Members of a commission established to purge Honduras’ National Police reported receiving increased death threats just hours after three police generals were kicked off the force on the commission’s recommendation.
Alberto Solórzano, a pastor and member of Honduras' Special Commission for the Purging and Reform of the National Police, told local media on June 21 that the increased number of death threats he’s received prompted him to take his family out of the country to ensure their safety.
Carlos Hernández, an adviser to the commission and president of the Association for a More Just Society (Asociación para una Sociedad Más Justa -- ASJ), has also taken his wife and children out of Honduras, reported El Heraldo. He told the newspaper that others working with the commission have done the same.
Solórzano’s statement came on the heels of his commission's announcement that three former National Police directors -- José Ricardo Ramírez del Cid, Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares and Ramón Antonio Sabillón -- had been purged from the force.
The commission was formed at the behest of President Juan Orlando Hernández shortly after old police investigation files implicating top police brass in high profile murders were leaked to the local press. The files implicated Ramírez del Cid and other high-level police officials in the 2009 murder of Honduras' anti-drug czar Julián Arístides González.
The files also implicated top police officials in the 2011 murder of González’s one-time adviser, Alfredo Landaverde. Both men were outspoken critics of police involvement in organized crime, especially drug trafficking.
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The commission has accomplished a lot in two months, especially given that it has no official budget and has received limited government support. It dismissed, suspended or accepted the resignation of about 40 percent of the 272 high-ranking officers it has evaluated so far.
Given their reputation for corruption, and the impunity from prosecution that Honduran police have long enjoyed, it is not surprising that individuals or groups are resorting to intimidation in an attempt to block the commission's work. It's members began reporting threats shortly after they were sworn in.
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The effort to reform the police comes as the internationally-backed Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (Misión de Apoyo Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad en Honduras - MACCIH) is just getting off the ground. The body will be charged with assisting in politically sensitive corruption cases.
If the threats against those tasked with purging the police are any indication, MACCIH is likely to encounter staunch opposition as it tries to help Honduras root out corruption and uncover links between Honduran elites and organized crime groups.