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

HONDURAS / 26 JAN 2018

New corruption and impunity allegations emerging on the eve of the inauguration of Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández have cast…

HONDURAS / 22 SEP 2011

Honduras’ National Commission for Human Rights reports that 23 journalists have been murdered in the country since 2007; 16 of…

COLOMBIA / 21 JAN 2013

Twin brothers accused of coordinating drug trafficking operations from Colombia's San Andres Island to parts of Central America…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…

THE ORGANIZATION

Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…