Thursday, September 9, 2010

Convenient Explanations

Gangs, drug trafficking, and corruption are real problems in Honduras. Unfortunately, they are also a too-convenient explanation for crimes, an explanation rolled out before anything resembling police investigations are carried out.

Oscar Alvarez, Security Minister, appallingly trotted out his blanket excuse yet again; this time to explain Tuesday's massacre of 18 people in a shoe faction in San Pedro Sula: it was gangs, or rather, gang rivalry:
"A group belonging to one gang arrived at this place with the intention of eliminating supposed sympathizers of another gang"

Case closed.

He admitted that this was not to say that the employees of the factory were actually members of any gang:
"I want to be respectful of the families of the victims, and to say they were sympathizers. I'm not saying they were members of gangs, but they were friends of those who are gang members."

Blame the victims.

The factory owner disputes Alvarez's explanation:
"They haven't found any drugs or arms here, and the employees weren't tattooed... Its not certain that this crime was a dispute for territory between drug gangs. The police need to investigate more,"

He also noted that the police took no material evidence from the crime scene, which presumably means they have no material evidence to tie the criminals to the crime. The factory floor was littered with AK-47 and 9mm shell casings according to the reporters. Were these left behind by the police?

So what is Alvarez's evidence of any gang linkage to this crime?
"The three came in and shouted 'everyone on the ground'....that 'everyone on the ground' and then executing them is the modus operandi of a gang that operates in our country."

Yet witnesses said that most of the people were shot where they worked, only some on the floor.
"When we saw they were gone, we ran to the shoe factory and found everyone shot on their tables, in their work chairs, and on the bloody floor, some breathing their last breath, others asking for help"

said one witness to an El Tiempo reporter.

Alvarez claims to know who the guilty parties are, but that they've gone into hiding, so he's opened phone lines for people to call in and give them up, and released sketches of two of the assailants.

This raises the question, if he actually knows who they are, why not release names and/or photos from the Registro Nacional, rather than the very generic unidentified sketches that were released to the press?

Alvarez's convenient excuse for not investigating this massacre is just that, a convenient excuse. The story he tells bears little relationship to the events as reported by witnesses. He blames the victims for their undemonstrated gang "association". Applying a one-size-fits-all explanation substitutes for doing the much more difficult job of finding out what was behind this terrible event.

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