The Secret Everyone Knew
Editor’s note: Restrictive press laws in Honduras are used to punish journalists who write on issues related to government corruption or drug trafficking. Writing on these issues defies those who use violence and intimidation to censor journalists.
To the surprise of no one, officials at all levels of the Honduran state are entangled in drug cartels and corruption.
Drug trafficking is one of the worst scourges to affect society: it upsets the whole social fabric, gets into various state institutions, and corrodes everything. Political campaigns are bets to deposit money and then charge for the privilege.
The police revelations around the involvement of high-ranking officials and politicians in drug trafficking have been around since the middle of April this year, filling the broadcasts of the corporate media.
- Honduras has one of the world’s highest murder rates. It is also one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism, ranking 129th out of 180 in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index. Journalists are regularly threatened, attacked, and killed for their work. The Honduran government fails to punish those who use violence against reporters, essentially granting them impunity. This space will be dedicated to examining the lack of protection for Honduran journalists exercising their profession. Topics will include the use of state-sponsored advertising as a mechanism to reward or punish publications, and censorship and self-censorship as hindrances to democratic progress.
- Born in Cofradía, Honduras, Dina Meza has been recognized by PEN International, Amnesty International, Index on Censorship and Reporters without Borders for her work as a journalist and human rights advocate. Currently, Dina is the driving force behind the creation of Honduras PEN Centre. In 2013, she wrote “Reign of Terror,” an in-depth report on threats to Honduran journalists for Index on Censorship’s magazine. In 2014, she was named one of Reporters Without Borders’ “100 Heroes and Heroines of Information.”
An edition of the New York Times reported on the involvement of senior officials in the assassinations of two officials from the Dirección de la Lucha contra el Narcotráfico (the Directorate of the Fight Against Drug Trafficking) and, a few days later, unveiled the involvement of senior officials who divided the country up into two drug cartels.
Those publications contained nothing new because they were a well-known secret: they have shaken those allegedly involved and from their mouths have come new denunciations, amongst them that the drug cartels have a political bias. One is likely financing the Partido Liberal (Liberal Party) and the other has entangled members of the Partido Nacional (National Party). But nowadays, since the Government of Juan Orlando Hernández, they only pursue the Liberal cartel.
It also came out of a police commissioner’s mouth that one of the things preventing results in the fight against drugs is the involvement of officials at all levels of the State.
Everything that has been said was already known in the corridors of all sides, a well-known secret. The contract killings, extortion, and kidnappings are actions that have come from within the police force. The climate of the defenseless citizen is so terrible that someone who has had their vehicle stolen can go to report it to the police and find that the person taking the details is the same person who took their car. It is so dangerous that the victims keep quiet and say that they did not recognize anyone since their life is in serious danger.
Amongst all these revelations which have been known for a long time, there is no mention of the torture cells, murders of human rights defenders and social leaders or the youth social cleansing, among other things.
Perhaps in a few years another report that had been gathering dust, will turn to dust – everyone saw it but they turned a blind eye. The main problem is that institutions in Honduras have collapsed. They don’t work, simply because they make them not work so that there is no justice, and thus impunity goes by plane and justice by a tortoise which never arrives anywhere.
It is very common that a witness arrives at the Public Ministry and gives a statement in which he or she is asked for all the details, in order to find out who he or she is denouncing. If the accused are powerful people, then within minutes of the witness leaving, a telephone call is usually made to the perpetrator in order to warn them that someone has denounced them and to pass on the details of the person who trusted in a rotten institution.
If they are lucky, they survive and are merely warned that if they keep talking they will be killed, but in most cases the witnesses end up in the cemetery.
At the moment, it is the Policía Preventiva (Preventive Police) who are in the public spotlight – they have never wished to clean them up since their inception. Today reports against officials and police agents are so expeditious that some suspect the ultimate aim may be to get rid of that institution and replace it with the Military Police. Just as President Juan Orlando Hernández wanted to give the Military Police constitutional status, today it is being done through the power of the media.
The reality is that Hernández is as much to blame as the hitman who pulls the trigger in order to kill, because he has been in the National Congress where he served as President and took no action. Now, as a leader who has been in power for over two years, he has done nothing – it is like letting this State security body (which should always be a civilian body) fall to pieces – but he never abandoned his military mindset.
Hernández sacrificed the health and education budgets in order to grow his military. Financing from the United States also increased the funding to this department. Today the gringos want to be seen as the saviors of Honduras, but they have never listened to the senators who have requested they stop military aide as long as the government does not change its policy of repression of human rights.
Impunity will only stop when they begin to reduce the responsibilities of low-level officials right up to those who make decisions and manipulate evidence. Otherwise we will continue to flail about in the mud, looking to the same solutions that have failed, merely resulting in the distraction of the public. The good thing is that the public is tired of so many lies and is now demanding the truth. Hopefully it will arrive soon.