The challenges facing the new Honduran government

June 28, 2022

June 28th passed this year (2022) as the 13th anniversary of a 2009 coup d’état that drastically changed Honduras into a country run by and for organised crime with the approval and active support of the US and Canadian governments. The Honduras Solidarity Network (HSN) – – outlines some of the background below. We are grateful to Karen Spring of the HSN for her work gathering and providing information about happenings and developments in the country.

The US supported and benefitted from the years of aggressive and violent neoliberalism that would increase the extractive economy based on mining and hydroelectric projects, further land grabbing by agribusiness companies and oligarchs, and ensure subservience to US foreign policy and wars. This led to the near-collapse of the privatized and plundered public education and public health systems, murders by death-squad groups and security forces of activists across the country, and a terrible increase in poverty, crime and general violence. The eight years (2014-2022) of the narco-dictator Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH) were also marked by the forced displacement of millions of Hondurans internally and hundreds of thousands forced to leave Honduras altogether.

The election in November 2021 and inauguration in January 2022 of President Xiomara Castro of the Liberty and Refoundation (LIBRE) Party in coalition with smaller opposition parties is the victory of 13 years of resistance by the Honduran people.

During the first five months of the new government, many important promises have been kept and progress made, but the obstacles to reforms – let alone deeper changes – are enormous. The narco-dictatorship’s economic and political structures are deeply entrenched, including having representation in Congress and among the government civil service employees. The judges at all levels of the court system are still those appointed by Juan Orlando Hernández. Xiomara Castro inherited a country that is nearly bankrupt and in debt, facing forces that oppose change.

The United States and Canadian governments and international financial institutions are among the forces against ‘too much’ change. The US seems to have realised that the JOH narco-dictatorship had become too exposed and untenable and that the opposition to JOH in Honduras had grown too broad to directly challenge. It recognised that Xiomara Castro won the election and sent Vice President Kamala Harris to the inauguration. From day one, it has also pressured the new government to limit its independence from US international interests and even to limit its plan to dismantle the neoliberal and extractive economic model.

The Honduran social movements: the organisations of the Indigenous and Black peoples, small farmers, workers, women, and students, are supporting their new government while continuing to fight for their proposals and the promise of refoundation in Honduras. As international solidarity and human rights organisations in the US and Canada, we continue to stand with the social movements. We continue to tell our governments and corporations to stop interfering, to stop using money and a military presence to control and limit Honduras’ progress in undoing the damage of the past 13 years.

The HSN is working on a campaign to support debt relief for Honduras that is urgently needed for the project of rebuilding and refounding the country after 13 years of disaster. It also supports the ‘Justice for Berta’ campaign led by COPINH, which is fighting to ensure that all those involved in her assassination are brought to justice. To sign up for the HSN’s  informational list serve, email:

International Commission Against Impunity to Be Installed in Honduras

The following news item from Telesur may be short but is potentially highly significant for the development of Honduras and for the country’s ability to move out of the culture of corruption and state violence that has been the hallmark of the Honduran government since 2009 when a US-backed government of organised crime took over the running of the country.

Keywords: Honduras; corruption; narco-trafficking; MACCIH; CICIH.

By Telesur, 26 February 2022


The predecessor of the CICIH [known as MACCIH, Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras] was expelled by the Hernández regime when the regime was  exposed and investigated.

The United Nations confirmed President Xiomara Castro’s request to install the International Commission against Impunity (CICIH) in the framework of the fight against corruption.

The process will take a period of time that the UN has not yet stipulated, but they did offer a positive response to the request.

The 12-year management of the national party will be reviewed and exposed by this commission; which seeks to bring the corrupt to justice.

The predecessor of the CICIH was expelled by the Juan Orlando Hernández regime when the corruption was exposed and investigated.

This is the second attempt by the Honduran people to get high profile dishonest people jailed.


End of a Narcostate?

By John Perry

LRB Blog, 26th November 2021

We are grateful to John Perry for permission to reproduce his 26th November blog for the London Review of Books. John lives in Masaya, Nicaragua and several of his writings can be found in The Violence of Development website. The London Review of Books (LRB) is a British literary magazine published twice a month. Its blog feature can be found at:

Joe Biden has a Central America problem. Countries that turned reliably neoliberal after the ‘small wars’ of the 1980s have become unwieldy again. After sixteen years of neoliberalism, Nicaraguans returned Daniel Ortega to power in 2007 and re-elected him this month in a vote which Biden dismissed as a ‘pantomime’. In El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, elected in 2019 with Trump’s blessing, has been described as a ‘narcissistic dictator’ by a senior Democrat because of his growing authoritarianism, secret deals with violent gangs, making bitcoin legal tender and fostering links with China. Riding high in opinion polls, he now calls himself ‘the world’s coolest dictator’.

In Honduras, Biden’s problems stem from the period when he was vice-president and the mildly reforming President Zelaya was ousted in a military coup. Neoliberal government was restored, but the corruption and drug-trafficking created a narcostate, led since 2014 by Trump’s confidant Juan Orlando Hernández. When Hondurans voted to end JOH’s mandate in 2017, the US ensured that a rigged result kept him in power.

JOH is finally standing down as Hondurans go the polls again on Sunday. His security in retirement depends on the National Party retaining control so he can avoid extradition to the United States, where his brother has been condemned to life imprisonment for drug-trafficking. The party’s candidate, Nasry ‘Tito’ Asfura, currently the mayor of Tegucigalpa, is under investigation for the alleged embezzlement of $1 million. He is likely to protect JOH if he wins.

He may well lose, however. Until last month, the National Party’s core vote of about 20 per cent looked sufficient to give Tito victory, but two opposition parties have since united. Salvador Nasralla, who should have won the last election, gave way to Xiomara Castro and the last poll put the new alliance on 38 per cent.

Biden would ideally prefer a result that curbs the narcostate, but he’s unlikely to want that to come from a Castro victory. The co-ordinator of her Libre party is her husband, Mel Zelaya, the victim of the 2009 coup. Castro has carefully avoided any impression of radicalism, but while she appears to have won trust among the electorate she is unlikely to have won Biden’s. In a move suggesting heightened US concern, it nominated a full ambassador to Honduras after five years without one.

The election period has already been marked by violence, with the deaths of around thirty congressional or local candidates, mainly from opposition parties. The perpetrators are unlikely to face the law. In the case of Honduras’s most notorious political murder, the killing of Berta Cáceres in 2016, only one of those who commissioned the crime has been convicted and he has still not been sentenced. Cáceres’s daughter Olivia Zúniga, a Libre congresswoman standing in the election, was almost murdered in October when four men broke into her house and tried to strangle her. Fewer than 3 per cent of Hondurans are said to recognise the country as a ‘full democracy’.

Hundreds of fake Twitter accounts have spread authentic-looking lies about Castro; fake opinion polls appear alongside real ones; 300,000 voters still don’t have the identity cards they will need at polling stations; police seized a ‘Molotov cocktail’ factory run by gangs planning to disrupt the voting; a shoot-out during a Liberal Party rally left at least one person dead; a presidential candidate hostile to JOH was arrested along with his wife and mother-in-law; Asfura received a ‘climate positive’ award at COP26 in Glasgow despite being closely associated with deforestation and attacks on environmentalists.

In the year since Biden was elected president, the number of people apprehended at the Mexican border has reached a record high of 1.7 million. A fifth of them came from Honduras. The narcostate is also a failed state. It failed to deal with the pandemic and has Central America’s highest Covid death rate. It failed to respond to two major hurricanes last year, with many people still left homeless. Seven in ten households live in poverty despite $20 billion supposedly being devoted to tackling the problem since the last election (after publishing the poverty figures, the national statistics institute hurriedly deleted them).

Even conservative media in Honduras are now proclaiming Castro’s likely victory, but many people still expect another rigged election. That could lead to massive demonstrations which, as in 2017 when at least 24 people died, would be violently repressed. Biden would have a compliant partner in Asfura but he would still be running a narcostate. And many more Hondurans would head for the Rio Grande.


27 November 2021 at 12:42pm

Delaide says:

The Cold War is over, why would Biden be so keen to keep Honduras ‘compliant’? Especially so when poor governance by the party in power has created such problems for him at the border, not to mention the narcotics.

27 November 2021 at 1:08pm

John Perry says: @ Delaide

Just because US policy makes no sense, that’s no guarantee they won’t pursue it, unfortunately. They are sanctioning the country in the region most committed to social development (Nicaragua), regardless of the likely consequences for migration northwards.

Note: Although at the time of writing not all the results of the Honduran election are in, it appears that Xiomara Castro of the Libre Party had defeated Nasry Asfura of the National Party by a relatively wide margin. It seems unlikely that the National Party will be able to steal the election fraudulently as it did in 2017.


US Intervention and Capitalism Have Created a Monster in Honduras

By W. T. WHITNEY In CounterPunch, 13 October 2021

We are grateful to CounterPunch for permission to include the following article by W.T Whitney in The Violence of Development website. A link to the original article in CounterPunch is given here:

Photograph Source: Fibonacci Blue – CC BY 2.0

Chilean author and human rights advocate Ariel Dorfman recently memorialized Orlando Letelier, President Allende’s foreign minister. Agents of dictator Augusto Pinochet murdered Letelier in Washington in 1976. Dorfman noted that Chile and the United States were “on excellent, indeed obscenely excellent, terms (like they are today, shamefully, between the United States and the corrupt regime in Honduras).”

The Honduran government headed by president Juan Orlando Hernández does have excellent relations with the United States. The alliance is toxic, however, what with the continued hold of capitalism on an already unjust, dysfunctional society. Hondurans will choose a new president on November 28 [2021].

Honduras, a dependent nation, is subject to U.S. expectations. These centre on free rein for businesses and multi-national corporations, large foreign investment, low-cost export goods, low wages, foreigners’ access to land holdings and sub-soil resources, and a weakened popular resistance.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government casts a blind eye on Hernández’s many failings. These include: fraud and violence marking his second-term electoral victory in 2017, an illegal second term but for an improvised constitutional amendment, testimony in a U.S. court naming him as “a key player in Honduras’ drug-trafficking industry” and, lastly, his designation by U.S.  prosecutors as a “co-conspirator” in the trial convicting his brother Tony on drug-trafficking charges.

Some 200 U.S. companies operate in Honduras. The United States accounted for 53% of Honduras’s $7.8 billion export total in 2019. U.S goods, led by petroleum products, made up 42.2 % of Honduran imports.

Honduras’s Economic Development and Employment Zones (ZEDE) reflect planners’ exuberant imagination. They envision privately owned and operated “autonomous cities and special investment districts” attracting foreign investment and welcoming tourist and real estate ventures, industrial parks, commercial and financial services, and mining and forestry activities.

Banks and corporations active in the ZEDEs will appoint administrative officers, mostly from abroad and many from the United States. They, not Honduras’s government, will devise regulations and arrangements for taxation, courts, policing, education and healthcare for residents.

The first ZEDEs are taking shape now. The idea for them cropped up following the military coup in 2009 that removed president Manuel Zelaya’s progressive government. Hernández, as congressional leader and as president from 2014 on, led in promoting them. Honduras’s Congress in 2013 amended the Constitution to legitimize legislation establishing the ZEDEs. The recent end of litigation before the Supreme Court resulted in their final authorization.

For most Hondurans, who are treated as if they were disposable, capitalism has its downside. Honduras’s poverty rate is 70%, up from 59.3% in 2019. Of formally employed workers, 70% work intermittently; 82.6% of Honduran workers participate in the informal sector. The Covid-19 pandemic led to more than 50,000 businesses closing and almost half a million Hondurans losing their jobs. Some 30,000 small businesses disappeared in 2020 owing to floods caused by hurricanes.

Violence at the hands of criminal gangs, narco-traffickers, and the police is pervasive and usually goes unpunished. Victims are rival gang members, political activists, journalists, members of the LGBT community, and miscellaneous young people.  According to, Honduras was Latin America’s third most violent country in 2019 and a year later it registered the region’s third highest murder rate. Says Reuters: “Honduras has become a sophisticated state-sponsored narco-empire servicing Colombian cartels.”

Associated with indiscriminate violence, corruption, and narco-trafficking, Honduras’s police are dangerous. President Hernández eight years ago created “The Military Police for Public Order” (PMOP), the Interinstitutional National Security Force, and the “Tigres” (Tigers). These are police units staffed either by former soldiers or by “soldiers … specializing in police duties.” Police in Honduras numbered 13,752 in 2016 and 20,193 in 2020.

Honduras’s military has grown. Defense spending for 2019 grew by 5.3 %; troop numbers almost doubled. For Hernández, according to one commentator, “militarism has been his right arm for continuing at the head of the executive branch.”  The military forces, like the police, are corrupt, traffic illicit drugs, and are “detrimental” to human rights. The looming presence of security forces is intimidating as they interfere, often brutally, with voting, protest demonstrations, and strikes.

According to Amnesty International, “The government of … Hernández has adopted a policy of repression against those who protest in the streets … The use of military forces to control demonstrations across the country has had a deeply concerning toll on human rights.”

The U.S. government has provided training, supplies, and funding for Honduras’s police and military. Soto Cano, a large U.S. air base in eastern Honduras, periodically receives from 500 to 1500 troops who undertake short-term missions throughout the region, supposedly for humanitarian or drug-war purposes.

Not only does serious oppression exist, but, according to Reuters, severe drought over five years has decimated staple crops [and] … Nearly half a million Hondurans, many of them small farmers, are struggling to put food on the table.” The UN humanitarian affairs agency OCHA reports that as of February 2021, “The severity of acute food insecurity in Honduras has reached unprecedented levels.”

For the sake of survival, many Hondurans follow the path of family and friends: they leave. Among Central American countries, Honduras, followed by Guatemala and Mexico, registered the highest rate of emigration to wherever between 1990 and 2020. The rate increases were: 530%, 293%, and 154%, respectively. Between 2012 and 2019, family groups arriving from Honduras and apprehended at the U.S. border skyrocketed from 513 in 2012 to 188,368 in 2019.

The undoing of Honduras by U.S. imperialism follows a grim pattern, but is also a special case.  Rates of migration from Central American countries to the United States correlate directly with levels of oppression and deprivation in those countries. As regards hope, the correlation is reversed.

Differing rates of apprehension of Honduran and Nicaraguan migrants at the U.S. southern border are revealing. Capitalist-imbued Honduras specializes in oppression, while optimism is no stranger in a Nicaragua aspiring to socialism.

Department of Homeland Security figures show that between 2015 and 2018 the yearly average number of Nicaraguans apprehended at the border was 2292. The comparable figure for Hondurans was 63,741. Recently the number of Nicaraguan migrants has increased; 14,248 presented themselves at the border in 2019 – as did 268,992 Honduran refugees.

Recent reflections of Carlos Fonseca Terán, the FSLN international secretary, show why hope has persisted in Nicaragua. He points out that, since 2007, poverty, inequality, illiteracy, infant mortality, and murders have dropped precipitously. Citizens’ safety, electrification, renewable energy sources, women in government, healthcare funding, and the minimum wage have increased, markedly. Fonseca adds that the “percentage of GDP produced … under associative, cooperative, family and community ownership went from less than 40% to more than 50%.”

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.

Note: Although at the time of writing not all the results of the Honduran election are in, it appears that Xiomara Castro of the Libre Party had defeated Nasry Asfura of the National Party by a relatively wide margin. It seems unlikely that the National Party will be able to steal the election fraudulently as it did in 2017.

Edwin Espinal and Raúl Álvarez, Honduran political prisoners – all charges dropped

In December 2019 we included in this section of The Violence of Development website a Honduras Solidarity Network article about Honduran political prisoner Edwin Espinal. Here we are pleased to include, almost two years later, the news that the charges against Edwin and co-defendant Raúl Álvarez have been dropped. Rights Action gives a brief account below along with links elsewhere for more details.

Edwin Espinal, left, and co-accused Raul Alvarez, outside a Honduran courthouse, Sept.17, just after all the politically motivated charges (related to their democracy and human rights activism in Honduras) were dropped. Photo: Karen Spring.

More details of the case and the struggle for justice are found in the CBC news report (21 September 2021 – link given here:

Pending formalisation of ruling

Edwin and Raúl have to wait a bit longer for the ruling to be formally published, and the appeal period to expire. It was, however, a clear and fast ruling from the court. It is widely suspected the ruling will be legally ratified, and the decision will not be appealed by the corrupt, military-backed Honduran regime.

THANK-YOU to all Rights Action supporters who helped us support this very difficult struggle that began with Edwin’s illegal detention on January 18, 2018.

The almost 4 years struggle was led by Karen Spring, Edwin’s partner in Honduras, and by Janet Spring, Edwin’s mother-in-law in Elmvale Ontario.

Karen Spring (in Honduras)

Janet Spring (in Canada)



Also refer to the December 2019 article in this section of The Violence of Development website.

The Evolution of US-Backed Death Squads in Honduras: The Pathology of U.S. Foreign Policy

by T.J. Coles, Counterpunch

20 December 2020 is grateful to Tim Coles for permission to reproduce his Counterpunch article here. It is a slightly longer article than our website usually includes, but is well worth the read. The original article can be found at:

Photo Source Capt. Thomas Cieslak – CC BY 2.0

U.S. intelligence agencies and corporations have pushed back against the so-called Pink Tide, the coming to power of socialistic governments in Central and South America. Examples include: the slow-burning attempt to overthrow Venezuela’s President, Nicolás Maduro; the initially successful soft coup in Bolivia against President Evo Morales; and the constitutional crises that removed Presidents Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil.

In 2009, the Obama administration (2009-17) backed a coup against President Manuel Zelaya. Since then, Honduras has endured a decline in its living standards and democratic institutions. The return of 1980s-style death squads operating against working people in the interests of US corporations has contributed to the refugee-migrant flow to the United States and to the rise of racist politics.


Honduras (pop. 9.5 million) is surrounded by Guatemala and Belize in the north, El Salvador in the west, and Nicaragua in the south. It has a small western coast on the Pacific Ocean and an extensive coastline on the Caribbean Sea in the Atlantic. Nine out of 10 Hondurans are Indo-European (mestizo). GDP is <$25bn and over 60 percent of the people live in poverty: one in five in extreme poverty.

Honduras gained independence from Spain in 1821, before being annexed to the Mexican Empire. Hondurans have endured some 300 rebellions, civil wars, and/or changes of government; more than half of which occurred in the 20th century. Writing in 1998, the Clinton White House acknowledged that Honduras’s “agriculturally based economy came to be dominated by US companies that established vast banana plantations along the north coast.”

The significant US military presence began in the 1930s, with the establishment of an air force and military assistance programme. The Clinton White House also noted that the founder of the National Party, Tiburcio Carías Andino (1876-1969), had “ties to dictators in neighbouring countries and to US banana companies [which] helped him maintain power until 1948.”

The CIA notes that dictator Carías’s repression of Liberals would make those Liberals “turn to conspiracy and [provoke] attempts to foment revolution, which would render them much more susceptible to Communist infiltration and control.” The Agency said that in so-called emerging democracies: “The opportunities for Communist penetration of a repressed and conspiratorial organisation are much greater than in a freely functioning political party.” So, for certain CIA analysts, ‘liberal democracy’ is a buffer against dictatorships that legitimize genuinely left-wing oppositional groups. The CIA cites the case of Guatemala in which “a strong dictatorship prior to 1944 did not prevent Communist activity which led after the dictator’s fall, to the establishment of a pro-Communist government.”


To understand the thinking behind the US-backed death squads, it is worth looking at some partly-declassified CIA material on early-Cold War planning. The paranoia was such that each plantation labourer was potentially a Soviet asset hiding in the fruit field. These subversives could be ready, at any moment, to strike against US companies and the nascent American Empire.

In line with some strategists’ conditional preferences for ‘liberal democracies’, Honduras has the façade of voter choice, with two main parties controlled by the military. After the Second World War, US policy exploited Honduras as a giant military base from which left-wing or suspected ‘communist’ movements in neighbouring countries could be countered. In 1954, for instance, Honduras was used as a base for the CIA’s operation PBSuccess to overthrow Guatemala’s President, Jacobo Árbenz (1913-71).

Writing in 1954, the CIA said that the Liberal Party of Honduras “has the support of the majority of the Honduran voters. Much of its support comes from the lower classes.” The Agency also believed that the banned Communist Party of Honduras planned to infiltrate the Liberals to nudge them further left. But an Agency document notes that “there may be fewer than 100” militant Communists in Honduras and there were “perhaps another 300 sympathizers.”

The document also notes: “The organisation of a Honduran Communist Party has never been conclusively established,” though the CIA thought that the small Revolutionary Democratic Party of Honduras “might have been a front.” The Agency also believed that Communists were behind the Workers’ Coordinating Committee that led strikes of 40,000 labourers against the US-owned United Fruit and Standard Fruit Companies, which the Agency acknowledges “dominate[d] the economy of the region.” In the same breath, the CIA also says that the Communists “lost control of the workers,” post-strike.


A US military report states that “[c]onducting joint exercises with the Honduran military has a long history dating back to 1965.” By 1975, US military helicopters operating in Honduras at Catacamas, a village in the east, assisted “logistical support of counterinsurgency operations,” according to the CIA. These machines aided the Honduran forces in their skirmishes against pro-Castro elements from Nicaragua operating along the Patuca River in the south of Honduras. By the mid-1990s, there were at least 30 helicopters operating in Honduras.

In 1979, the National Sandinista Liberation Front (Sandinistas) came to power in Nicaragua, deposing and later assassinating the US-backed dictator, Anastasio Somoza Debayle (1925-80). For the Reagan administration (1981-89), Honduras was a proxy against the defiant Nicaragua.

The US Army War College wrote at the time: “President Reagan has clearly expressed our national commitment to combating low intensity conflict in developing countries.” It says that “The responsibility now falls upon the Department of State and the Department of Defense to develop plans and doctrine for meeting this requirement.” The same document confirms that the US Army Special Operations Forces (SOF), the 18th Airborne Corps, was sent to Honduras. “Mobile Training Teams (MTT) were dispatched to train Honduran soldiers in small unit tactics, helicopter maintenance and air operations, and to establish the Regional Military Training Center near Trujillo and Puerto Castilla,” both on the eastern coast.

A SOUTHCOM document dates significant US military assistance to Honduras to the 1980s. It notes the effect of public pressure on US policy, highlighting: “a general lack of appetite among the American public to see US forces committed in the wake of the Vietnam War [which] resulted in strict parameters that limited the scope of military involvement in Central America.”

According to SOUTHCOM, the Regional Military Training Centre was designed “to train friendly countries in basic counterinsurgency tactics.” President Reagan wanted to smash the Sandinistas, but “the executive branch’s hands were tied by the 1984 passage of the Boland Amendment [to the Defense Appropriations Act], banning the use of US military aid to be given to the Contras,” the anti-Sandinista forces in Nicaragua. As a result, “the strong and sudden focus instead on training, and arguably by proxy, the establishment of [Joint Task Force-Bravo],” an elite military unit assigned a “counter-communist mission.”

The Green Berets trained the contras from bases in Honduras, “accompanying them on missions into Nicaragua.” The North American Congress on Latin America noted at the time that “Military planes flying out of Honduras are coordinated by a laser navigation system, and contras operating inside Nicaragua are receiving night supply drops from C-130s using the Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System,” first used in Vietnam and operational only to a few personnel. “The CIA, operating out of Air Force bases in the United States, hires pilots for the hazardous sorties at $30,000 per mission.” The report notes that troops from El Salvador “were undergoing US training every day of the year, in Honduras, the United States and the new basic training centre at La Union,” in the north.


The US also launched psychological operations against domestic leftism in Honduras. This involved morphing a special police unit into a military intelligence squad guilty of kidnap, torture, and murder: Battalion 316. Inducing a climate of fear in workers, union leaders, intellectuals, and human rights lawyers is a way of ensuring that progressive ideas like good healthcare, free education, and decent living standards don’t take root.

In 1963, the Fuerza de Seguridad Pública (FUSEP, Public Security Force) was set up as a branch of the military. During the early 1980s, FUSEP commanded the National Directorate of Investigations, regular national police units, and National Special Units, “which provided technical support to the arms interdiction programme,” according to the CIA, in which “material from Nicaragua passed through Honduras to guerrillas in El Salvador.” The National Directorate of Investigations ran the secret Honduran Anti-Communist Liberation Army (ELACH, 1980-84), described by the CIA as “a rightist paramilitary organisation which conducted operations against Honduran leftists.”

The CIA repeats allegations that “ELACH’s operations included surveillance, kidnappings, interrogation under duress, and execution of prisoners who were Honduran revolutionaries.” ELACH worked in cooperation with the Special Unit of FUSEP. “The mission of the Unit was essentially … to combat both domestic and regional subversive movements operating in and through Honduras.” The CIA also notes that “this included penetrating various organisations such as the Honduran Communist Party, the Central American Regional Trotskyite Party, and the Popular Revolutionary Forces-Lorenzo Zelaya (FPR-LZ) Marxist terrorist organisation.”

Gustavo Adolfo Álvarez (1937-89), future head of the Honduran Armed Forces, told US President Jimmy Carter’s Honduras Ambassador, Jack Binns, that their forces would use “extra-legal means” to destroy communists. Binns wrote in a confidential cable: “I am deeply concerned at increasing evidence of officially sponsored/sanctioned assassinations of political and criminal targets, which clearly indicate [Government of Honduras] repression has built up a head of steam much faster than we had anticipated.” But US doctrine shifted under President Reagan. Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Thomas O. Enders, told Binns not to send such material to the State Department for fear of leakage. Enders himself said of human rights in Honduras: “the Reagan administration had broader interests.”

Under Reagan, John Negroponte replaced Binns at the US Embassy in the capital Tegucigalpa, from where many CIA agents operated. In 1981, secret briefings informed Negroponte that “[Government of Honduras] security forces have begun to resort to extralegal tactics — disappearances and, apparently, physical eliminations to control a perceived subversive threat.” Rick Chidster, a junior political officer at the US Embassy was ordered by superiors in 1982 to remove references to Honduran military abuses from his annual human rights report prepared for Congress.


In March 1981, Reagan authorised the expansion of covert operations to “provide all forms of training, equipment, and related assistance to cooperating governments throughout Central America in order to counter foreign-sponsored subversion and terrorism.” Documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun reveal that from 1981, the US provided funds for Argentine counterinsurgency experts to train anti-Communists in Honduras; many of whom had, themselves, been trained by the US in earlier years. At a camp in Lepaterique, in western Honduras, Argentine killers under US supervision trained their Honduran counterparts.

Oscar Álvarez, a former Honduran Special Forces officer and diplomat trained by the US, said: “The Argentines came in first, and they taught how to disappear people.” With training and equipment, such as hidden cameras and phone bugging technology, US agents “made them more efficient.” The US-trained Chief of Staff, Gen. José Bueso Rosa, says: “We were not specialists in intelligence, in gathering information, so the United States offered to help us organise a special unit.” Between 1982 and 1984, the aforementioned Gen. Álvarez headed the Armed Forces. In 1983, Reagan awarded him the Legion of Merit for “encouraging the success of democratic processes in Honduras.” When CIA Station Chief, Donald Winters adopted a child, he asked Álvarez to be the godfather.

After WWII, the US Army established in the Panama Canal Zone a Latin American Training Centre – Ground Division at Fort Amador, later renamed the US Army School of the Americas and moved to Fort Benning, Georgia. Now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, the CIA’s Phoenix Programme in Vietnam and its MK-ULTRA mind-torture programmes influenced the Honduras curriculum at the School.

In 1983, the US military participated in a Strategic Military Seminar with the Honduran Armed Forces, at which it was decided that FUSEP would be transformed from a police force into a military intelligence unit. “The purpose of this change,” says the CIA, “was to improve coordination and improve control.” It also aimed “To make available greater personnel, resources, and to integrate the intel production.” In 1984, the Special Unit was placed under the command of the Military Intelligence Division and renamed the 316th Battalion, at which point “it continued to provide technical support to the arms interdiction programme” in neighbouring countries.

A CIA officer based in the US Embassy is known to have visited the Military Industries jail: one of Battalion 316’s torture chambers in which victims were bound, beaten, electrocuted, raped, and poisoned. Battalion torturer, José Barrera, says: “They always asked to be killed … Torture is worse than death.” Battalion 316 officer, José Valle, explained surveillance methods: “We would follow a person for four to six days. See their daily routes from the moment they leave the house. What kind of transportation they use. The streets they go on.” Men in black ski masks would bundle the victim into a vehicle with dark-tinted windows and no license plates.

Under Lt. Col. Alonso Villeda, the Battalion was disbanded and replaced in 1987 with a Counterintelligence Division of the Honduran Armed Forces. Led by the Chief of Staff for Intelligence (C-2), it absorbed the Battalion’s personnel, units, analysis centres, and functions.

In 1988, Richard Stolz, then US Deputy Director for Operations, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in secret hearings that CIA officers ran courses and taught psychological torture. “The course consisted of three weeks of classroom instruction followed by two weeks of practical exercises, which included the questioning of actual prisoners by the students.” Former Ambassador Binns says: “I think it is an example of the pathology of foreign policy.” In response to the allegations, which he denied, former Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Elliott Abrams, replied: “A human rights policy is not supposed to make you feel good.”

Between 1982 and 1993, the US taxpayer gave half a billion dollars in military “aid” to Honduras. By 1990, 184 people had “disappeared,” according to President Manuel Zelaya, who in 2008 intimated that he would reopen cases of the disappeared.


After centuries of struggle, Hondurans elected a President who raised living standards through wealth redistribution. Winner of the 2005 Presidential elections, Manuel Zelaya of the Liberal Party’s Movimiento Esperanza Liberal faction increased the minimum wage, provided free education to children, subsidised small farmers, and provided free electricity to the country’s poorest. Zelaya countered media monopoly propaganda by imposing minimum airtime for government broadcasts and allied with America’s regional enemies via the proposed ALBA trading bloc.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported at the time that “analysts” reckoned Zelaya’s move “runs the risk of jeopardizing the traditionally close state of relations with the United States.” The CRS also bemoaned Zelaya delaying the accreditation of the US Ambassador, Hugo Llorens, “to show solidarity with Bolivia in its diplomatic spat with the United States in which Bolivia expelled the US Ambassador.”

Because Zeyala did not have enough Congressional representatives to agree to his plan, he attempted to expand democracy by holding a referendum on constitutional changes. Both the lower and Supreme Courts agreed to the opposition parties blocking the referendum. In defiance of the courts, Zelaya ordered the military to help with election logistics, an order refused by the head of the Armed Forces, Gen. Romeo Vásquez, who later claimed that Zelaya had dismissed him, which Zelaya denies. Using pro-Zelaya demonstrations as a pretext for taking to the streets, the military mobilized and, in June 2009, the Supreme Court authorised Zelaya’s capture, after which he was exiled to Costa Rica.

In the book Hard Choices, then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s ghostwriters, with her approval, refer to Latin America as the US’s “backyard” and to Zelaya as “a throwback to the caricature of a Central American strongman, with his white cowboy hat, dark black mustache, and fondness for Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro” (p. 222). The publishers omitted from the paperback edition Clinton’s role in the coup: “We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras” (plus the usual boilerplate about democracy promotion.)

Decree PCM-M-030-2009 ordered the post-coup election be held during a state of emergency. The peaceful, pro-Zelaya groups, La Resistencia and Frente Hondureña de Resistencia Popular, were targeted under Anti-Terror Laws. The right-wing Porfirio Lobo was elected with over 50 percent of the vote in a fake 60 percent turnout (later revised to 49 percent). US President Obama described this as “a restoration of democratic practices and a commitment to reconciliation that gives us great hope.” Hope and change for Honduras came in the form of economic changes benefitting US corporations.”

The US State Department notes: “Many of the approximately 200 US companies that operate in Honduras take advantage of protections available in the Central American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement.” Note the inadvertent acknowledgement that ‘free trade’ is actually protection for US corporations. The State Department also notes: “The Honduran government is generally open to foreign investment. Low labour costs, proximity to the US market, and the large Caribbean port of Puerto Cortés make Honduras attractive to investors.”

Four years into Zelaya’s overthrow, unemployment jumped from 35.5 percent to 56.4 percent. In 2014, Honduras signed an agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a $189m loan. The Centre for Economic and Policy Research states: “Honduran authorities agreed to implement fiscal consolidation… including privatizations, pension reforms and public sector layoffs.” The Congressional Research Service states: “President Juan Orlando Hernández of the conservative National Party was inaugurated to a second four-year term in January 2018. He lacks legitimacy among many Hondurans, however, due to allegations that his 2017 reelection was unconstitutional and marred by fraud.”


Since the coup, the US has expanded its military bases in Honduras from 10 to 13. US ‘aid’ funds the Honduran National Police, whose long-time Director, Juan Carlos Bonilla, was trained at the School of the Americas. Atrocities against Hondurans increased under the US favourite, President Hernández, who vowed to “put a soldier on every corner.” SOUTHCOM worked under Obama’s Central America Regional Security Initiative, which supported Operation Morazán: a programme to integrate Honduras’s Armed Forces with its domestic policing units. With SOUTHCOM funding, the 250-person Special Response Security Unit (TIGRES) was established near Lepaterique. The TIGRES are trained by the US Green Berets or 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and described by the US Army War College as a “paramilitary police force.”

The cover for setting up a military police force is countering narco- and human-traffickers, but the record shows that left-wing civilians are targeted for death and intimidation. To crush the pro-Zelaya, pro-democracy movements Operation Morazán, according to the US Army War College, included the creation of the Military Police of Public Order (PMOP), whose members must have served at least one year in the Armed Forces. By January 2018, the PMOP consisted of 4,500 personnel in 10 battalions across every region of Honduras, and had murdered at least 21 street protestors.

Berta Cáceres co-founded the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras. One of the Organisation’s missions was resisting the Desarrollos Energéticos (DESA) corporation’s Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River, which is sacred to the Lenca people. DESA hired a gang, later convicted of murdering Cáceres. They included the US-trained Maj. Mariano Díaz Chávez and Lt. Douglas Geovanny Bustillo, himself head of security at DESA. The company’s director, David Castillo, also a US-trained ex-military intelligence officer, is alleged to have colluded with the killers. The TIGRES forces oversaw the dam’s construction site.

Between 2010 and 2016, as US ‘aid’ and training continued to flow, over 120 environmental activists were murdered by hitmen, gangs, police, and the military for opposing illegal logging and mining. Others have been intimidated. In 2014, for instance, a year after the murder of three Matute people by gangs linked to a mining operation, the children of the indigenous Tolupan leader, Santos Córdoba, were threatened at gunpoint by the US-trained, ex-Army General, Filánder Uclés, and his bodyguards.

Home to the Regional Military Training Centre, Bajo Aguán is a low-lying region in the east, whose farmers have battled land privatization since the early-1990s. After Zelaya was deposed, crimes against the peoples of the region increased. Rights groups signed a letter to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who facilitated US ‘aid’ to Honduras, stating: “Forty-five people associated with peasant organisations have been killed” between September 2009 and February 2012. A joint military-police project, Operation Xatruch II in 2012, led to the deaths of “nine peasant organisation members, including two principal leaders.” One 17-year-old son of a peasant organiser was kidnapped, tortured, and threatened with being burned alive. Lawfare is also used, with over 160 small farmers in the area subject to frivolous legal proceedings.


In the 1980s, Tomás Nativí, co-founder of the People’s Revolutionary Union, was “disappeared” by US-backed death squads. Nativí’s wife, Bertha Oliva, founder of the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras to fight for justice for those murdered between 1979 and 1989. She told The Intercept that the recent killings and restructuring of the so-called security state is “like going back to the past.”

The iron-fist of Empire in the service of capitalism never loosens its grip. The names and command structures of US-backed military units in Honduras have changed over the last four decades, but their goal remains the same.

  1. J. Coles is director of the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research and the author of several books, including Voices for Peace (with Noam Chomsky and others) and  Fire and Fury: How the US Isolates North Korea, Encircles China and Risks Nuclear War in Asia (both Clairview Books).

Counterpunch is a non-profit, reader-supported journal that publishes articles and books.

Bertha Oliva de Nativi, mentioned at the end of the article above, appears twice in the interview section of this website. Martin Mowforth interviewed her in 2010 (soon after the coup which ousted Mel Zelaya) and again in 2016 during the rule of organised crime and state violence presided over by Juan Orlando Hernández.

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.
Tw: @hondurassol

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

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


Rights Action:

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:

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.

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.

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