In Honduran Crimes, Police Are Seen As Part Of The Problem : Parallels Honduras is the murder capital of the world, according to U.N. figures. Its police and military remain weak despite U.S. assistance earmarked for improving law enforcement. Critics say the security forces are involved in widespread corruption and violence.
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In Honduran Crimes, Police Are Seen As Part Of The Problem

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In Honduran Crimes, Police Are Seen As Part Of The Problem

In Honduran Crimes, Police Are Seen As Part Of The Problem

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

In the fight against drug trafficking, Central America has received a lot of U.S. aid - nearly half a billion dollars in the past seven years. It's helping to strengthen police and military forces that have been outgunned by traffickers. But in Honduras, a favorite haven for drug cartels, government forces remain weak, despite the flood of dollars.

And as NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, allegations of corruption, human rights abuses and murder are soaring.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Last December 7th, Sandra Chaves de Sosa's son, Eduardo, went out at night for a quick run to the store. He never came back.

SANDRA CHAVES DE SOSA: (Foreign language spoken)

KAHN: Chaves says around four in the morning, she was awoken and told her son's body was on a side street, tossed to the curb, with two bullets to his head. He had recently married and had a six-month old daughter.

SOSA: (Through Translator) The pain is enormous for any father or mother who's son or daughter has been murdered. We are plagued with questions. We want to know what happened, why it happened, and everyday the suffering is larger.

KAHN: No one knows why her son was killed and Chaves says there's been no police investigation into the crime. Only two percent of crimes are solved in Honduras.

On the other side of this hilly capital, Tegucigalpa, Wilfredo Yanes also mourns a son.

WILFREDO YANES: (Foreign language spoken)

KAHN: Yanes says unfortunately his 15-year-old son, Ebed, made a grave error. He snuck out of their gated community after midnight last spring. He wanted to go see a girl. On his way back, the military had put up a checkpoint. Scared, Ebed ran through it. Yanes says soldiers pursued in a large truck, quickly catching up to him. They took aim and fired. Ebed was shot in the back of the head. His body was found not far from the road up to his house.

Yanes knows all this because he has done most of the investigating. He found witnesses and helped identify the soldiers.

YANES: (Foreign language spoken)

KAHN: He says if he hadn't kept on the case nothing would have happened - nothing. He says his son probably wouldn't even have been a statistic in Honduras's bloody death toll.

That body count is alarmingly high - so high, Honduras is now the most violent country in the world, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Many say much of that violence is at the hands of the police and military; poorly equipped, poorly trained, and corrupted at the highest of levels.

German Enamorado, the government's special prosecutor for human rights, says in the first five months of this year, he's opened more than 400 cases into police abuse, misconduct and murder. Last year, he had 300 cases.

GERMAN ENAMORADO: (Foreign language spoken)

KAHN: What this tells you, he says, is the police have no supervision, no training. There are reports of torture, attempted murder, and he says even rapes taking place inside police precincts.

Last year, the U.S. Congress cut direct funding to the Honduran police after allegation that its new leader had ties to death squads and a record of human rights abuses. But the State Department continues to fund the police, to the tune of $16 million this year alone, insisting that the money only goes to units that have been thoroughly screened with U.S. conducted polygraph tests and background checks.

Much of the money is going to build model precincts filled with vetted officers trained in U.S.-style community policing philosophies.

EBER MEJIA MEJIA: (Foreign language spoken)

KAHN: We were allowed to visit a precinct in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Tegucigalpa. Eber Mejia Mejia, the National Police Liaison with the U.S. Embassy, was the only person we were allowed to record.

MEJIA: (Foreign language spoken)

KAHN: Mejia shows off repairs and remodeling plans for a formerly shuttered station. More than a dozen brand new donated motorcycles line the front yard. He says there are only 65 officers patrolling this district of nearly 200,000 people.

MEJIA: (Foreign language spoken)

KAHN: Without the U.S. funds, Mejia says the police would be very limited - at the mercy of the drug traffickers and gangs.

But human rights activists says even if front line officers are vetted, they still report to the head of the police and other high ranking officials who are corrupted as well. Twenty-one U.S. Senators are concerned, too, and recently sent a letter to Secretary of State Kerry pushing for closer review of the U.S. funding.


KAHN: That's what Sandra Chaves De Sosa and Wilfredo Yanes want also. The two whose son's were murdered have taken to protesting in front of the Public Ministry to demand justice. Holding a sign with a picture of his murdered son Ebed, Yanes says the U.S. must take responsibility for the raging violence in Honduras.

YANES: (Foreign language spoken)

KAHN: The soldiers who pursued and killed his son were driving a Ford 350 truck donated by the U.S. Yanes says the officers implicated in the case were vetted by U.S. officials.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News.

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