August 22, 2008

La Prensa expose: Narcotrafficking in Honduras, Part III

Bishop Santos
Copán Bishop Luís Santos
Photo: La Prensa, Honduras

Final installment of the highlights of the recent La Prensa investigative report of the state of narcotrafficking in Honduras:

"He who talks will be killed"

Bishop Luís Santos risked his life to tell La Prensa about the terrible reality of those who live in the towns of the corridor of drug trafficking in the departmento (state) of Copán.

Bishop Santos: Police chiefs conspire with the narcos

Gunfire, anxiety, and complicity for fear of being silenced is the daily life of habitants of several municipalities in the departmento of Copán.

The narco underworld maintains a tight rein on anyone who tries to confront them, regardless if they are police or municipal authorities. With a 'llamadita' (little call), they get immediate protection from the international cártels.

"If you go to Gracias, Lempira, you find cocaine sellers. In the isolated and inhospitable Erandique, the same. In Camasca and other hamlets, the family remesa (money transfers from US relatives) is spent on alcohol and drugs."

"In San Antonio and Colomoncagua, the constructions that you see are evidently from money produced from drugs. There you see fences, homes, cars appear from one night to the morning."

There are many forms to cover up the money from narco activity. In addition to cattle ranching, in Santa Rita there are grand restaurants where disorder reigns.


In El Paraíso, the girls don't accept a boyfriend if he doesn't have the ultimate model car, cars that only the narcos have. Only the church remains in El Paraíso, because everything else has been bought by the narcos, houses, buildings, ranches, etc.

The bishop stated, "In El Paraíso and El Espíritu, Copán, there are aldeas (villages) where you can see for yourself mansions like there are in Lomos del Guijarro of Tegucigalpa (probably the most affluent colonia in Honduras). Where does the money come from? It is narco money."

In the mountain range of El Espíritu, they hear heavy weapon gunfire at 7 p.m. The people enter their homes because this is the hour when the narcos are traveling.

They guard their silence for fear of reprisals, because if they talk, the criminals don't threaten their lives, they kill them.

International contacts with Columbia and Mexico

Some of the police chiefs are conspirators, allied with narcotrafficking. Almost all of the drug capos of Copán are well connected with their international cronies.

An example is the renowned 'Mamalicha'. He was in prison in Copán Ruins and they said he had AIDS. They let him go after two years but now he moves about there as if it was nothing. He told the police, "You can't do anything to me. A 'llamadita' and I'll immediately have international protection."

Another problem is that the population has no trust in the police. The police are a danger. One citizen was held up and the criminals took his documentation. He went to the police and they were the same perpetrators. Another problem is that there is no justice, but this, they explain, is because the judges are afraid. There is no security for anyone.

Powerful gangs

An incarcerated man named Chinchilla of the gang of the same name said he was sick. They took him to a hospital and under guard, he was allowed to escape. The people say that the officers were paid to turn a blind eye by the narcos.

This is harmful for Honduras because if the police are inside this drug business, we have no defense. In this tense atmosphere, where the unexpected can happen in any moment, the people are praying with the feeling that what happened to someone else could happen to them.

The bishop expressed that in La Entrada, they kidnap people for 10 or 20 thousand lempiras. (US $529 - $1,058). The crime is uncontrollable. They say, "If you want your car, pay L.20 thousand." To not lose the L.300 thousand value of the car, the people pay the L.20 thousand.

Many of the narcos say they are Catholic but they don't come to mass. Their relatives do and they are received with equanimity. It is a double edged sword, because they could be sincere, or they could be there to report back to the narcos what is being said in church.


Related articles:

Part I
Part II
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