Violence and Impunity

Last update: July 28, 2014

Organized criminal elements, including local and transnational gangs and narcotics traffickers, are significant perpetrators of violent crimes in Honduras, and commit acts of murder, extortion, kidnapping, torture, human trafficking, and intimidation of journalists and human and worker rights defenders.  In 2013, as in years past, there were reports that members of the Honduran Armed Forces and Honduran National Police committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

The Public Ministry, through the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights and other offices, directs investigations of cases in which a member of a security force has participated in the death of a civilian, and such cases are tried in civilian courts.

Corruption, intimidation, weak investigative capacity, and the poor functioning of the justice system are serious impediments to the protection of human rights.

Status Update

Note: The following cases are emblematic of current cases under investigation in Honduras.  This list is not comprehensive.

  • Jose Guadalupe Ruelas: On May 8, 2014, a car driven by Casa Alianza Honduras director Jose Guadalupe Ruelas was involved in an accident with a police vehicle in Tegucigalpa.  Ruelas stated that he was beaten by police following the accident.  The Office of the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights in Tegucigalpa is investigating.
  • Jose Eduardo Aguilera Gonzalez: Family members alleged that members of security forces beat to death 15-year-old Jose Eduardo Aguilera Gonzalez after he was detained as a suspect in the killing of a transit police officer, in August 2013 in Tegucigalpa.  The Office of the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights in Tegucigalpa is investigating the case.
  • Tolupan Community: Three members of an indigenous Tolupan community were shot, allegedly by other community members in an apparent conflict over proceeds from natural resource extraction in community lands, in August 2013 in Yoro.  Arrest warrants were issued for the two suspected shooters.  As of November 2013, the arrest warrants had not been executed.
  • Tomas Garcia: A soldier of the First Engineering Battalion shot and killed Tomas Garcia, an indigenous Lenca man protesting the construction of a hydroelectric facility in the community, in July 2013, in Intibuca.  Police arrested the soldier and turned him over to Public Ministry officials.  In pretrial proceedings, the soldier was remanded to the custody of the First Engineering Battalion.
  • Anibal Barrow:  GLOBO TV talk-show host and journalist Anibal Barrow was kidnapped, and a week later police arrested several suspects in connection with his disappearance in San Pedro Sula, in June 2013.  Information obtained from the suspects led to the discovery of Barrow’s dismembered body several days later.  Police continue to investigate and build a case against the intellectual author of the crime.  Current evidence indicates the killing was not related to freedom of expression.
  • March 2013 San Pedro Sula Shooting: Members of the military, operating pursuant to a December 2011 temporary military policing decree, responded to reports of a shooting.  A shoot-out ensued between military and armed civilians.  One civilian was killed and four persons were injured, including one soldier and three civilians.  Five military members were arrested for homicide and attempted homicide.  The case is currently in process through the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights in San Pedro Sula.
  • Ebed Jassiel Yanes Caceres:  In June 2013, a civilian trial began against members of the military charged in the May 2012 killing of 15-year-old Ebed Jassiel Yanes Caceres at a military checkpoint, and the crime’s cover-up.  One soldier of the First Infantry Battalion is incarcerated pending trial, and the other soldiers and officers implicated in the shooting and the cover-up are subject to court-ordered measures in lieu of imprisonment.
  • Alfredo Villatoro:  On May 9, 2012, National Radio of Honduras news director Alfredo Villatoro was kidnapped, and on May 15, his body was found dressed in an outdated police uniform.  In March 2014, three men were found guilty for the kidnapping and killing, and sentenced to life in prison.
  • Erick Martinez:  After LGBT activist Erick Martinez was reported missing for several days, colleagues identified his remains at a Tegucigalpa morgue on May 7, 2012.  The autopsy report confirmed that Martinez was strangled.  The Special Victims Task Force (now the Violent Crimes Task Force) of the Public Ministry has charged one adult and two minors with his murder.
  • Carlos David Pineda and Rafael Alejandro Vargas Castelllanos:  Eight police officers were charged with the October 2011 killing of university students Carlos David Pineda and Rafael Alejandro Vargas Castellanos in Tegucigalpa, and the associated cover-up of the crime.  Police officers allegedly followed the students as they were leaving a discotheque and shot at the car in which they were traveling, wounding Vargas.  Both victims were then moved to another location and executed.  In August 2013, a court convicted four former police officers for the killings, and sentenced them to between 58 and 66 years in prison.  As of November 2013, two additional suspects in the killing remained at large, and charges against the other two suspects were pending.
  • Alfredo Landaverde:  Unknown gunmen on a motorcycle shot and killed former senior government advisor for security Alfredo Landaverde in December 2011 in Tegucigalpa.  In the weeks preceding his death, Landaverde had publicly called for cleaning up the National Police, and alleged that its leadership was linked to organized crime.  In November 2013, a court found Marvin Noel Andino guilty of the killing, but the investigation continued for the intellectual authors of the crime.
  • Members of the 18th Street Gang:  Gang members reportedly attacked a police post near San Pedro Sula in May 2011.  During the confrontation, seven members of 18th Street Gang were killed.  The Public Ministry issued arrest warrants against members of the Honduran National Police, but as of May 2014, the arrest warrants had not been executed.
  • Walter Orlando Trochez:  On December 4, 2009, unknown persons reportedly kidnapped and physically assaulted LGBT activist Walter Orlando Trochez, but later released him.  Trochez told human rights organizations that during his December 4 detention, the kidnappers questioned him about his involvement in the anticoup movement.  On December 13, unknown assailants fatally shot and killed Trochez in Tegucigalpa.  The Office of the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights has been investigating.  In April 2013, two suspects were accused, out of which one was arrested and remains in prison pending trial.  A trial is expected in 2014.

Further Information

The U.S. Embassy provides assistance to vetted Honduran police and prosecutors to bring human rights violators to justice.  We track the investigation and prosecution of these cases with the Public Ministry and the Honduran National Police, and promote swift and thorough investigation and prosecution of these cases.  The Embassy also provides training and material support to the vetted Violent Crimes Task Force, which investigates cases involving members of vulnerable communities.

Link to Violence Observatory