HomeNewsBriefArrest, and Release, in Nicaragua Illustrates Confusion About Honduras
BRIEF

Arrest, and Release, in Nicaragua Illustrates Confusion About Honduras

ELITES AND CRIME / 6 JUL 2015 BY MICHAEL LOHMULLER EN

The arrest, and quick release, in Nicaragua of a Honduran opposition political figure with suspected criminal links illustrates the complex overlap between politics and organized crime in Central America.

According to La Prensa, on July 3, Nicaraguan authorities detained Honduran cattle rancher Ulises Sarmiento -- along with his wife and four of his children -- only to release him the following day -- although members of his family remained in police custody.

The Sarmiento family is seeking political asylum in Nicaragua, claiming they are the victims of political persecution by the Honduran government due to their involvement with the leftist political party Libertad y Refundacion (LIBRE). Rafael Sarmiento -- one of Ulises’ sons -- is a LIBRE congressional candidate.

Family members also claim their support for former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has made them a target of the administration of current President Juan Orlando Hernandez. Zelaya was supporting the family in their asylum request, and strongly condemned their arrest. 

It remains unclear why authorities detained Sarmiento. For years, rumors have swirled about his alleged involvement in organized crime. His wife was assassinated in brutal fashion in 2013, and his nephew, the mayor of a prominent city, was arrested in June on gun trafficking charges. He has been the target of assassination attempts, but family members have told InSight Crime that these attacks are political, not criminal, in nature.

At least one report says Nicaraguan and Honduran authorities detained the family, but Honduran authorities later insisted there are no outstanding warrants for his arrest in Honduras and denied claims of political persecution.

InSight Crime Analysis

Sarmiento and his family might be political fugitives. They might be involved in criminal activities. Or both things might be true at the same time, and sorting through them is often a nearly impossible task.

To begin with, Sarmiento's support for ex-President Zelaya -- he is rumored to have helped Zelaya return to Honduras after he was ousted in the 2009 coup -- is well known. His financial support of the party is also public knowledge. 

What's more, Sarmiento's connections to the left date back at least to the 1970s when he reportedly assisted Sandinistas from Honduras, providing a safehouse, among other logistical and financial support

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Elites and Organized Crime

Nonetheless, Sarmiento and his family have also been suspected of involvement in drug trafficking for years -- allegedly forming a network to transport drugs through Honduran territory. Olancho, Sarmiento’s home state, is known to be a hotbed for drug trafficking, with ranchers allowing drug planes to land on their vast estates.

Regardless, Sarmiento’s arrest in Nicaragua, and its unclear motives, demonstrates the difficulty in distinguishing between cases of political persecution and legitimate criminal investigations in Honduras -- a country where economic and political elites have repeatedly be shown to be involved in criminal activities.

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

Related Content

EL SALVADOR / 20 JUL 2022

The US government has added dozens of individuals to a list of allegedly corrupt actors in Central America.

COCAINE / 24 NOV 2021

An unusually drawn-out feud between two rival gangs in northern Costa Rica has left over 150 people dead in five…

COLOMBIA / 12 MAY 2022

The assassination of a crusading Paraguayan prosecutor while on honeymoon in Colombia has caused widespread alarm about the rising levels…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…

THE ORGANIZATION

‘Ndrangheta Investigation, Exclusive Interview With Suriname President Make Waves

2 DEC 2022

Two weeks ago, InSight Crime published an investigation into how Italian mafia clan the ‘Ndrangheta built a cocaine trafficking network from South America to ‘Ndrangheta-controlled Italian ports. The investigation generated…