21 Honduran Police Officers Suspended Over Suspected Drug Money Theft

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Top Story — Twenty-one members of an elite police unit in Honduras — entrusted with protecting the U.S. embassy in the capital Tegucigalpa — have been suspended for allegedly stealing over $1.3 million from seized drug money, government officials announced on Monday.

The police unit previously participated in a drug bust that seized $12.5 million in October, $1.3 million of which they have been accused of stealing. The October raid led to the arrest of Miguel Valle Valle, the leader of the powerful Valle Valle cartel, who has since been extradited to the United States.

The U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa was closed in observance of Presidents Day on Monday and did not to comment on the police officers’ suspension.

The Central American country’s police force is widely considered to be corrupt and has been plagued with rumors of engaging in extra-judicial killings. In 2013, President Juan Orlando Hernández announced the creation of a military police force to combat drug cartels, a move that credited with lowering the country’s murder rate from 90.4 per 100,000 people in 2012 to 66 in 2014. Human rights activists, however, have criticized the president’s militarization of the police, claiming that the move merely avoided a much-needed restructuring of the country’s corrupt national police force.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • Investigations have found that two old bolts on a gas tanker were the cause of a hospital explosion in Mexico that left five people dead last month, findings that highlight the unsafe conditions of gas transportation in the country.
  • Mexico has the highest consumption rate of generic medicines in the world, according to officials, a trend that saves the country billions of dollars.
  • A community leader in Pasco, Washington will ask the U.S. Justice Department to investigate last week’s fatal shooting of unarmed Mexican national Antonio Zambrano-Montes, which drew the ire of protesters and the Mexican government over the weekend.

Caribbean

  • Two Cuban men have been sentenced to life imprisonment for their role in a migrant-trafficking scheme that left four people dead, though details of the causes of death and specifics of the scheme remain unclear.
  • Talk-show host Conan O’Brien spent the weekend filming in Cuba for a segment that is meant to explore Cubans’ daily lives, becoming the first late-night television host to film on the island since 1959.
  • An new, aggressive strain of HIV that progresses into AIDS three times faster than usual has been discovered in Cuba.

Central America

  • Indigenous communities in Guatemala have formed a new political party, the Convergence for Democratic Revolution, ahead of September elections.
  • Guatemalan authorities have discovered two methamphetamine labs in the past month, pointing to the country’s increasing role as an important production center for synthetic drugs destined for the United States.

Andes

  • Spanish telecom firm Telefónica on Monday announced it is dramatically cutting its assessment of the value of its Venezuela-based assets, the latest act of recognition that the real value of the struggling currency, the Bolívar, is well below official figures.
  • A Colombian journalist who announced his intention to run for office on Friday was killed on the following day, local media has reported, an act which has been condemned by press freedom groups.

Southern Cone

  • The New York Times’ Simon Romero takes a comprehensive look at the drought facing southeastern Brazil, a crisis worsened by the nexus of climate change and aging infrastructure that is stoking popular anger against the government.
  • A Chilean prosecutor will investigate whether the president’s son got privileged access to a bank loan, a process that a center-right politician said will put Chile’s political institutions to the test, even though the country is widely considered one of the least corrupt in the region.
  • Despite allegations that Rolls-Royce was involved in the kickbacks scheme that sparked the scandal facing Brazil’s state oil firm Petrobras, a representative for the British engineering firm said Monday that Brazil’s government has, so far, not contacted the firm.

Image: Zack Clark, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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