Tuesday, March 26, 2013

AP: State Department Still Funding Honduran Police Chief Linked to Killings

While the United States Department of State has said it would suspend security aid to Honduran police under the command of the controversial National Police Director Juan Carlos Bonilla, a recent Associated Press investigation finds reason to doubt the claim.

As El Faro detailed in a 2011 report on Bonilla’s record, in 2002 human rights organizations accused him of forming part of an extrajudicial killing squad known as “Los Magnificos” which murdered suspected gang members. He was acquitted in court only after the prosecutor in the case was fired mid-trial.

When the allegations against Bonilla surfaced again last year after he was appointed police chief, the United States announced in August that it would only provide security aid to Honduran law enforcement personnel “who receive training, guidance, and advice directly from U.S. law enforcement and are not under Bonilla’s direct supervision.”

However, according to the AP article:

“The Associated Press has found that all police units are under the control of Director General Juan Carlos Bonilla, nicknamed the "Tiger," who in 2002 was accused of three extrajudicial killings and links to 11 more deaths and disappearances. He was tried on one killing and acquitted. The rest of the cases were never fully investigated.

Honduran law prohibits any police unit from operating outside the command of the director general, according to a top Honduran government security official, who would only speak on condition of anonymity. He said that is true in practice as well as on paper.” Celso Alvarado, a criminal law professor and consultant to the Honduran Commission for Security and Justice Sector Reform, said the same.

"Every police officer in Honduras, regardless of their specific functions, is under the hierarchy and obedience of the director general," he said.

As Dan Beeton of the Center for Economic and Policy Research points out, Congress has withheld $30 million to the Honduran police due to concerns about Bonilla's past, but the State Department has continued to authorize reduced funding for Honduran law enforcement officers, recently announcing a $16.3 million aid package to help train and equip police.

Considering that these police fall under Bonilla’s command according to Honduran law, the State Department aid may violate its own promise to isolate the controversial police chief.

Meanwhile, allegations of misconduct and corruption continue to mount against Bonilla. In February, General Ricardo Ramirez del Cid -- a former Honduran national police chief -- directly blamed the murder of his son on Bonilla. While officials said the teen had been killed by gang members, Ramirez claimed to have evidence that the killing was the result of a botched kidnapping attempt by corrupt police under Bonilla’s command.

And earlier this month the Liberation and Re-foundation Party (LIBRE) formally charged Bonilla with intimidating its members after he accused the party of working to “destabilize” the country’s security forces.


News Briefs
  • David Smilde and Rebecca Hanson of Venezuela Politics and Human Rights have posted the fourth installment in a series (see the first, second and third posts) analyzing the Venezuelan government’s efforts at improving citizen security in recent years. Crime and violence are on the rise in the country, and the issue has become a major talking point for the opposition in the lead up to next month’s election.  The latest post highlights the creation of the “Gran Mision A Toda Vida Venezuela,” an umbrella group tasked with bringing the government’s various citizen security reform efforts together into a single plan.
  • Interim Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro claimed yesterday that the opposition plans to disrupt food distribution and sabotage power service in the country in an effort to discredit the government ahead of elections on April 14. The Associated Press notes that the opposition has denied similar allegations in the past, and it is difficult not to see this claim as an attempt to distance the government from historic food shortages and relatively frequent blackouts.
  • The Haitian government announced on Monday that an aide to Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe had been assassinated over the weekend by two masked gunmen on a motorcycle. Police officials say Georges Henry Honorat was killed on Saturday evening, but have not publicly suggested a motive. Honorat was the editor of the Haiti Progres weekly newspaper, and secretary general of the anti-Duvalier Popular National Party.
  • A medical commission’s recent finding that former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori is not currently suffering from cancer makes it increasingly unlikely that his request for a pardon on humanitarian grounds will be accepted.  According to former assistant Attorney General Avelino Guillen, the fact that the doctors have found evidence that he suffers from advanced depression does not provide a legal basis for President Ollanta Humala to grant the pardon.
  • La Republica reports that Peru has declared an “environmental state of emergency” in the Pastaza River basin, a remote northern Amazon jungle region along the Ecuadorean border. Indigenous groups in the area have complained for years about unsafe levels of pollution caused by oil drilling, but the government claims that until now officials lacked the necessary environmental standards to address the issue.
  • Former Colombian President Andres Pastrana, who in 1999 granted a demilitarized zone the size of Switzerland to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in order to facilitate peace talks only to see them fall apart in 2002, has come out against the current peace process with the FARC. In an interview with El Espectador, the former president told the paper he believes that President Juan Manuel Santos is overstepping the limits of his office, as he was not elected on a platform to promote dialogue and thus “does not have a mandate for peace.”
  • The AP reports that in response to the ongoing trial against former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt, a group of retired Guatemalan soldiers and their families have launched a campaign to defend the military and deny that genocide ever took place in the country. The group does not appear to have much momentum, however, and the news agency noted that so far it includes just 24 people.
  • Meanwhile, the Open Society Justice Initative’s RiosMontt-Trial.org offers a detailed account of the testimony presented by civilian victims of military violence on Friday, the fourth day of the trial. The site also features a description of the 13-year struggle to bring Rios Montt to trial, written by international lawyer Almudena Bernabeu.
  • The Brazilian government is hoping to speed up slowing economic growth by promoting immigration. Brazilian Secretary of Strategic Affairs Ricardo Paes de Barros told the Miami Herald that the government wants to raise the percentage of foreign-born Brazilians to 2 or 3 percent of the population, up from just .2 percent. The paper notes that to meet this goal, the country must accept as many as 6 million immigrants.
  • The Global Post looks at the Bolivian government’s regulated coca cultivation strategy, which has brought about a reduction in overall coca growth in the country. The article asks if the government’s “softer strategy” may be a better approach to drug policy than the U.S.-designed strategies currently being employed in Peru and Colombia.
  • Polling ahead of Paraguay’s April 21 presidential election shows that millionaire businessman Horacio Cartes of the Colorado Party is the frontrunner in the race, with support from 42.7 percent of respondents. His nearest rival is Efrain Alegre, of the Liberal Party, with 29.2 percent, according to a poll published Sunday in Ultima Hora.