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Honduran security minister steps down, deepening security crisis

The departure of Honduran Security Minister Oscar Alvarez, the leading crusader against police corruption in Honduras, is a victory for crooked cops.

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Such aggressive proclamations fueled tension between Alvarez and the police leadership, and doubtlessly contributed to his removal. Alvarez himself insinuated as much in the press conference following his resignation. "I didn't have the economic support," Alvarez said. "I was affecting big interests of drug trafficking, money laundering, and kidnapping." According to the Associated Press, when a reporter asked Alvarez if he was stepping down because of pressure from police against his anti-corruption drive, he responded: "Those of you who are good investigative journalists should find out.”

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With Alvarez gone, the administration has lost its largest crusader against police corruption, an extremely pressing issue for Honduras. Bribery is a common feature of the country's police forces, and many Hondurans are accustomed to paying extralegal fees, known as “mordidas,” to resolve traffic fines and other issues. On top of this, police have been implicated in far more serious crimes, often with links to organized crime. Members of the police have been arrested for running kidnapping rings, robbing banks, and organizing extortion rackets which prey on local businesses.

However, there appear to be other forces in play. Alvarez is very popular in Honduras, and is considered to be a potential presidential candidate for the 2013 elections. Within 24 hours of his resignation, the ex-minister had fled the country to the United States, because, he says, he fears for his life. While his departure from office seems clearly to have been sparked by his tensions with the National Police, it is not clear how much he is actually at risk, or what else may be behind the story.

--- Geoffrey Ramsey is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region. Find all of his research here.

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