Monday, February 20, 2017

Police Corruption Abounds in Honduras

A criminal gang of Police in Honduras have continued to serve since 2003 when they're names became known in an investigation about a group running guns to the FARC in Colombia.  Several are now or have been high ranking Police executives.

On July 6, 2003, then Congress person Armando Avila Panchamé was arrested while fleeing the crash of a drug trafficking airplane in Olancho.  The plane had landed on the ranch of Ramon Matta, son of the Honduran drug lord with the same name who was arrested and extradited illegally to the US in 1998.  Panchamé was arrested along with 10 others.  The vehicle he was driving had attracted police interest because it had been seen a few months earlier near Arenal, Yoro, at the scene of another drug plane crash.  After his arrest, Panchamé waived his immunity, and was tried and convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.  He was shot to death by another prisoner in prison less than a year later.

Panchamé was the second National Party Congressperson in a month to be arrested for drug trafficking that year.

Also in 2003, Police officer Exequial Antonio Estrada Izaguirre sent a report to the head of the Police Investigative unit, Coralia Rivera de Coca, detailing the misbehavior of a number of his fellow officers in Monjaras, Choluteca.  It seems Inspector Leonel Enrique Matute Chavez was stopped along the road there and his vehicle was found to contain more than a hundred weapons of various calibers to be sent to Rodrigo José Londono, in Colombia, to pass into the control of the FARC.  The arms were being sent by Panchamé to a drug plane that was to land in Choluteca to exchange them for money.

This report listed their high level contacts in the police used by Panchamé:  Ramirez del Cid, Napoleon Nazar, somebody Sauceda, somebody Sabillon, all of whom were present when the drug plane landed in Choluteca, so that nothing would go wrong if the Honduran police or DEA found out. These names should be familiar to you from previous posts about police involved in crime organizations.  All of them have multiple accusations of criminal involvement in known cases in Honduras, yet all of them have continued to rise in the Police ranks.

A confidential US State Department memo at the time concludes that Avila Panchamé was "offered up" as a sacrificial lamb "in an effort to demonstrate to the US the GOH's commitment to combating drug trafficking and corruption at the highest levels" much as the Valle Valle and Rivera Maradiaga were for the current government.

The police investigation has remained open and there are entries in the file through 2016, but it remained buried in police files until this year, along with evidence that someone tried to have the files expunged during the last few years.  Three of them became the Police Commissioners before retiring. Ten have been either removed through the Police cleanup process or suspended.  Two more were caught in criminal situations and removed.  But 15 of them remain active in the police.

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