November 2, 2010

In the news, November 2

Stolen plane
Photos: La Prensa, Honduras

There has been some crime news in the past couple of days that has even shocked me.

Narco plane stolen from military base

Sometime in the late night or early morning hours on Sunday, five armed men entered a military base in San Pedro and commandeered a previously confiscated (in 2008) narco plane. According to unofficial versions reported in La Prensa, the plane had been warmed up just hours earlier and was full of gas with the key inside. A later version indicated that the plane was warmed up daily for two weeks before the theft and that there were empty gas cylinders around.

The armed men would have had to have passed a locked gate complete with a manned guard house. Channel 10 news reported that they would have had to pass two such guard houses. There have been no reports that the base was assaulted or that shots were fired.

Marlon Pascua, Minister of Defense, attributed the act to organized crime and said that the objective was to discredit the military. He pointed out that the narcotraffickers usually just burn their planes, as we've seen many times in Honduras. "For them (narcotraffickers), planes are disposable." Pascua pointed out the oddity of the risk taken to get this one back. On Tuesday, he indicated that he knows who was behind this but cannot reveal names because of the investigation.

Attorney General Luis Rubí stated that this act shows the audacity of organized crime in Honduras and added that it is obvious that there was definitely complicity on the part of someone. I think it also shows that audacity of the corrupto(s) who likely were paid to assist in this act. But when there is little to no prosecution or punishment for corruption or crime, I suppose the benefits exceed the risks involved.

The Vice Minister of Police says that there have since been threats against the police related to this investigation.

Juan Carlos Gonzáles, commander of the base, along with other officials were suspended from duty yesterday, pending the investigation which will be done by a special commission. Few details have been given to the media.

Update, Nov. 3: La Tribuna has some additional information about the crime, including an unofficial report that the plane is now in Venezuela.

Follow up article, November 11: Honduras' Avionetazo

Kidnappers thwarted

Quick action by a witness to a kidnapping and a quick response by the police are responsibility for the safe recovery of a San Pedro Sula businessman yesterday after a long chase. After throwing the victim out of the car, one of the kidnappers was killed by the police, two were injured and captured, and one was caught while trying to flee. But speaking of audacity, one of the kidnappers was a policeman, part of the La Ceiba special anti-kidnapping unit.

Is it any wonder that most witnesses and victims of crimes do not report them when the very people who are supposed to be protecting us are involved in crimes?

US $7 million in tourists' luggage

On Sunday, 15 foreigners (Panamanian, Guatemalan, and Argentinian) were arrested for money laundering at the airport while trying to board a plane with almost US $7 million in cash in their luggage. At least one of the accused admitted that they were paid US $2,500 to transport the money. This makes a total of some US $13 million confiscated by the police this year. Hopefully the money will be used for further crime fighting efforts.
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