TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Honduras' president said Tuesday that the government would suspend several top police officials amid mounting evidence they conspired to kill the country's top anti-drug prosecutor and two other prosecution employees several years ago.
President Juan Orlando Hernandez said at a news conference that any police official mentioned in a report published by the newspaper El Heraldo would be suspended and brought before justice.
Prosecution agents raided an old National Police headquarters in the capital looking for evidence in the alleged plot. After an eight-hour search, they left the building with a large number of documents, prosecution spokesman Carlos Morazan said.
El Heraldo published accounts of tapes that suggest police officials paid assassins about $20,000 to kill anti-drug prosecutor Julian Aristides Gonzalez in 2009. Police were also implicated in the killing of prosecutor Orlan Chavez in 2013 and security adviser Alfredo Landaverde in 2011.
Chavez was known as a highly effective, professional prosecutor. Landaverde was an outspoken critic of corruption in Honduran law enforcement. Both he and Chavez had received death threats, and both were gunned down in the streets.
National Police spokesman Leonel Sauceda apologized to the nation at a news conference, saying that "for what has happened at out institution, I ask forgiveness."
"The only thing I can say is that the current leadership is not the same as the one that ran the police in 2009," Sauceda added.
Honduras has long been an open area of operation for Mexican and local drug cartels, and it has long been believed they could not operate without at least tacit support from the police.
Evidence of corruption, such as studies indicating that 7 percent to 9 percent of Honduran police officers use illicit drugs, have led to efforts to clean up police departments with little success.
The force has almost 14,000 members. After nearly four years of background checks and testing, 33 have been ordered fired, but only seven dismissal orders have been carried out.