Honduras: anti-drug adviser killed, Peace Corps withdraws

Alfredo Landaverde, a former adviser to the Honduran government on security and drug trafficking, was shot dead on Dec. 7 by unknown gunmen on a motorcycle as he was driving in Tegucigalpa. His wife, the Venezuelan sociologist and author Hilda Caldera Tosta, was wounded in the attack. Landaverde had been the executive secretary of the National Commission of Struggle Against Narcotrafficking (CNLN) and an adviser to the Security Secretariat and the Public Ministry. He was also a former legislative deputy for the Christian Democratic Party of Honduras (PDCH), of which he was president.

Even after retiring from public service more than a year ago, Landaverde remained a prominent and outspoken critic of official corruption. During a television appearance in November, just a few weeks before his assassination, Landaverde demanded that former security minister Oscar Álvarez produce a list of 25 high-ranking officials who reportedly had links with drug trafficking.

This was not the first assassination to strike the Landaverde family. Alfredo’s brother Moisés Landaverde was murdered in 1988, along with Miguel Ángel Pavón, then the president of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (Codeh); agents of the notorious National Investigation Directorate (DIN) were apparently responsible. Alfredo Landaverde took part in a government investigation in 1994 that led to the dissolution of the DIN.

On Dec. 6, the day before Landaverde’s murder, journalist Luz Marina Paz Villalobos and her driver, Delmer Canales, were shot dead in their car, also by unknown men on a motorcycle. The government responded to the three murders by quickly passing a law that makes it illegal for more than two people to ride a motorcycle while in an urban area during the next six months. (EFE, Dec. 8; La Tribuna, Tegucigalpa, Dec. 8; Europa Press, Spain, Dec. 9)

Honduras is now thought to have the highest homicide rate in the world. On Dec. 21 officials of the US government’s Peace Corps program announced that they were withdrawing all 158 Peace Corps volunteers from Honduras in January for security reasons and weren’t planning to send more for the time being. The Peace Corps will keep its current 335 volunteers in El Salvador and Guatemala, which are also experiencing a rise in crime, but has decided not to send the volunteers slated to go there in January. (New York Times, Dec. 22)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 1.

See our last posts on Honduras and Central America.