Honduras: lawyer killed after reporting police abuses

Three unidentified men gunned down attorney JosĂ© Ricardo Rosales the morning of Jan. 17 near his office or residence (the accounts differ) in the coastal city of Tela in the northern Honduran department of Atlántida. The murder came just four days after the San Pedro Sula daily El Tiempo ran a news report on Rosales’ claim that Tela police agents had been abusing detainees. Rosales may also have offended the authorities by carrying out a successful defense of Marco Joel Alvarez (“Unicorn”) against government charges that he was responsible for the March 2011 murder of radio and television journalist David Meza in the nearby city of La Ceiba. Meza had regularly criticized the police force on his programs.

HĂ©ctor Turcios, the chief of Tela’s Preventive Police, told reporters that the department didn’t have “a hypothesis for why [the killers] ended the lawyer’s existence.”

Some 30 lawyers have reportedly been killed in Honduras since 2008, while 17 journalists were murdered from 2010 through 2011. President Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa has been conducting purges of the country’s 14,000 police agents over the last three months, but this has done little to end complaints that the police abuse detainees and collaborate with drug traffickers and other criminals. Tela’s police force was removed just days before Rosales made his accusations, and a new force was brought in: the new agents were the ones Rosales accused of abusing detainees. “[I]f the previous agents go away and they send us others who are worse…we’re not accomplishing anything,” he told El Tiempo. (El Tiempo, Jan. 13; La Tribuna, Tegucigalpa, Jan. 18; AP, Jan. 18, via El Nuevo Herald, Miami)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 22.

See our last post on Honduras.