HomeNewsBriefMS13 Bankrolled Honduras Mayor's Political Campaign: Report
BRIEF

MS13 Bankrolled Honduras Mayor's Political Campaign: Report

29 APR 2016 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

The MS13 reportedly financed a mayor's political campaign in Honduras and planned to back his bid for a congressional seat, an indication the gang is becoming more politically ambitious as its wealth increases. 

Jorge Neftalí Romero Mejía, mayor of the town of Talanga in the central department of Francisco Morazán, was arrested in late February on charges of illicit association and money laundering. The MS13 had allegedly given Romero Mejía 12 million lempiras (approximately $531,000), which he used to finance his mayoral campaign.

It appears the money was more of a loan than a gift. A source within the Attorney General's Office told La Tribuna in February that relations between Romero Mejía and the gang had become strained because the mayor had only paid back four million of the 12 million lempiras. 

But a new report by La Prensa, based on access to classified information from the Technical Agency of Criminal Investigation (Agencia Técnica de Investigación Criminal - ATIC), says the MS13 was planning on bankrolling a congressional campaign for the mayor, in the hopes that he would eventually become the president of Honduras' national congress.

The ATIC has also intercepted phone conversations in which gang members discuss sending the mayor "bricks" and "stuffed piñatas." Although detectives were unsure what these code words refer to, authorities in Honduras recently told InSight Crime that the gang had sent the mayor a tractor as a gift. What's more, Neftalí appears on the government's organizational chart of the MS13. (See below, bottom left)

16-04-29-Honduras-MS13-Org-Chart

InSight Crime Analysis

The MS13 appears to be earning significantly greater sums of money than it did in the past. As part of the ongoing offensive known as "Operation Avalanche," security forces have seized assets worth some 200 million lempiras (close to $9 million) that authorities say the gang had accumulated via extortion. The MS13 in Honduras is heavily involved in drug peddling, and last year authorities told InSight Crime field researchers that the gang is increasingly moving into the wholesale drug trade. 

16-01-05-honduras-gangs-in-honduras-cover

Download full report - pdf

With deeper pockets come new strategic priorities. The MS13's attempt to expand their political influence from the local to national level is a natural progression for a gang that is becoming wealthier -- and therefore more powerful. While a mayor has control over municipal budgets and security forces, a congressman -- especially one sitting on relevant committees -- can influence government contracts and gang legislation.

The accumulation of capital has also pushed the MS13 in a more entrepreneurial direction. InSight Crime researchers found gang members have become part or full owners of bus and taxi cooperatives in several parts of the country, while still others have taken to calling themselves "La Empresa," or The Business. 

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

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.