HomeNewsNew Minister, But Security Challenges Await Honduras President

New Minister, But Security Challenges Await Honduras President


The return of a former Honduran police chief who fled the country after arresting a string of top traffickers is the first sign that President Xiomara Castro wants to shake up the country’s security forces – but it will be a difficult task.

Ramón Sabillón, who on January 27 was appointed security minister by Castro, spent the previous five years in exile. Sabillón left because he feared for his own safety, claiming in interviews that he did his job too well by arresting traffickers and implicating politicians in the drug trade.

In 2014, Sabillón oversaw the arrests of top leaders of the Valle drug clan. He was later fired by then-President Juan Orlando Hernández.

SEE ALSO: Honduras President’s Alleged Role in Drug Conspiracy Comes Into Focus

Sabillón fled Honduras in 2016 after the emergence of documents that allegedly implicated him in a cover-up of police involvement in the 2009 case of a murdered police czar. Sabillón later claimed the government fabricated the documents as part of an effort to “neutralize the Honduran national police.” According to Univision, the documents are now “widely believed to have been manipulated for political purposes.”

Upon his return to Honduras, a triumphant Sabillón signaled he was ready to work for President Castro. He said he plans to continue extraditing traffickers as security minister.

InSight Crime Analysis

Though the return of Sabillon may be a promising step after years of corruption, Castro faces a host of challenges when it comes to rooting out drug trafficking and graft that reach the highest levels of the Honduran security forces and government.

To begin with, the new president inherits a security force heavily infiltrated by drug traffickers and their proxies. Military and police escorted cocaine shipments on the orders of top government officials, according to testimony heard during the trial of Juan Antonio "Tony" Hernández, the brother of President Hernández. Tony Hernández was convicted of drug trafficking in the United States in October 2019.

Several top Honduran security officials were accused of being linked to international drug conspiracies in US court filings. These included former security minister Julián Pacheco (2015-2022), who allegedly provided protection to a convoy transporting drugs from Honduras to Guatemala.

SEE ALSO: 3 Security Takeaways from Xiomara Castro's Historic Win in Honduras

Sabillón’s predecessor as police chief, Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares (2012-2013), was indicted in 2020 by US prosecutors, who accused him of protecting cocaine shipments on behalf of Tony Hernández’s drug ring.

Castro must also contend with the possibility that her predecessor might soon be indicted by the United States.

Tiziano Breda, Central America Analyst for the International Crisis Group, stressed the challenges faced by Castro in overhauling Honduras’ drug and security policy, citing institutional weaknesses and “sky-high levels of impunity” as key causes for concerns.

“Not only does she inherit a complex security situation, but also ill-prepared institutions to address it,” Breda told InSight Crime. “By naming a new minister, it is not guaranteed that she can heal the security forces.”

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.


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.


Related Content

COCA / 11 JUL 2022

Following multiple killings, Indigenous leaders in the Peruvian Amazon are again facing threats of violence after coca eradication operations in…

BRAZIL / 20 MAY 2021

The environment minister under investigation. The head of the environmental protection agency suspended. The Brazilian government is facing its strongest…

COCAINE / 15 JUN 2021

A recent report on drug trafficking and consumption in Europe highlights the acceleration of existing trends and the emergence of…

About InSight Crime


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…


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…


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…


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…


‘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…