TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduran security forces foiled an international plan last year by drug traffickers to assassinate President Juan Hernandez after he launched a crackdown on organized crime, the government said on Tuesday.
Security ministry spokesman Leonel Sauceda said the plot hatched by Colombian, Mexican, Honduran and Guatemalan gangsters was to kill Hernandez upon his arrival at the airport of the town of Gracias, in western Honduras, between Sept. 21-22.
Hernandez, who arrived in Washington on Monday to canvas U.S. support for a plan to boost investment in Central American countries plagued by violence, took office in January 2014.
Honduras has the world's highest murder rate and along with El Salvador and Guatemala, has been seeking to raise billions of dollars to spur growth in an effort to reduce crime and cut migration to the United States, which sparked a border crisis last year.
Sauceda said Honduran police and military officials discovered the assassination plot via intelligence gathering. Several gang leaders had been detained in connection with the plot and were handed over to authorities in their respective home countries, he added.
Since taking office, Hernandez has sought to hit back at local crime bosses with a series of arrests as well as by ordering the seizure of their businesses, assets and luxury residences. A number of accused drug traffickers have also been extradited to the United States to face trial.
Sauceda said that Hernandez did not reveal details of the conspiracy on his life at the time so as not to divert the government's focus from its fight against organized crime.
Honduran security forces made a number of arrests prior to September to foil the plot, Sauceda said, without giving details as to how many. Among the Honduran gangs suspected of involvement in the plot was the Valle Valle cartel, whose assets were seized, he added.
(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia, editing by G Crosse)