Honduras: Murder Rate Surges Deflating Hopes for Better 2019

A report by teleSur on 10 May 2019 gives details of the 2019 homicide rate in Honduras. Extracts from the teleSur report are given below.

“We cannot place a policeman or military member on every bus.”

The number of violent deaths in Honduras has gone up in April and May, sometimes by a rate as high as 98 percent over figures from 2018.

According to a report by the General Directorate of Forensic Medicine and the National Observatory of Violence of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (OV-UNAH), between Jan. 1 and May 8 of 2019, 1,258 people were murdered – a rate of 10 per day. While the overall number for the year is lower than the 1,340 registered homicides that took place during the same time last, the number of deaths in April and May of 2019 have increased significantly.

April 2019 saw 78 more violent deaths over last April and in the first 8 days of May there were 113 violent deaths, 38 more than those that occurred in the same period of the previous year.  

Wednesday (8th) was an especially violent day with 25 murders taking place all over the country according to a report by Criterio. The deaths were registered in cities such as La Ceiba, Choluteca, Danlí, Lepaterique, Teupasenti, El Paraíso, San Pedro Sula and Santa Cruz de Yojoa.  

Just the day before on Tuesday at the Central American Security Conference 2019 run by the United States Southern Command, and including Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico as observers, the head of the Armed Forces of Honduras René Orlando Fonseca had said that Honduras “lives in a climate of peace and security” and that “violence is sporadic.”

This year, 274 homicides were reported in January, 258 violent deaths in February, and in March there were 251 homicides, figures below those registered in 2018 during the same period.

Those three encouraging months of reduced homicides in the country were overshadowed, however, by the high incidence of deaths in April and the start of May.

Spokesman for the Secretariat of Security Jair Meza, a high ranking police official, attributed the increase in violent deaths to “gangs and gangs linking up to acquire territories for the sale of drugs in different neighbourhoods.” Meza argued that another factor causing the high incidence of homicides is extortion, mainly in the transportation sector.

According to Sepol (the Police Statistical System), last Wednesday the driver of a local bus was executed on the Boulevard del Norte, apparently because of extortion.

“We cannot place a policeman or military member on every bus,” says Meza.

Israeli and US Troops to Honduras

By Martin Mowforth

Key words: Honduras; foreign troops; Southcom; migration prevention; counter-terrorism; Olivia Zúñiga Cáceres; civil unrest.

1,000 Israeli troops to Honduras

In May this year a multilateral treaty between Honduras, Israel and the United States saw the deployment of 1,000 Israeli soldiers to Honduras to train the Armed Forces of Honduras and the National Police. The treaty was forged between Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during the inauguration of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

The main mission of the troops is to train for border protection to prevent migrants fleeing Honduras to the USA, but they will also offer training in the fight against drug trafficking, investigation and counter-terrorism. (It may be a forlorn hope that they will unearth and expose the terrorism practised by the US forces in Honduras against so many Latin American nations.) The 1,000 troops will be stationed with the Joint Task Force of the US at the Soto Cano air base in Palmerola, the largest US military base in Latin America. 

The presence of Israeli soldiers is part of a bilateral cooperation agreed between the two countries and signed before Honduras transferred its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Another agreement between the two countries (signed in 2016 and for a period of ten years) commits Honduras to purchasing a million dollars’ worth of arms and military equipment and the repowering of ships and planes.

Olivia Zúñiga Cáceres, a deputy from the Partido Libertad y Refundación (Liberty and Refoundation Party), explained that the 2009 post-coup government “began to make military agreements where the Honduran army would receive more training, and it is all paid for with the taxes of the Honduran people, so that all of the general budget that was destined for health, education and public services is reduced.”

Zúñiga Cáceres (who also happens to be one of the daughters of the assassinated leader of COPINH, Berta Cáceres) went on to describe the Israeli armed forces as: “specialists in genocide, specialists in torture, which they do against the Palestinian people.”

300 US troops to Honduras

Another Southern Command (Southcom) brigade of US Navy and Marine soldiers arrived in Honduras at the beginning of June to “improve disaster response and other crisis situations”.

As Popular Resistance.org writes, “Southcom has been a controversial actor in Latin American politics for many years since its founding as a force to defend US interests at the Panama Canal. The commander of Southcom, US Admiral Craig Faller, has intimated that the force could be re-oriented for intervention in Venezuela …”

It is interesting to note that this new deployment of forces coincides with widespread civil unrest in Honduras. The protests of health and education workers have grown into broader demonstrations against government corruption and neoliberal economic development policies such as privatisation and deregulation. It also coincides with US efforts to persuade northern triangle countries’ governments (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) to prevent the waves of migrants that have chosen over the last nine months to leave the failed state that is Honduras.


  • Telesur, 6 May 2019, ‘1,000 Israeli Soldiers To Arrive in Honduras to Train Troops, Police on Border Protection’
  • Popular Resistance.org, 22 May 2019, ‘”This Is A War Against The Honduran People”’
  • Criterio, 3 June 2019, ‘Masiva protesta de médicos y docentes pese a división orquestada por el gobierno’
  • Rights Action, 3 June 2019, ‘Honduran Presidents linked to drug-trafficking & money laundering since US & Canadian-backed coup ousted Honduras’ last democratic government’
  • Public Sector Finance, 7 June 2019, ‘Protests in Honduras continue over public sector reforms’
  • Telesurenglish.net, 8 June 2019, ‘300 US Southcom Troops Arrive in Honduras to Teach ‘Humanitarian Assistance’’
  • School of The Americas watch (SOAW), 12 June 2019, SOAW News

Honduras: Protests Intensify Against President Hernandez

Hondurans demand the resignation of President Juan Orlando Hernandez in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Oct. 19, 2019. | Photo: EFE

The following report comes from TeleSur:

Published 19 October 2019  Telesur

Hondurans called for the resignation of Juan Orlando Hernandez after a U.S. federal court convicted his brother of drug trafficking.

Hondurans on Friday took to the streets to demand the resignation of President Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH) after the New York Federal Court found his brother, Tony Hernandez, guilty on charges of drug trafficking, use of weapons and lying to authorities.

“We call on all our militancy to total, organized and permanent nationwide mobilization by performing peaceful but firm and forceful protests,” said former president Manuel Zelaya, who is the Freedom and Refoundation Party (Libre) coordinator.

Besides asking the United States to suspend all aid to the Hernandez administration, Zelaya asked to give the Honduran people a “democratic government” and fair laws.

During the trial of Tony Hernandez, the U.S. jury heard testimony from drug traffickers who claimed that politician JOH used their money to finance his campaigns on at least two occasions.

This alleged fact, which Hondurans had long been denouncing, triggered protests against a president who began his second presidential term on January 27, 2018 amid accusations of electoral fraud.

Honduras: having the background with shout ‘Out with JOH’, the night was spent with the Hondurans protesting against the narco-government and the tyrant JOH repressing the people. In Honduras, politics and drugs are the same thing.

After Zelaya’s call, protests began to spread throughout the country. On Friday afternoon, Hondurans blocked roads that led to cities such as Yarumela, La Ceiba, San Pedro Sula and Cortes.

The protests would gradually acquire more forceful expressions. On Friday night, access roads to the headquarters of the Honduran government were closed. Meanwhile, the number of burning barricades increased in the streets and highways.​​​​​​​

Former presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla called for the installation of a transitional government, which would be chaired by him until the winner of the 2021 elections takes office.

The rejection of President JOH happened even in the least expected places and moments. During a sports program broadcasted on television, the host railed against Hernandez whom he described as a “drug trafficker”, emphasizing that the ruling National Party lawmakers are “cockroaches.”​​​​​​​

The Hernández Brothers – the narco-state of Honduras

The Violence of Development website has included numerous articles condemning the state of Honduras for the violence of its armed forces, its gangsterism and links with drug trafficking. Here on his ‘Two Worlds’ blog site, John Perry outlines the results of a recent court case in New York which confirms the Honduran government as a fully-fledged narco-state that uses gangster tactics to enforce its ‘policies’.

The article was originally posted inLondon Review of Books , plus comments.

The Two Worlds blog can be found at: https://twoworlds.me/  We are grateful to John Perry for permission to reproduce the article here.

Key words: Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH); Donald Trump; drug trafficking; drug cartels; electoral fraud

By John Perry

October 23, 2019

Court sketch of witnesses in the trial of Tony Hernández (The Limited Times)

Donald Trump said last year that migrant caravans, mainly of Hondurans, were coming to the US from ‘shithole countries’. But now he says that the president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, is doing a ‘fantastic job’.

Trump and JOH recently reached an agreement declaring Honduras to be a ‘safe place’ for asylum seekers trying to reach the US. JOH also promised to help the US tackle transnational criminal organisations. He’s well placed to do this. Last November, his brother Tony was arrested in Miami and accused of drug trafficking and possessing illegal weapons. At his trial in New York, which concluded last week, the jury found Tony Hernández guilty. He faces at least 30 years in prison for bringing 200,000 kilos of cocaine into the US between 2004 and 2018, in packets often stamped with his own initials.

In an imprudent tweet two days before the verdict, the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa praised the Honduran government for joining the US in ‘the fight against drugs’. In August, however, JOH was accused of accepting $1.5 million in drug money for his 2013 re-election campaign.

One of the witnesses in the trial of Tony Hernández was Alexander Ardón, identified as a drug trafficker five years ago. He has confessed to involvement in 56 murders. He told the court in New York that the Mexican cartel boss ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, sent to prison for life by a US court in July, visited Honduras twice and paid JOH $1 million in protection money. Ardón said that he had himself paid $4 million in bribes to JOH and his predecessor, Porfirio Lobo. Lobo’s son was convicted of trafficking in the US last year and his wife has just been imprisoned for fraud.

In a separate case, JOH’s cousin was indicted for trafficking in the US in September. JOH responded on Twitter that those testifying against him are liars and ‘confessed murderers’.

The prosecution concluded that drug traffickers ‘infiltrated’ and ‘controlled’ the Honduran government.

A trafficker who gave evidence, Chang Monroy, was asked why he had previously lied about knowing Tony Hernández. ‘I was scared,’ he said, ‘because I’m like other drug traffickers that are violent, but no other drug trafficker has a brother that’s the president of a country that controls the police and the military.’

Witnesses alleged that Tony Hernández had arranged the murder of two of his rivals, in one case by a former death squad member who was later promoted to head of the Honduran police. A cartel that Hernández was linked to, Los Cachiros, has carried out at least 78 assassinations. The victims include three journalists.

The emergence of the narco-state of Honduras began with the military coup of June 2009. In elections contrived to validate the coup (and approved by Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state), Lobo became president in 2010. JOH succeeded him in 2014. The constitution was changed in 2015 to allow a president to serve more than one term, and JOH stood again in 2017. The election was riddled with fraud, but Trump still congratulated him on ‘a close election result’.

Following Tony Hernández’s conviction in a US court, any previous US president would have distanced himself from JOH. Trump, however, is untroubled by criminal behaviour and his judgments are based on electoral calculation: is his base more worried about drugs coming into the US, or Central American migrants? With more than 240,000 Hondurans apprehended at the US border so far this year, Trump backs a foreign president who acts tough. He’ll ignore the poverty and violence that drive the migrants to leave their homes: instead, he’ll continue to support the policies that produce them.

Edwin Espinal, Political Prisoners, State-sponsored Drug Traffickers and Persecution in Honduras

By Karen Spring, Honduras Solidarity Network

17 November, 2019

We are grateful to Karen Spring and the Honduras Solidarity Network for permission to include this article in The Violence of Development website. Karen is the partner of Edwin Espinal who was held in Honduran jails as a political prisoner. The article gives the reader an idea of how difficult life can be for human rights defenders in current-day Honduras.

Key words: Honduras; political prisoners; human rights defenders; criminalization of protest; state-sponsored drug trafficking; President Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH).

It has been three months since Edwin Espinal was released from La Tolva prison. I haven’t written anything publicly due to being exhausted for, while Edwin was in prison, I felt like I ran a 1.5-year marathon with little time to sit down, reflect, and absorb what was going on around me.
Thank you to the people who have supported Edwin’s case, my human rights work in Honduras and this belated update from Honduras.

In the three months since his release, Edwin has been recovering, speaking to media, attending the legal hearings and meetings related to the cases of the other political prisoners, spending a lot of time with family, and planning our future.
Edwin continues to have a permanent, loud, ringing sound in his ear. We are told it is tinnitus but still feel we need to see another specialist that can run further tests. Edwin developed the problem in prison after complaining of an ear infection that was never treated. The ringing sound not only interrupts his sleep or other moments of rest or quiet, but also generates a lot of frustration and anger.
It reminds him of the whole experience in La Tolva, being denied medical treatment, the unjust way he was detained, and as he often says, “the way the government wanted to make me suffer.”
The mental health impact could possibly be worse than the actual physical problem. He frequently gets headaches that he says are linked to the noise in his ears and asks me sometimes to put my head up against his to see if I can hear the loud ringing in his ears. But it is internal and I hear nothing.
Every week, Edwin goes to the courthouse to sign a ledger that is supposed to show to the Honduran judiciary that he has not left the country and that he is still present to face the charges against him. His court date is set for May 14 and 15, 2020.
As for myself, I continue my work supporting the other political prisoner cases. Within the first 6 months following the 2017 electoral crisis, all were released except five including Edwin. Now, only one political prisoner remains in jail; over 170 people still face charges and are forced to sign regularly at courthouses around the country. I am also doing human rights work related to the criminalization of people awaiting trial. Some are being harassed continuously by Honduran military and police.

One young man who was arrested for participating in protests during the 2017 electoral crisis, and who spent four months in the maximum-security El Pozo prison, has been forced into hiding. Military soldiers and police – with their faces covered, carrying heavy weapons including illegal weapons like AK-47s – have shown up four times at his small house to either raid it, when he is not home, or just stand outside to intimidate him. He reports that a red Toyota pick-up truck with tinted windows and no license plate is frequently seen parked on his street. Out of fear, the young man has since fled his home.
Many people face this type of intimidation and are forced to hide, or move frequently. They fear they will be killed.
The Honduras Solidarity Network is assisting this gentleman and others to raise their profiles to deter the government from harassing them further and to make all the details of the harassment known publicly.

On November 11, Edwin, Raúl, members of the National Committee for the Freedom of Political Prisoners and myself, travelled to the city of El Progreso for political prisoner Gustavo Cáceres’ trial. It was suspended last week after two witnesses, called by the Honduran government, did not appear. As a defence strategy, Gustavo’s lawyers asked him to testify before the judges.
When Gustavo took the stand, the judges asked him to state his ID number, address, and birthdate. He shrugged and could not answer completely, due to his disability. Many people in the courtroom teared up as Gustavo attempted to give his version of the events related to his detention. He was arrested while crossing a bridge where a protest was taking place.
When stopped by the police, they put a black bag over his head (a method of torture used by the police to generate fear and attempt to elicit confessions) and took him to the police station. Gustavo told the court in an honest and sincere way, but in broken sentences, that he was close to the protest; he was trying to cross the blocked bridge to go to work. Meanwhile, the police officers that arrested him, contradicted each other, including testifying that Gustavo was arrested in two different places and based on different reasons.

Defamation campaign

In early October, I attended half of the trial of Juan Antonio ‘Tony’ Hernández (brother of President Hernández) in New York. I posted summaries of the trial on my blog aquiabajo.com so people could follow the case.

As a result of my attendance at the trial and being closely monitored by the Honduran government, another defamation campaign circulated against me on October 18, 2019, claiming that I was paying people $200 each to protest outside the New York trial and that I received funding from a convicted drug trafficker who is also in jail in the US.
These campaigns are dangerous and have become a common tactic of the Honduran government to try to discredit human rights defenders and create security problems for them. This is another reason that I have not written much as both Edwin and I are aware of the exceptionally difficult security situation that we are in in Honduras, particularly given the current political context.

State-sponsored drug trafficking

Since Tony Hernández was found guilty on 4 counts of drug and weapons smuggling and lying to federal authorities, the environment in Honduras has been eerie and dangerous.
As the Canadian and US government insist that the governments in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and now to a degree, Bolivia, are drug traffickers and dictators, it is outrageous to hear absolutely nothing from Canadian and US authorities regarding the drug conviction of Tony Hernández in New York and the role that President Juan Orlando Hernández continues to play in enabling and participating in drug trafficking.
Now, weeks after this conviction, military, police, and other government institutions are terrorizing the Honduran population so they do not protest.
One Honduran journalist has reported that since the conviction, 11 people linked to the President and the President’s brother’s drug cartel have been murdered, likely to stop them from testifying against them. Human rights and social movement leaders have been kidnapped and tortured, and in some cases, brutally killed. Their bodies are dumped off at the side of a road, which is a strategy to terrorize the population.
There have also been 51 massacres in different parts of the country so far this year and often involve individuals dressed in police or military uniforms getting out of unmarked vehicles, open firing at groups of young people in public areas, and then fleeing the scene. The massacres and lack of investigations into why and who committed them, send a cold chill through communities and the entire population in Honduras. However, smaller groups of people still take to the streets to protest this corruption when demonstrations are organised.
Hondurans are well aware that Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH) is scared and feeling insecure about his control over the Presidential Palace because he has been exposed as a co-conspirator in the drug case against his brother. They believe that while JOH remains in power, it is less likely that the US will ask for his extradition. Hondurans also understand that JOH is not only protecting his political power as President but also his and his brother’s drug cartel interests. Evidence brought forward in the NY trial reveals that their involvement in drug trafficking has converted them into one of the major suppliers of cocaine to the US through the infamous and now-imprisoned Mexican drug trafficker, Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman and the large, Mexican-based Sinaloa cartel. As one cooperating witness said in the New York trial when asked why he was scared to testify against Tony Hernández, “All drug traffickers are dangerous and violent, but none [as much as] the brother of the President of a country that can control the military and the police.”

Edwin and I await an end to this fearful time. We are deeply grateful for the support we continue to receive from our community of Simcoe County that advocates for his freedom, the freedom of all political prisoners, and for human rights in Honduras. Thank you!

Karen Spring
Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Honduras Solidarity Network


Honduras Narco-trafficker Testifies in New York Court That Ex-President Porfirio Lobo Took Bribes from Traffickers

Key words: Honduras; narco-trafficking; organised crime; bribery; Porfirio Lobo; Cachiros;

by James Bargent, 07 March 2017

Insight Crime – a foundation dedicated to the study of organised crime.

One of the leaders of Honduran drug trafficking network the Cachiros has testified in court that he repeatedly bribed former President Porfirio Lobo, adding to the evidence suggesting drug traffickers corrupted Honduras‘ state institutions at the highest levels.

Testifying in the drug trafficking case of Lobo’s son Fabio, Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga told a New York court that he made his first payment of between $250,000 and $300,000 to Lobo when the politician was running for president in 2009, reported La Prensa. This was followed by at least two more bribes delivered directly to the president, Rivera said.

The confessed drug trafficker testified that he later attended a meeting with Lobo after the election in which the president promised never to extradite Rivera and his associates and encouraged them to set up businesses that could be awarded government contracts, which they could then use to fund their political bribes.

Porfirio Lobo, ex-President of Honduras

According to Rivera’s testimony, then-President Lobo placed his son Fabio in charge of coordinating with the traffickers. Rivera alleged that Fabio Lobo personally assisted with security arrangements for two especially large cocaine shipments, and that for one of those shipments, the younger Lobo charged an extra $50,000 to pay off ‘the boss’ — allegedly referring to current security minister and security advisor during the Lobo administration, retired General Julián Pacheco Tinoco.

Rivera added that such political contacts, along with corrupt contacts in the police and military, helped the Cachiros establish themselves as one of Honduras‘ principal drug trafficking networks and move tons of cocaine through the country.

In addition, Rivera testified about the 2009 murder of Julián Arístides González, then head of Honduras‘ Office to Fight Drug Trafficking (Dirección de Lucha Contra el Narcotráfico – DLCN). Rivera claimed he had attended a meeting with other traffickers and at least one current congressmen in which they decided to pay a group of policeman to assassinate Arístides.

Porfirio Lobo fiercely denied all of the accusations, telling AFP he had never associated with or received any money from criminals.

The Security Ministry also released a statement denying Rivera’s “ill-intentioned and baseless” accusations, which the ministry claimed he made in order to receive judicial benefits, reported El Heraldo.

InSight Crime Analysis

Rivera’s claims have yet to be independently verified, but they are not the first time Lobo has faced accusations of connections to organised crime. Last year, questions over Lobo’s murky ties surfaced after the emergence of a photo showing him with murdered crime boss José Natividad ‘Chepe’ Luna.

While the guilt or innocence of major political figures such as those Rivera named remains undetermined, his allegations add to a growing body of evidence that makes it clear that the rise of networks such as the Cachiros and the increased importance of Honduras as a drug transit nation is directly connected to organised crime’s ability to co-opt and corrupt the country’s institutions.

In addition, it is clear that this descent into security chaos coincided with the period following the 2009 coup against then Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, when Lobo and his political allies emerged as the country’s new rulers.

James Bargent, 07 March 2017

Insight Crime – a foundation dedicated to the study of organised crime.


Narcotraficante de Honduras dice que expresidente aceptó sus sobornos

Palabras claves: Honduras; Crimen Organizado; narco-traficantes; soborno; Porfirio Lobo;  Cachiros

Escrito por James Bargent, Insight Crime – una fundación dedicada al estudio del crimen organizado.

Miércoles, 08 Marzo 2017


Uno de los cabecillas de la red de narcotraficantes Los Cachiros dijo ante la corte que él sobornó varias veces al expresidente Porfirio Lobo, una nueva evidencia de que los narcotraficantes corrompieron las instituciones estatales de Honduras en sus más altos niveles.

Al presentar su testimonio en el caso de narcotráfico de Fabio Lobo, hijo del expresidente, Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga dijo en un tribunal de Nueva York que él hizo su primer pago a Lobo, de entre US$250.000 y 300.000, cuando el político era presidente en 2009, informó La Prensa. A ello le siguieron al menos dos sobornos más que le fueron entregados directamente al presidente, dijo Rivera.

El confeso narcotraficante afirmó que asistió a una reunión con Lobo después de las elecciones, en la que el presidente prometió que nunca extraditaría a Rivera ni a sus socios y los animó a crear empresas con las que podrían acceder a contratos del gobierno, los cuales les permitirían financiar sus sobornos políticos.

Porfirio Lobo, expresidente de Honduras

Según el testimonio de Rivera, el entonces presidente Lobo encargó a su hijo Fabio de coordinar acciones con los traficantes. Rivera declaró que Fabio Lobo le ayudó personalmente con medidas de seguridad para dos cargamentos de cocaína especialmente grandes, y que por uno de esos cargamentos el hijo de Lobo le cobró US$50.000 adicionales para pagarle “al jefe” —supuestamente refiriéndose al ministro de Seguridad y asesor durante la administración Lobo, el general en retiro Julián Pacheco Tinoco—.

Rivera agregó que dichos contactos políticos, junto con contactos corruptos adicionales en la policía y el ejército, les permitieron a Los Cachiros establecerse como una de las principales redes de tráfico de drogas en Honduras y transportar toneladas de cocaína por todo país.

Además, Rivera testificó sobre el asesinato, en el año 2009, de Julián Arístides González, el entonces director de la Dirección de Lucha Contra el Narcotráfico (DLCN) de Honduras. Rivera dijo que asistió a una reunión con otros traficantes y al menos un congresista, en la que decidieron pagarle a un grupo de policías para que asesinaran a Arístides.

Porfirio Lobo negó categóricamente todas las acusaciones, y le dijo a AFP que nunca se había asociado con criminales ni recibido dinero de ellos.

El Ministerio de Seguridad también emitió un comunicado en el que negaba las acusaciones “malintencionadas y sin fundamento” de Rivera, que según el ministerio fueron hechas por el acusado con el fin de recibir beneficios judiciales, informó El Heraldo.

Análisis de InSight Crime

Las declaraciones de Rivera deben ser verificadas independientemente, pero ésta no es la primera vez que Lobo ha sido acusado de conexiones con el crimen organizado. El año pasado surgieron dudas sobre las turbias relaciones de Lobo, luego de que apareciera una foto en la que se le veía con el capo criminal (ahora asesinado) José Natividad “Chepe” Luna.

Aunque aún no se ha establecido la inocencia o la culpabilidad de las importantes figuras políticas que Rivera mencionó, sus acusaciones se suman a un creciente cuerpo de evidencia que deja claro que el surgimiento de redes como Los Cachiros y la creciente importancia de Honduras como una nación de tránsito de drogas son hechos relacionados directamente con la capacidad del crimen organizado para cooptar y corromper a las instituciones del país.

Además, está claro que el inicio de este caos de seguridad coincide con el período posterior al golpe de Estado de 2009 contra el entonces presidente de Honduras Manuel Zelaya, cuando Lobo y sus aliados políticos emergieron como los nuevos gobernantes del país.

Escrito por James Bargent

Insight Crime – una fundación dedicada al estudio del crimen organizado.

Miércoles, 08 Marzo 2017



Élites y crimen organizado en Honduras


Honduran politicians, U.S. aid implicated in killings of environmentalists

I am grateful to Sandra Cuffe for permission to reproduce the following article. Sandra is a freelance journalist based in Central America, where she covers environmental, indigenous, and human rights issues.

 By Sandra Cuffe | February 1, 2017

Global Witness, a London-based NGO, published a report yesterday examining the involvement of government officials and foreign aid in violent conflicts over mining, hydroelectric, tourism, and palm oil projects in Honduras. The result of a two-year investigation, the report includes several case studies and a series of recommendations for the Honduran and U.S. governments.

“We do an annual report to document the situation globally, and Honduras per capita has come out on top for the last few years. More than 120 land and environmental defenders have been killed in Honduras since 2010, so we wanted to investigate the reasons behind that,” Global Witness campaigner Ben Leather told Mongabay.

The issue was thrust into the global spotlight in March 2016, when Berta Cáceres, a well-known Honduran indigenous rights activist and Goldman environmental prize winner, was gunned down in her home. She had been receiving threats related to her work with communities opposing the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam in western Honduras, and suspects arrested in connection with her killing include individuals with ties to the Honduran military and to DESA, the company behind the dam project.

The new Global Witness report, ‘Honduras: The deadliest place to defend the planet’, examines the Agua Zarca case and other hydroelectric dam projects in western Honduras, a hotel and golf tourism complex in indigenous Garifuna territory along the northern coast, and mining and logging activities. Regardless of where in the small Central American country of eight million the projects are located, similar patterns of indigenous and human rights violations emerge.

Allegations of corruption
“What we’ve uncovered is that there’s an awful lot of corruption around these mega-projects, these big investment projects, whether that’s mining, whether that’s hydroelectric, whether it’s logging, or whether it’s luxury hotel projects,” Leather said. “These projects are being imposed on communities, which is why they need to mobilize in the first place. And then that same corruption means activists can then be killed with impunity,” he said.

In some cases, allegations of corruption go to the highest echelons of the Honduran government. Global Witness highlights the case of Gladis Aurora López, president of the ruling National Party and vice president of Congress. Her husband, Arnold Castro, is the director of a company behind two contested hydroelectric dam projects in the La Paz department of Honduras that were granted licenses while López was a member of Congress.

Local community activists also implicate López in manipulations of a consultation process concerning the Los Encinos dam, and allege she ordered a violent police intervention in a community resisting the dam, according to Global Witness. Several Indigenous Lenca Movement of La Paz (MILPAH) members actively opposing the dam have been attacked and killed.

Global Witness is calling on the Honduran government to investigate and prosecute López. “We think that the prosecution of some of the higher level people linked to these abuses would send a strong signal that the Honduran government won’t tolerate corruption and won’t tolerate this violence against defenders,” said Leather.

Mongabay was unable to reach López before press time. However, in a letter to Global Witness, she denied any link to attacks against leaders and communities opposing hydroelectric dam projects. According to Global Witness, López’ husband also denied any illegal activity by his company and any ties to attacks.

In the case of the Los Encinos dam, the problem began shortly after the Honduran Congress granted its license, according to MILPAH president Felipe Benítez. The mayor of the municipality of Santa Elena, also affiliated with the ruling National Party, began offering all kinds of little projects and aid to local party members, creating divisions and turning them against community leaders and activists opposing dams, he said.

“Since then, there has been a serious problem of persecution, threats, harassment, and defamation, and also the problem of criminalization,” Benítez told Mongabay. Dozens of indigenous community council leaders and MILPAH members face criminal charges related to conflicts over lands and natural resource projects, he said.

Global Witness references reports of the killings of three local activists opposing the Los Encinos dam; two of their bodies were mutilated. Benítez’ own nephew was found murdered in December 2015.

Two months earlier, in October 2015, outspoken dam opponent and MILPAH leader Ana Miriam Romero allege she and her sister-in-law were beaten by a group of police, soldiers and civilians in Romero’s home while guns were drawn on her children. Both women were pregnant at the time and Romero’s sister-in-law miscarried following the beating, according to reports referenced by Global Witness. In January 2016, Romero’s home was allegedly the target of an arson attack and she lost most of her belongings.

“We’ve been persecuted and criminalized, and the situation here is terrible,” Benítez said. “A serious danger we face as defenders is that human rights aren’t respected. For example, we have 14 members of MILPAH with precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, but not long ago the police shot Victor Vásquez.”

A member of MILPAH and the president of one of the local indigenous councils, Vásquez was shot in the leg by police on January 13, 2017 during the eviction of a community in another municipality in the La Paz department, according to Benítez and human rights group reports. On paper, Vásquez is one of the beneficiaries of an IACHR request to Honduras for precautionary measures. Benítez says he now faces three months of rest and recovery due to the police gunshot.

International involvement
Hydroelectric dam project backers appear to go beyond local companies and Honduran government officials. Global Witness points to international finance institutions such as the Central American Bank of Economic Integration, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), as all having played a role in the hydro sector in Honduras. Multilateral institutions have also supported other controversial projects linked to attacks and killings.

In 2009, the IFC invested 30 million dollars in Corporación Dinant, a large Honduran palm oil and food company controlled by powerful landowner and business magnate Miguel Facussé until his death in 2015. Palm oil plantations tied to Dinant and other landowners in the Lower Aguan region of the Colón department have been the subject of years of land conflicts, with Global Witness confirming at least 82 activists fighting for land rights in the area were killed between 2010 and 2013.

Killings have continued in the ensuing years. When Global Witness interviewed the head of a special task force (unnamed in the report) that is investigating killings in the region, he revealed that many more people have been killed than were previously documented.

“His team is investigating 173 murder cases between 2010 and 2013, of which 18 or 19 are of private security guards and six are not land-related. The rest – at least 148 deaths – are believed to be of [farmers] killed in the struggle to defend their land,” the report’s authors wrote.

Local farmworkers’ and land rights groups accuse Dinant, other landowners, and Honduran security forces of involvement in death squads and paramilitary groups operating in the region and perpetrating many of the killings. Dinant and the Honduran military refute these claims.

Given the involvement of the IFC, local organizations took their concerns to the World Bank Group’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), which determined in December 2013 that the IFC had violated its own environmental and social guidelines when it made the decision to finance Dinant. In response, the IFC and Dinant developed an ongoing action plan to address the CAO report’s findings.

“IFC continues to work closely with Dinant and its external experts to support measures that reduce tensions in the communities in which the company operates and work towards peaceful co-existence,” an IFC spokesperson told Mongabay via email. Dinant has adopted new policies and procedures related to security management, human rights, and community engagement, according to the IFC spokesperson.

Despite the new policies, alarming human rights violations continue in the Aguan region, according to Honduran human rights organizations monitoring the situation in the region. On June 19, 2016, young farmers Allan Martínez and Manuel Milla were murdered in front of dozens of people on the soccer field in the community of Panama. And on October 18, 2016, Aguan United Farmers’ Movement (MUCA) president José Ángel Flores and MUCA member Silmer George were shot and killed. The Agrarian Platform, an umbrella group of local farmers’ and land rights organizations, alleged paramilitary groups operating in the region were responsible for the June and October killings.

Three months after Flores and George were killed, the situation remains the same, according to the Agrarian Platform.

“Arrests have not been made of the material authors despite the existence of arrest warrants, according to a report by the Lower Aguan Violent Death Unit, and so the paramilitary group continues to operate in the La Confianza settlement, sowing terror and fear among the population,” the Agrarian Platform wrote in a January 19, 2017 statement.

The U.S. is the largest single IFC shareholder and is an influential shareholder in the Inter-American Development Bank, Global Witness points out in its new report.

“We think that these international finance institutions, as well as the principal shareholders in them like the US, have a vital role to play in safeguarding that their money is not investing in projects that ultimately end up with activists being silenced,” said Global Witness campaigner Ben Leather. He added that they must first ensure meaningful consultation and consent from affected communities, and also to freeze funding if activists are threatened.

The U.S. government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has also invested 22.5 million dollars in the FICOHSA Bank, which has backed Dinant and other controversial enterprises, Global Witness notes in its report. The report also highlights the support of the U.S. Embassy in Honduras for U.S. investors in conflict-ridden sectors such as the mining industry, and the tens of millions in U.S. aid for Honduran military and police forces, which have been implicated in numerous human rights violations in the country.

One of the report’s recommendations to the U.S. government, however, to “increase funds dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and civil society space in Honduras,” was fulfilled even before the report was made public. Just days before the report’s release, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras James Nealon announced that the U.S. is contributing 2.9 million dollars to the Honduran protection mechanism for human rights defenders and journalists.

According to a U.S. State Department spokesperson, the United States consistently raises human rights concerns with the Honduran government and works with it to address them. Impunity and corruption pose significant challenges to the country’s institutions, but the Honduran government has demonstrated the political will necessary to tackle security and development challenges, the spokesperson told Mongabay.

Capacity for change, but lack of political will
The Honduran government’s political will is a key point of contention. In September 2016, the U.S. State Department certified that the Honduran government complied with human rights conditions placed on aid to Honduras in the Appropriations Act for the 2016 fiscal year. The move was met with criticism from NGOs and U.S. members of Congress, given the ongoing killings and impunity. More than 40 members of Congress have co-sponsored the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (HR 5474), a proposed bill to suspend all aid to Honduran police and military forces until five clearly defined criteria concerning human rights and justice have been met.

In the high-profile case of the March 2016 murder of Cáceres, seven suspects, including members of the Honduran armed forces and a hydroelectric dam company staff, have now been arrested. The developments shine some light on the question of the Honduran government’s capacity and will to effectively address human rights violations, according to Leather.

“I think on the one hand it shows that the Honduran government has some capacity to deal with this, which means that it’s more a question of political will,” he said.

“Beyond the Berta Cáceres case, there are several examples of where the authorities have made arrests, either for attacks against defenders or because of abuses of laws around consultation of communities, for example. So they do have some capacity, but they haven’t shown the political will yet to use that capacity across the board, and above all, to arrest the intellectual authors of these crimes as well,” Leather said. “And we’re convinced in the case of Berta Cáceres that the intellectual authors – those who ordered the attack – haven’t been arrested, even though we of course celebrate the fact that some of the trigger men have.”

The Global Witness report published yesterday focuses on Honduras, but similar forces are at play throughout Latin America. Already this year, indigenous and community activists opposing hydroelectric dams, mining, and logging reportedly have been killed in Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico.

Like Berta Cáceres, Isidro Baldenegro was a past recipient of the prestigious Goldman environmental prize. An indigenous Tarahumara community leader and farmer, he was awarded the honor for his work organizing to protect Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains from illegal logging. After years of threats, he was shot and killed earlier this month.

“He was threatened by people associated with the loggers, who were logging in his community. He was threatened by organized crime. But he was also imprisoned by the Mexican state as well, on charges that ultimately turned out to be false,” Leather said.

“I think it shows the same collusion between the state, business, and criminal elements to silence those who are demanding their rights,” he said. “I would say that is the case across the Americas, albeit in Honduras it’s at the worst levels of violence.”



Mongabay is an environmental science and conservation news and information site. Mongabay seeks to raise interest in and appreciation of nature and wildlife, while examining the impact of emerging trends in climate, technology, economics, and finance on conservation and development.

Life Laid Bare in Honduras: How the Migrant Caravan Makes Neoliberal Dictatorship Visible

October 25, 2018 Beth Geglia, Toward Freedom

This article by Beth Geglia was published in Toward Freedom. Toward Freedom is a news and analysis publication offering a progressive perspective on world events. They cover global politics, protest movements, government and corporate abuses of power, human rights, and other pressing topics. With writers and readers based around the globe, TF has worked for social justice through investigative and progressive journalism since 1952.

We are grateful to both Beth Geglia and Toward Freedom for permission to reproduce the article here. A link to the original article follows: https://towardfreedom.org/archives/americas/life-laid-bare-in-honduras-how-the-migrant-caravan-makes-neoliberal-dictatorship-visible/

Key words: migrant caravan; Honduran coup; generalized crime and violence; Berta Cáceres; the ‘bare life’ concept; government of organized crime; Special Economic Development and Employment Zones (ZEDEs); electoral fraud; US support.

A man carries his belongings on his shoulder as the second caravan of migrants leaves Esquipulas, Guatemala on October 21 in hopes of reaching the United States. Photo credit: Jeff Abbott

I remember sitting across the table from my friend Pavel in a coffee shop in Tegucigalpa in 2014. The conversation was casual and frank, as it often is, when talking to Hondurans about the imminent possibility of death. “The worst thing is that I know I could die in the dumbest way. It’ll happen while I’m leaving the grocery store, walking out of a coffee shop, or driving to band practice.” Pavel was a well-known musician and activist. His rock band had led an important role in denouncing the 2009 military coup in Honduras and reaching popular audiences about themes of poverty and structural inequality. Following a series of unidentified attacks against family members and band-mates, he was convinced that the government could, and would likely have him killed at any time.

“The other day I was talking to a friend of mine from elementary school who was in a special elite unit of the military for a while,” he said with a nervous, smile. “I asked him, ‘if they wanted to come into my home and kill me, is there any way I could prevent it?’ ‘No,’ he told me. ‘None?’ I asked, ‘but I’m talking like I have two dogs and gate and an alarm system, and…’ ‘No, if they want to do it, there’s nothing you can do,’” his friend had assured him.

That conversation in 2014 marked the beginning of my field research in Honduras as a doctoral candidate in Anthropology. During my fieldwork, which would last close to two years, I would have countless conversations like this one with Honduran men and women contemplating the possibility of their own death, or worse, that of their family members. Pavel was lucky. He eventually fled Honduras and received political asylum in Europe, but not before suffering serious mental health issues that led to repeated institutionalizations during the time I knew him. The post-coup crisis had given him “nervios” (nervousness, or anxiety) which was sometimes visible in his shaky hands and fidgety body as he talked about hoping to one day see a change in the city and country that he loved so much.

“Everyone here is like a ticking time bomb,” another friend in Tegucigalpa often told me. “We are all suffering psychologically but we don’t say anything. The things we experience every day, there is no escape from it.” These words reverberate through my head as I read the news today. “There is no escape from it.”

As I read the news, I’m also reminded of the moment I learned why my friend Victor slept in a hammock in front of his house. It was March 3, 2016, and I was in the southern region of Honduras, on a peninsula called Zacate Grande, studying land dispossession in rural communities. I had been woken up at 7am that morning to the news that the beloved Honduran social leader Berta Cáceres had been assassinated inside her home the night before. As the sleepy fishing village of La Pintadillera hummed gently with its morning activities, Victor left his radio streaming the news from Radio Progreso, as he did every morning, listening this time with solemn silence. “Bertita” had been a beloved ally to the struggle for land in the entire peninsula of Zacate Grande, and had helped establish their community radio station, La Voz de Zacate Grande, years prior.

Victor’s wife Gloria choked back tears over breakfast as her six-year-old daughter listened in, “I will never forget the day we celebrated the first anniversary of the radio. Berta was here. She drove us back from Playa Grande.” That day, Gloria said, the military stopped a group of local musicians on their way home from the festivities on the side of the road, detained them, beating some. Word of the attack made it back to Playa Grande. “I was so scared to go back but it was late and my kids had to sleep,” she told me. “Berta said ‘let’s go,’ and she drove. When we encountered the military on the road, Berta said ‘get those kids on the floor in case they start shooting at us.’ I was panicking, thinking, ‘oh my god, what if they shoot my child?’ but Berta knew what to do. She saved our lives.”

“We will keep doing this work, but we know they can kill us at any moment,” Victor told me the morning of Berta’s death. Then he asked me if I knew why he slept outside at night.

I had noticed before that Victor, a man facing death threats for his involvement in a community association dedicated in part to combating land grabbing and the privatization of local beaches by the country’s economic elite, had taken to sleeping in front of his house. I had assumed it was an act of defiance. Certainly, it was cooler to sleep in the fresh air and perhaps Victor was sending a message to his adversaries that he was not afraid.

“Look at how they killed Berta in her home,” he told me. “You know that I sleep in a bed with my wife and kids. Imagine if they came in looking for me and found us all there. Imagine if they came in shooting, and…” His voice trailed off before he could continue.

As I write these words I am visiting another friend who was forced to flee from Honduras’ northern coast to France in February of this year. Fabia had spent a large portion of her adult life working in the coastal maquilas—textile factories—and had established a women’s organisation to confront abuses endured by women at work and at home. Fabia worked for years to create opportunities for women and youth, and to help them escape violent situations with romantic partners, gangs, and drug cartels. The violence had made her town of Puerto Cortés unlivable. More and more youth were being forcibly conscripted into gangs, and femicide levels were through the roof. Months before fleeing, heavily armed, masked men raided Fabia’s office in broad daylight threatening to kill Fabia and her coworkers if they didn’t close up shop. When the threats persisted, unmarked vehicles began to circle her home; she finally left with her daughter. But upon arriving in France, Fabia’s body nearly collapsed from the stress. “I woke up one day and couldn’t move my legs, I couldn’t stand up,” she told me. Years of persecution in Honduras, according to Fabia, had taken a toll on her body and manifested in acute kidney failure, for which she spent weeks in the hospital.

There are too many such stories to write. And while people like Pavel, Berta, Victor and Fabia face political persecution, the victims of the violence of the political system include a majority of Hondurans. Honduran small business owners must pay a weekly “war tax” – an extortion from organised crime in league with National Police – or be killed, forcing many to go out of business from one day to the next. And all Hondurans (but especially the poor) face rampant generalised crime and violence. In 2011, Honduras had the highest homicide rate in the world, according to the U.N. The lines between organised crime, state security forces, and the government have increasingly blurred in recent years, leaving Hondurans vulnerable to a myriad of violent actors with no possibility of protection from the state.

When I see news cycles about masses of Honduran migrants coming to the U.S., I think about the two main things I want the world to know about this situation. I want people to understand how much violence – structural, psychological, and physical – is endured by Hondurans before they even reach the U.S. Mexico Border. And I want people to understand how we got here, and the U.S. role in producing the unlivable conditions from which Hondurans are fleeing.

Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben puts forward a concept called “bare life” that refers to a state of being in which one is stripped of all legal and political rights. According to Agamben, “bare life” is produced when a sovereign power enacts a state of exception over a certain population or at a certain point in time. His work focuses on Nazi concentration camps as the ultimate expression of “exception” and “bare life,” producing a context in which virtually anything can happen. However, Agamben challenges us to think of “the camp” more broadly as any space in which “power confronts nothing but pure life, without any mediation.” In many ways, Honduras is one of these spaces.

Hondurans have been living in an effective state of emergency since constitutional order was abruptly overthrown with the military coup in 2009. Arbitrary arrests, violent repression against protesters, and targeted assassinations ensued under the interim military government in the months following the coup. While leaders throughout Latin America as well as the United Nations General Assembly vehemently demanded ousted president Zelaya be reinstated, Hillary Clinton in her role as Secretary of State as well as various U.S. lobbyists worked behind the scenes to legitimise the coup government. The 2009 elections that took place under martial law just months after the coup were widely boycotted, with most Western governments refusing to recognise the results until U.S. diplomatic pressure eventually turned the tide. This was also a time when Hondurans were organising in mass for a constituent assembly that they intended to be an important step in building popular democracy representative of a broad spectrum of Honduran society. While the post-coup resistance movement fought to build an inclusive democracy, the post-coup regimes worked to dismantle the institutionality of the country. The results were devastating. Entrenched impunity spread corruption throughout the state, effectively making corruption “the operating system” of a Honduran kleptocracy in cahoots with narco and transnational capital networks. Homicides jumped 50% from 2008-2011. By 2016, the year Cáceres was murdered along with five other members of her organisation, Honduras had been declared the most dangerous country in the world for environmental and land activists.

During this time, the regimes of Porfirio Lobo and Juan Orlando Hernández systematically dismantled the social safety net through ferocious neoliberal austerity policies that defunded healthcare, hospitals, and education. The labour code was reformed to provide maximum worker flexibilization to the manufacturing sector, overturning the 40-hour work week and further exposing needy Honduran workers to unsafe and unhealthy working conditions. Unemployment and underemployment grew. The power to turn public assets over to private contractors through public-private partnerships was placed in the hands of the President and an un-elected presidential agency called COALIANZA. From 2010-2012, the extreme poverty rate increased by 26.3%. Today Honduras has become the most unequal country in Latin America.

In post-coup Honduras, the notion of citizenship has been reduced to a paradigm of citizen security—with security defined only in the negative. With violence ballooning, the human need to not be killed became the primary premise of intervention between the government and the governed at the same time that funds for healthcare, education, pensions and all other forms of public investment to improve citizens lives were slashed, and in many cases, directly pilfered by the ruling party. Militarization of everyday spaces, under the guise of reducing crime, has been bolstered by increasing U.S. military aid, the same aid Trump has threatened to cut off to the Central American Region. U.S. military aid made directly to Honduras totals at least $114 million since 2009, with additional funds coming through the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). CARSI now constitutes roughly half of the $750 million Alliance for Prosperity aid package for the Northern Triangle region (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador).  So-called securitization in Honduras has meant the creation, with funding and training from the U.S., of new military hybrid forces, such as the Military Police of Public Order, and the elite investigative/counter-insurgency police unit called the TIGRES that has been deployed against the population.

The governance model of the Hernández administration has been to manage the population through their need for basic survival, their bare life, with a government handout programme called Vida Mejor (Better Life). The programme constructs bare bones houses and offers cash or food handouts to select populations. Instead of securing land tenure rights for Honduras’ rural poor, promoting development based in food sovereignty and security, or safeguarding wages, Vida Mejor relegates meager relief in exchange for political gains. It is a direct mediation between power and bare life, a population reduced to its basic biological needs for survival. The administration offers the possibility of employment to Hondurans in exchange for usurping their political rights as citizens through the development of “Special Economic Development and Employment Zones” (ZEDEs). In these zones, Hondurans could lose democratic local government from one day to the next, finding themselves instead under the direct jurisdiction of private investors.

In November and December of 2017, the violence that had been relegated since the post-coup period to the invisible spaces of late-night home raids, isolated rural areas, and selective assassinations was once again made visible on the national arena. Juan Orlando Hernández had run an illegal bid for re-election – strictly prohibited in the Honduran constitution. On the day of elections, as the opposition coalition showed what many analysts declared an irreversible lead, the Electoral Tribunal’s software abruptly malfunctioned, prompting a multi-day shutdown of the ballot counting. When counting resumed, Hernández had somehow taken a lead, defying the laws of probability. The Tribunal delayed over a month in formally announcing Hernández as the winner, despite the inability of the OAS observation mission to validate the electoral results. The U.S., joined by Mexico, Colombia, and Spain, propped up Hernández’s victory and undermined the opposition’s call for a recount. In the meantime, Hernandez’ government suspended constitutional rights, instated a state of emergency, and imposed a national curfew to combat the mass protests that ensued.

Like Victor on his porch, videos of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula showed Hondurans laying their lives bare before a state that would kill them. Hondurans in opposition to the fraudulent elections staged road blockades and other actions despite violent repression by state security forces who beat them and attacked them directly with tear gas and rubber and live bullets. One such video shows Hernández’s military police shooting live bullets at Honduran youth for participating in a cacerolazo (in a response to the imposed curfew, people banged on pots either in street marches or from inside their homes to voice their opposition). Another video shows an unarmed family yelling at and shoving heavily armed soldiers who have raided their home. The human rights organisation COFADEH reports that at least 30 Hondurans, mostly youth, were killed by the state’s Military Police forces in the month after the election. The TIGRES carried out some of the raids that contributed to the imprisonment of over 40 political prisoners.

Now we are seeing images of Hondurans in the thousands on the open road, migrating to the U.S. Most are traveling with a single backpack. They are jumping bridges to trudge through rivers when blocked by state security forces. They are barreling through military blockades and checkpoints. Parents shield their children from tear gas. They are not protected by the governments of Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, or the U.S. (although Guatemalan and Mexican citizens have shown tremendous solidarity and kindness to the members of the caravan throughout their journey thus far). Honduran refugees are protected by nothing but their own numbers.

While Hondurans have been fleeing to the U.S. in record numbers since 2009, the migrant experience has so far been one of isolation, invisibility, and powerlessness. In the thousands and out in the open, their migration has become a spectacle of vulnerability that is impossible to ignore. In the process of protecting themselves, Hondurans are essentially laying their bare life bare, for all to see, in hopes of reclaiming their collective right to live.


Some names and places have been changed for the purpose of anonymity

Beth Geglia is a researcher and filmmaker based in Washington DC. Her doctoral research in anthropology looks at “model city” development in Honduras.

Former head of Honduran police charged in US with drug trafficking crimes

The spectacularly corrupt and violent situation in Honduras is US and Canadian policy at work, and the situation just got worse

The close links between the Government of Honduras and organised crime continue to feature significantly in The Violence of Development website. One remarkable fact about these links is that as the evidence mounts of their existence, the US and Canadian governments continue to support the Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández as “an ally in the war on drugs”. Despite his strong denials of links with drug trafficking and organised crime, the evidence piles up against Hernández.  

We are grateful to Rights Action and Karen Spring of Honduras Solidarity Network for permission to reproduce the following articles on this website.

Rights Action
May 4, 2020


US Justice Department Indicts Honduran Former National Police Chief (Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares) on Cocaine Trafficking Charges

US indictment of Juan Carlos ‘el tigre’ Bonilla Valladres is tip of impunity iceberg
by Karen Spring, Honduras Solidarity Network, April 30, 2020

Today, the US Justice Department, Southern District of New York indicted Juan Carlos ‘El Tigre’ Bonilla Valladares on four counts of drug trafficking and related weapons charges. Bonilla Valladares is a former head of the Honduran National Police and a former Regional Police Chief of the western Department of Copán in Honduras.

According to the press statement announcing the indictment, “Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares allegedly abused his official position to protect cocaine shipments and murder a rival drug trafficker as part of a conspiracy involving high-ranking Honduran politicians and members of the Honduran National Police.”

The indictment makes direct reference to President Juan Orlando Hernández’s involvement in drug trafficking. It outlines how Bonilla Valladares worked in coordination and on behalf of Tony Hernández, the brother of current President Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH), and President JOH himself: “BONILLA VALLADARES corruptly exploited these official positions to facilitate cocaine trafficking, and used violence, including murder, to protect the particular cell of politically connected drug traffickers he aligned with, including [Juan Antonio “Tony”] Hernández Alvarado and at least one of Hernández Alvarado’s brothers, who is a former Honduran congressman and the current president of Honduras referred to in the Complaint charging BONILLA VALLADARES as “CC-4.”

Tip of Impunity Iceberg
For years, Bonilla has been the subject of controversy and faced public accusations of extrajudicial killings, torture, ties to drug cartels and organised criminal groups operating inside the National police, and corruption. His indictment for drug trafficking in the US is only the tip of the iceberg.

Previous accusations against Bonilla show how he and the Honduran police are deeply involved in organised crime; how mechanisms to stop violations of the Honduran police do not function as they should; how impunity has reigned for years; and how investigations against those intertwined with the powerful and large-scale drug traffickers in Honduras, never ever advance.

Death-Squad Killings of Young People
In 2013, the Centre for Economic Policy and Research (CEPR) published an overview of news articles from the Associated Press, Insight Crime, US Government documents published by Wikileaks that describe Bonilla’s shady past.

All sources describe a 2002 investigation conducted by the former Chief of the Internal Affairs of the Honduran Police, María Luisa Borjas against Bonilla and other police officers, involved in “at least three killings or forced disappearances between 1998 and 2002.” Bonilla was accused of killing Honduran youth. In 2002, Bonilla was charged with murder but was either found not guilty two years later or prosecutor’s dropped the case before it went to trial.

Murdering Rival Drug Traffickers
One of the murders of a drug rival that Bonilla is allegedly tied to, was also discussed in Tony Hernández’s trial in New York in October 2019. The rival mentioned is Franklin Arita Mata, who was killed in July 2011 in an ambush of his bulletproof vehicle transporting the principal victim and three of his bodyguards.

The Honduran press reported on the 2011 incident writing that Mata’s car was attacked by unknown individuals travelling in two vehicles. Furthermore, in response to the murder, Bonilla, as the Regional Police Chief responsible for the jurisdiction where the incident took place, told the press that various police teams would be sent to investigate.

Involvement In a Police-led Organised Criminal Death Squad
In 2014, Honduran journalist David Romero read a testimony on Radio Globo of an unidentified police agent that had worked alongside Bonilla. The police agent turned whistleblower outlined several crimes including torture, rape, and death squad killings involving Bonilla and several members of the Honduran police. The testimonies gave a lot of detail about specific murders committed by police-led organised criminal death squads that Bonilla was involved in.

In one of the many cases that the testimony outlined, was the rape of a young woman in the northern city of Choloma. In order to force the young woman’s mother to help the police death squad locate ‘Amilcar El Renco’, the woman was kidnapped, taken to an unmarked ‘security’ house, and raped.

The agent’s testimony identifies the police agents involved in the incident, including  ‘El Tigre’ Bonilla, Egberto Arias Aguilar (former Police Commissioner, current location and position unknown), Eduardo Antonio Turcios Andrade (named in 2019 as head of the newly created Transportation Security Force (FUSET)), and Victor López Flores (former Police Commissioner who pleaded guilty in US courts for drug trafficking in 2017). The agent also stated that the police-led organised criminal death squad had support from the Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigation (DNIC) and an Analysis section of the National Police.

Honduran media would later report that Cristian Amilcar Sierra, also known as ‘El Renco’, who the police death squads were looking for in 2014, would be murdered in his home in Choloma in 2015 for allegedly being involved in the criminal activities of the gang ‘El banda de el Negro’. ‘El Negro’ is likely Carlos Arnoldo ‘El Negro’ Lobo who was extradited to the US, worked with the Los Cachiros and the Sinaloa drug cartel, and was later convicted in the US for large-scale drug trafficking.


Former police chief of Honduras accused of trafficking drugs to US on behalf of Honduran president
By Jeff Ernst, 30 April 2020

US federal prosecutors have accused the former national police chief of Honduras of trafficking tonnes of cocaine to the US on behalf of the country’s president, Juan Orlando Hernández, and his brother, who was convicted of similar charges in October.

Hernández was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial of his brother Juan Antonio ‘Tony’ Hernández, but the US has continued to call him an ally in its ‘war on drugs’.

According to the complaint filed on Thursday by the Southern District of New York, the former police chief Juan Carlos Bonilla “participated in extreme violence, including the murder of a rival trafficker, to further the conspiracy.”

Prosecutors also allege that Bonilla was entrusted with “special assignments, including murder” by President Hernández – who is identified as a co-conspirator – and his brother, Tony.

Bonilla, an imposing figure known as El Tigre (the Tiger), was appointed as national police chief in May 2012 at a time when Honduras had one of the highest homicide rates in the world. In the role, Bonilla collaborated with US counter-narcotics forces operating in Honduras and helped to create a special unit of the police that works with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), leading to the indictment of numerous high-profile drug traffickers including the president’s brother.

Bonilla, who was also identified as an alleged co-conspirator of Tony Hernández last year, has repeatedly cited his relationship with the DEA as evidence of his innocence.

The US pushed for his removal from the police job in 2013 owing to persistent allegations of violence, including that Bonilla had participated in death squads targeting suspected gang members.

Bonilla was previously the regional police chief of the Copán department on the border with Guatemala, one of the most crucial points on the drug trafficking route. During that time, prosecutors allege, he orchestrated the murder of a rival drug trafficker who was threatening a route controlled by Tony Hernández and an associate.

Bonilla has denied all allegations, telling a local news station on Thursday: “I am not a villain. I am a former officer of the national police with the rank of general who served my country and served society.”

It is unclear if the US has formally requested Bonilla’s extradition. If so, the president would be faced with a dilemma of whether to order the capture of a person who could some day testify against him in court. Experts believe Bonilla is likely to follow the example of others who have been indicted on drug trafficking charges and turn himself in to the DEA.

US prosecutors allege that President Hernández received millions in bribes from drug traffickers including Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, the notorious former leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel. The president has vigorously denied all allegations of ties to drug traffickers, referring to them as “fairytales”.
*** / ***

More information: Karen Spring, Honduras Solidarity Networ:k Spring.kj@gmail.comwww.hondurassolidarity.org


Rights Action:


Honduras 2009-2020: 11 years of U.S. and Canadian-backed dictator, repression, exploitation – 11 years of resistance and solidarity

We are grateful to the Honduras Solidarity Network for permission to reproduce the following summary of developments in Honduras since the military coup in 2009 that brought an end to democracy in the country.

Statement by Honduras Solidarity Network
June 28, 2020

“The government can’t combat corruption because corruption is the government”
11 years, and counting, of repressive, corrupt, ‘open-for-global-business’ regimes in Honduras, backed and legitimized fully by the US, Canada and the ‘international community’.



Eleven years ago today (June 28), Honduras was turned upside down by a military/political coup against President Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

This coup was strongly supported by the US Government led by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Canadian government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of State of Foreign Affairs Peter Kent.

The coup pushed aside many reforms that had been made or begun by President Zelaya in consultation with Honduran social movements such as an increase in minimum wage, land reform, gender equality, increased rights for indigenous communities and efforts to reduce the costs of living for the poor. The goal of the coup was also to crush the hopes for a deeper change in Honduras and the refoundation of the country through constitutional change and a popular constituent assembly.

The response of the people and their organisations from the Garífuna Caribbean coast, to the Lenca people’s mountains, from campesino communities across the country, to urban youth, trade unions, women’s and LGBTI organisations was to take to the streets in massive numbers starting the day of the coup, June 28, 2009.

Over the last 11 years, Hondurans have returned to the streets over and over again, despite massive migrations, electoral frauds, assassinations, disappearances, repression, and now, in the 11th year of the coup, a narco-dictatorship during a pandemic.

Since the coup, some things have been constant from the dictatorship: militarization, criminalization of activists, neoliberal privatizations and the growth of an extraction economy. All this with US-trained police, military police and military on the streets, violently abusing Hondurans for everything from protesting to being on the street without a face mask.

There are still 11 political prisoners held in pretrial detention and hundreds who still face serious charges from the 2017 electoral fraud protests in 2017 and 2018.

Impunity for the powerful and political elite continues with no justice and virtually no investigations of the hundreds of assassinations/disappearances from 2009 to 2020.

The highest profile assassination since the coup, that of indigenous leader Berta Cáceres, still has not seen the prosecution of the intellectual authors or financiers of her murder; her organisation (COPINH) and COPINH’s communities continue to be threatened and harassed.

In 2019-2020 at least 11 Garífuna activists were assassinated in impunity.

Journalists are threatened and physically attacked and members of the political opposition are continually harassed and threatened.

The military has been given control of significant monies for the agricultural sector while campesinos are killed, arrested and evicted, also in impunity.

In 2020, the criminal nature of Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH)’s dictatorship is now more exposed than ever with high profile prosecutions in New York of his brother and their drug trafficking business associates.

But, despite the blatant and documented violations of human rights, of corruption, and of drug trafficking, the US government continues its public, economic and military support for Hernández. The Canadian government refuses to speak or publicly denounce the abuses committed by JOH.

Meanwhile, JOH has taken advantage of the COVID19 epidemic to further militarize the country, giving the army more power and restricting protests, and destroying the livelihood of the poor (more than 60% of the population) while restricting the small amounts of relief funds to those who support his political party.

Still, resistance continues and the people continue to organise. Over the years, new coalitions and movements have formed and joined the resistance in a fight against dictatorship. This fight continues in the streets, the countryside and in the electoral realm.

The Honduras Solidarity Network has been standing with the Honduran people’s resistance since 2009. We continue to fight for the US government and the Canadian government to stop supporting dictatorship and any use of our tax dollars for violence in Honduras. One tool in that fight in the US is our continued support for the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act in the House of Representatives.

Our member organisations continue to demand an end to impunity in Honduras and justice for Berta Cáceres and for all those assassinated and disappeared or imprisoned and persecuted by the dictatorship. We accompany the struggles against mining, megaprojects and for land rights and all the demands of the Honduran people and their organisations that fight for a new, transformed, and ‘refounded’ Honduras. ”

For more historical and recent information on Honduran resistance and solidarity see the HSN website and its links to member organisation sites and other information.

Tw: @hondurassol
FB: https://www.facebook.com/HondurasSolidarityNetwork


Honduras 2009-2020: 11 años de dictadura, repression y explotación respaldado por los EE.UU. y Canada –  11 años de resistencia y solidaridad

Le estamos muy agradecido a la Red de Solidaridad con Honduras (HSN) para la autorización de reproducir el resumen siguiente de los desarrollos en Honduras desde el golpe de estado militar en 2009 lo que terminó la democracia en el país.

“The government can’t combat corruption because corruption is the government”
11 years, and counting, of repressive, corrupt, ‘open-for-global-business’ regimes in Honduras, backed and legitimized fully by the US, Canada and the ‘international community’.

Declaración por la Red de Solidaridad con Honduras (HSN)
28 Junio, 2020

Dictadura, Resistencia y Solidaridad, 28 de Junio 2020
Red de Solidaridad con Honduras (HSN)

Hace once años, Honduras se puso de cabeza por un golpe político-militar contra el Presidente Manuel Zelaya Rosales. Este golpe recibió un fuerte apoyo del Gobierno de los Estados Unidos, encabezado por el Presidente Barack Obama y la Secretaria de Estado Hillary Clinton, y del Gobierno del Canadá, encabezado por el Primer Ministro Stephen Harper y el Ministro de Estado de Relaciones Exteriores Peter Kent.

El golpe hizo a un lado muchas reformas iniciadas por el Presidente Zelaya en consulta con los movimientos sociales hondureños, como el aumento del salario mínimo, la reforma agraria, la igualdad de género, el aumento de los derechos de las comunidades indígenas y los esfuerzos para reducir el costo de vida de los pobres. El golpe también tenía la meta de aplastar las esperanzas de un cambio más profundo en Honduras y la refundación del país a través de un cambio constitucional y una asamblea popular constituyente.

La respuesta del pueblo y sus organizaciones de la costa caribeña garífuna, de las montañas del pueblo lenca, de las comunidades campesinas de todo el país, de la juventud urbana, de los sindicatos y de las organizaciones de mujeres y LGBTI fue tomar las calles en forma masiva a partir del día del golpe, el 28 de junio de 2009.

En los últimos 11 años, el pueblo hondureño ha vuelto a las calles una y otra vez a pesar de las migraciones masivas, los fraudes electorales, los asesinatos, las desapariciones, la represión y ahora, en el 11 año del golpe, una narco-dictadura durante una pandemia.

Desde el golpe, algunas cosas han sido constantes de la dictadura: la militarización, la criminalización de los activistas, las privatizaciones neoliberales y el crecimiento de una economía de extracción. Todo esto con la policía entrenada por los Estados Unidos, la policía militar y los militares en las calles, abusando violentamente de los hondureños para todo, desde protestar hasta estar en la calle sin cubrebocas.

Todavía hay 11 presos políticos en prisión preventiva y cientos de personas que todavía enfrentan graves cargos por las protestas en contra del fraude electoral en 2017 y 2018. La impunidad de los poderosos y la élite política continúa sin que se haga justicia y prácticamente sin que se investiguen los cientos de asesinatos y desapariciones que se produjeron entre 2009 y 2020. El asesinato de más alto perfil desde el golpe, el de la líder indígena Berta Cáceres, aún no ha visto acción en contra de los autores intelectuales o financieros de su asesinato. COPINH y sus comunidades siguen siendo amenazadas y acosadas.

Entre 2019 y 2020, al menos 11 activistas garífunas fueron asesinados en la impunidad. Los periodistas son amenazados y agredidos físicamente, y los miembros de la oposición política son acosados y amenazados continuamente. Se ha dado a los militares el control de importantes sumas de dinero para el sector agrícola, mientras que los campesinos son asesinados, detenidos y desalojados, también en la impunidad.

En 2020, la naturaleza criminal de la dictadura de Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH) está ahora más expuesta que nunca con los juicios en Nueva York en contra de su hermano y sus socios en el negocio del narcotráfico.

Pero, a pesar de las flagrantes y documentadas violaciones de los derechos humanos, de la corrupción y del narcotráfico, el gobierno de los Estados Unidos continúa su apoyo público, económico y militar a Hernández. El gobierno canadiense se niega a hablar o a denunciar públicamente los abusos cometidos por JOH. Mientras tanto, JOH ha aprovechado la epidemia de COVID-19 para militarizar aún más el país, proveyendo de más poder al ejército, restringiendo las protestas y destruyendo los medios de vida de los pobres (más del 60% de la población), al tiempo que dirige las pequeñas cantidades de fondos de ayuda sólo para quienes apoyan a su partido político.

Aún así, la resistencia continúa y el pueblo sigue organizándose. A lo largo de los años, se han formado nuevas coaliciones y movimientos que se han unido a la resistencia en la lucha contra la dictadura. Esta lucha continúa en las calles, en el campo y en el ámbito electoral.

La Red de Solidaridad con Honduras ha estado al lado de la resistencia del pueblo hondureño desde 2009. Seguimos luchando para que los gobiernos de los Estados Unidos y de Canadá dejen de apoyar la dictadura y cualquier uso de nuestros impuestos para promover la violencia en Honduras. Una herramienta en esa lucha dentro de los EE.UU. es nuestro continuo apoyo a la Ley por los Derechos Humanos en Honduras Berta Cáceres en la Cámara de Representantes.

Los grupos miembros de la Red continúan exigiendo el fin de la impunidad en Honduras, justicia para Berta Cáceres y para todas aquellas personas asesinados, desaparecidos, encarcelados o perseguidos por la dictadura. Acompañamos las luchas contra la minería, los megaproyectos; por el derecho a la tierra, por todas las demandas del pueblo hondureño y de las organizaciones que trabajan por una Honduras nueva, transformada y refundada.

Para obtener más información histórica y reciente sobre la resistencia y la solidaridad con el pueblo hondureño, visite el sitio web de HSN, sus enlaces a los sitios de las organizaciones miembros y otra información.
FB: https://www.facebook.com/HondurasSolidarityNetwork
Tw: @hondurassol