A new police chief was named in Honduras amid scandals over a growing number of officers involved in crime. President Porfirio Lobo removed the police chief Ricardo Ramírez del Cid, replacing him with Juan Carlos Bonilla, whose name is also however not exempt from criticism.
Tegucigalpa authorities gave no official explanation for the removal of Ramírez, appointed to the post in November amid the scandal over the suspected involvement of police in the killing of the son of the head of Honduras’ National Autonomous University, Julieta Castellanos.
Bonilla is named amid a heated debate over the suspected involvement of another officer, Miguel Ángel Álvarez, in the abduction and murder last week of the reporter Alfredo Villatoro, director of Radio HRN. Álvarez was already accused last year of complicity in a murder case.
The civil society “demands we stop being labeled as a nation of impunity and for this we support the President’s decision”, Security minister Pompeyo Bonilla told reporters.
Ramírez’s removal comes six months after an unprecedented clean-up of the national police force, as part of a government policy to combat violence in a nation that has the world’s highest murder rate, 82.1 every 100,000 residents (20 a day on average), according to the UN. The new police chief, a veteran known as ‘El Tigre’, is mentioned in a 2007 US State department report on human rights, as a suspect, though never formally charged, in a series of violent deaths when he was inspector of the national penitentiaries.
Security forces were involved also last week in an unclear case: four civilians were killed and four injured in an attack by anti-drug police helicopters against a boat in the north. US anti-drug agents were also apparently onboard the crafts.