Honduras ousts feared 'Tiger'ahead of administration change
By Freddy Cuevas and Alberto Arce, AP
December 22, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras--Honduras' national police chief, a man who intimidated many in this violent country with a fearsome reputation colored by allegations he ran death squads a decade ago, is out of a job.
Gen. Juan Carlos Bonilla was removed as chief Thursday by President Porfirio Lobo, who said he acted after consulting with President-elect Juan Orlando Hernandez, who takes office next month. No reasons were given, but the change had been widely expected because of the impending change in administrations.
While acquitted of charges from 2002 that he directed the killings of criminals as a lower-level official, Bonilla was dogged by the allegations, and critics questioned why he was named chief of a police force often accused of abuses and corruption. Supporters praised Bonilla as the right man for the post, noting he has never been linked to organized crime.
The firing had been viewed as likely since the Nov. 24 election of Hernandez, who has argued that a cleanup effort failed to weed out corrupt officers and shake up the National Police, which is Honduras' only police force.
As president of Congress, Hernandez pushed through legislation this year to create a new military police force that has taken over many security duties in this Central American nation afflicted with crime.
It is also normal in Honduras for high-level jobs like Bonilla's to be changed when a new president comes in.
“We are making these changes now, because we are in the planning phase to have a successful start on Jan. 27” when the government changes are over, Hernandez said.
As chief, Bonilla was the U.S. government's go-to man in Honduras for the war on drug trafficking, although the past charges have dogged him and the State Department denied it worked directly with him. The State Department on Friday said it was aware of the change in police leadership but declined to comment on the decision.