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.

Compartir icon icon icon

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.

Related Content

BARRIO 18 / 4 SEP 2017

A new report mapping violence in Honduras' capital suggests that the country's gangs remain a root cause driving the…

HONDURAS / 16 DEC 2011

The Honduran government claims to have seized a some 22 metric tons of cocaine in 2011, but a quick look…

EL SALVADOR / 16 MAY 2017

A new report by an international humanitarian organization provides fresh statistics on the dangers that migrants from Central America's Northern…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…