Officially, US State Department aid to the Honduran National Police must bypass units under the direct supervision of the force's overall commander, Director General Juan Carlos Bonilla AKA "El Tigre"—who in 2002 was accused of three extrajudicial killings and links to 11 more deaths and disappearances in so-called "social cleansing" operations. He was tried on one killing and acquitted; the other cases were never fully investigated. But an investigation by the Associated Press, based on interviews with unnamed Honduran officials, finds that all police units are actually under Bonilla's direction. Speaking on record was Celso Alvarado, a criminal law professor and consultant to the Honduran Commission for Security and Justice Sector Reform, said the same. "Every police officer in Honduras, regardless of their specific functions, is under the hierarchy and obedience of the director general," he said.
The claim was contested by the Honduran government. "The security programs that Honduras is implementing with the United States are under control of the ministers of security and defense," said Foreign Minister Arturo Corrales.
But the anonymous officials said the contradiction is inevitable in a country gripped by a security emergency. With 91 murders per 100,000 people, Honduras is considered the world's most violent country, as well as a transit point for some 40% of all cocaine reaching the US. An estimated 87% of cocaine smuggling flights from South America pass through Honduras, says the State Department.
The allegations against Bonilla and other human rights concerns prompted the US Congress to freeze an estimated $30 million in Honduran aid last August. Most has been restored following agreements with the State Department on the monitoring of Honduran operations receiving US money. The agreement doesn’t specifically mention Bonilla, but Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said in an e-mail to the AP: "No units under General Bonilla’s control should receive US assistance without credible information refuting the serious allegations against him."
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