.
InSight Crime Analysis
There has been much speculation about what the fall of “El Chapo” will mean for drug violence in Central America, which serves as a bridge between the cocaine producing countries of South America and the Mexican cartels that smuggle the drugs into the United States.
However, the security chief's statements that the recent murders are a result of Guzman's removal appear to be unfounded, as he provided no evidence to support them. Additionally, local and foreign security officials have told InSight Crime they do not expect any major power vacuum to emerge in Central America as a result of Guzman's capture. The Sinaloa Cartel has strong structures in Honduras, and it is unlikely Guzman's arrest would significantly disturb operations.
SEE ALSO: El Chapo Profile
The recent murders in San Pedro Sula, and the fact they involved foreign victims, may simply be a sign of how the city has become a primary destination for transnational criminals in general.
San Pedro Sula is Honduras' murder capital, but it is also the country's economic hub, making it an ideal place to launder money. Just 35 miles from the Guatemalan border and close to Puerto Cortes, Honduras' main port, it is also situated in a prime location for trafficking. Moreover, the city continues to struggle with widespread official corruption, adding to its appeal to criminals.