{"code":"25897","sect":"Central America","sect_slug":"central-america","hits":"1836","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/en\/202112\/centroamerica\/25897","link_edit":"","name":"In Honduras, a Friend of Drug Lords Loses His Seat in Congress","slug":"in-honduras-a-friend-of-drug-lords-loses-his-seat-in-congress","info":"","mtag":"Impunity","noun":{"html":"\u003Cspan class='tint-text--dark' data_href='\/user\/profile\/cdada'\u003E Carlos Dada\u003C\/span\u003E","data":{"carlos-dada":{"sort":"cdada","slug":"carlos-dada","path":"carlos_dada","name":"Carlos Dada","edge":"0","init":"0"}}},"view":"1836","pict":{"cms-image-000036796-jpg":{"feat":"0","sort":"36796","name":"cms-image-000036796.JPG","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036796.JPG","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036796.JPG","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000036796-jpg","text":"<p>A desolate community sits along the highway to Trujillo, a monument to the deep political crisis shaping Honduras in the last eight years under Juan Orlando Hern\u00e1ndez. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003EA desolate community sits along the highway to Trujillo, a monument to the deep political crisis shaping Honduras in the last eight years under Juan Orlando Hern\u00e1ndez. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\u003C\/p\u003E"},"cms-image-000036797-jpg":{"feat":"0","sort":"36797","name":"cms-image-000036797.JPG","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036797.JPG","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036797.JPG","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000036797-jpg","text":"<p>Oil extraction and African palm plants abound in the Atlantic corridor of Honduras, spilling waste into aquifers including the Agu\u00e1n River. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003EOil extraction and African palm plants abound in the Atlantic corridor of Honduras, spilling waste into aquifers including the Agu\u00e1n River. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\u003C\/p\u003E"},"cms-image-000036798-jpg":{"feat":"0","sort":"36798","name":"cms-image-000036798.JPG","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036798.JPG","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036798.JPG","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000036798-jpg","text":"<p>\u00a0The view of Tocoa from the San Patricio Hotel nestled in the city center, territory controlled for years by the Rivera Maradiaga brothers, drug traffickers now standing trial in New York. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003E\u00a0The view of Tocoa from the San Patricio Hotel nestled in the city center, territory controlled for years by the Rivera Maradiaga brothers, drug traffickers now standing trial in New York. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\u003C\/p\u003E"},"cms-image-000036799-jpg":{"feat":"0","sort":"36799","name":"cms-image-000036799.JPG","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036799.JPG","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036799.JPG","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000036799-jpg","text":"<p>Ram\u00f3n Soto is currently a deputy for the Department of Col\u00f3n with Libre, the left-wing opposition party led by former president Manuel Zelaya. He is an agricultural engineer who, while running for the Honduran Congress in 2016, also worked as a local journalist. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro <\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003ERam\u00f3n Soto is currently a deputy for the Department of Col\u00f3n with Libre, the left-wing opposition party led by former president Manuel Zelaya. He is an agricultural engineer who, while running for the Honduran Congress in 2016, also worked as a local journalist. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro \u003C\/p\u003E"},"cms-image-000036800-jpg":{"feat":"0","sort":"36800","name":"cms-image-000036800.JPG","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036800.JPG","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036800.JPG","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000036800-jpg","text":"<p>Joya Grande, the private zoo of the Los Cachiros cartel nestled in the woods of Santa Cruz de Yojoa, was seized by the Honduran government in 2013. Foto de El Faro: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a.<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003EJoya Grande, the private zoo of the Los Cachiros cartel nestled in the woods of Santa Cruz de Yojoa, was seized by the Honduran government in 2013. Foto de El Faro: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a.\u003C\/p\u003E"},"cms-image-000036801-jpg":{"feat":"1","sort":"36801","name":"cms-image-000036801.JPG","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036801.JPG","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036801.JPG","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000036801-jpg","text":"<p>\u00d3scar N\u00e1jera looks out at the Caribbean from his pool in the private complex NJOI, situated in a network of dirt roads in the Garifuna communities surrounding Trujillo, Col\u00f3n. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003E\u00d3scar N\u00e1jera looks out at the Caribbean from his pool in the private complex NJOI, situated in a network of dirt roads in the Garifuna communities surrounding Trujillo, Col\u00f3n. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\u003C\/p\u003E"},"cms-image-000036802-jpg":{"feat":"0","sort":"36802","name":"cms-image-000036802.JPG","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036802.JPG","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036802.JPG","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000036802-jpg","text":"<p>Dylan Alexander Banegas, 7, plays with his snorkel in a half-built construction project on a dock along Trujillo Bay. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003EDylan Alexander Banegas, 7, plays with his snorkel in a half-built construction project on a dock along Trujillo Bay. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\u003C\/p\u003E"},"cms-image-000036803-jpg":{"feat":"0","sort":"36803","name":"cms-image-000036803.JPG","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036803.JPG","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036803.JPG","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000036803-jpg","text":"<p>Justo works as \u00d3scar N\u00e1jera's personal butler. His name originates from the Garifuna communities living on the outskirts of the municipality of Trujillo. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003EJusto works as \u00d3scar N\u00e1jera's personal butler. His name originates from the Garifuna communities living on the outskirts of the municipality of Trujillo. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\u003C\/p\u003E"},"cms-image-000036804-jpg":{"feat":"0","sort":"36804","name":"cms-image-000036804.JPG","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036804.JPG","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036804.JPG","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000036804-jpg","text":"<p>Local children jump from the dock into Trujillo Bay, one of the few distractions for youngsters living nearby. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003ELocal children jump from the dock into Trujillo Bay, one of the few distractions for youngsters living nearby. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\u003C\/p\u003E"}},"pict_main__sort":36801,"date":{"live":"2021\/12\/10"},"data_post_dateLive_YY":"2021","data_post_dateLive_MM":"12","data_post_dateLive_DD":"10","text":"\u003Cp\u003E\u003Ca href=\"\/es\/202112\/centroamerica\/25889\/El-cacique-de-Col%C3%B3n-ha-perdido-su-fuero.htm\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003ELeer en espa\u00f1ol\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp\u003ECongressman \u00d3scar N\u00e1jera just lost his first election in thirty years, and he is furious. He\u2019s spitting venom at his colleagues in the Partido Nacional, and blames President Juan Orlando Hern\u00e1ndez for the resounding electoral defeat. Three decades in Congress and four decades immersed in the political life of Honduras are coming to a close before his eyes. The day before the election, N\u00e1jera told me his poll numbers showed him with a substantial lead. They lied to him or he lied to me, because N\u00e1jera didn't even receive the most votes of the four Partido Nacional candidates running for the department\u2019s four congressional seats. And his party lost. In a landslide! They lost the presidency, they lost their majority in Congress, and they lost the most important mayoral seats in the country, including in the capital, Tegucigalpa, and in the country\u2019s wealthiest city, San Pedro Sula.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EBut \u00d3scar N\u00e1jera has lost more than just his seat in the Assembly. He has also lost millions of Lempiras spent on his campaign, as he says himself, and he has lost the political power that allowed him to navigate among the country\u2019s landowners and drug traffickers. But \u00d3scar Ram\u00f3n N\u00e1jera\u2014a \u201cself-made man\u201d from the north of Honduras and the septuagenarian cacique of Tacoa, whose name appears in connection with the illicit drug trade on the Engel List, the Magnitsky List, the U.S. Treasury Department\u2019s list, in sworn testimonies in New York courtrooms, and in the British government\u2019s list of sanctioned politicians\u2014has lost something even more important: he has lost the immunity granted to all members of Congress by Honduran law. The cacique of Tocoa is wounded. He has lost. He has lost! This has never happened to him before. \u201cThis is the end of my political career,\u201d he told me over the phone four days after the election. In a subdued voice. Not merely the voice of a loser, but the voice of someone who has suffered an unexpected pain. A pain of betrayal. A pain of great depth. This is a story about him. About agreements made between politicians and drug traffickers and police and landowners and military officers, and about the lines that separate them, but which, in this part of Honduras, have long been erased. About how politics is done in a region where drug money controls everything.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EBut first, we must talk about the river.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\u003Cfigure class=\"pict pict_land pict_move_posc 0 cs_img cs_img--curr rule--ss_c\" data-shot=\"pict\" data-hint=\"pict\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__pobj text-overflow\"\u003E\u003Cimg src=\"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/get_img?ImageWidth=2000&ImageHeight=1333&ImageId=36796\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"A desolate community sits along the highway to Trujillo, a monument to the deep political crisis shaping Honduras in the last eight years under Juan Orlando Hern\u00e1ndez. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cfigcaption class=\"pict__text cs_img_caption folk_content typo_buttons line--ss_s0c line--ss_s0c--auto block full-width text-overflow rule--ss_l relative\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"__content block-inline full-width align-top tint-text--idle relative\"\u003EA desolate community sits along the highway to Trujillo, a monument to the deep political crisis shaping Honduras in the last eight years under Juan Orlando Hern\u00e1ndez. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\u003Cdiv class=\"photographer text_italic rule--ss_l tint-text--idle\"\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/figcaption\u003E\u003C\/figure\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp style=\"text-align: center;\" dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003E2.\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe Agu\u00e1n River cuts across the northern half of Honduras like a scar through living flesh, flowing south to north and west to east, its waters shifting from blue to green to reddish-brown, dense with minerals that brim the banks when storms swell the river to flooding.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAs the river flows, it nourishes the Agu\u00e1n Valley, one of the largest agricultural areas in Central America. Once dominated by the United Fruit Company\u2019s banana operations, the region is now home to the country\u2019s main crop of African palms\u2014a tree as valuable as gold, cultivated for the extraction of olein, as the oil from the palm is known, which is used around the world in the production of processed food, cosmetics, and biofuel. Eventually, the Agu\u00e1n flows into the Caribbean Sea, near the Gar\u00edfuna community of Santa Rosa, in the department of Col\u00f3n.\u00a0\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EParentheses: The department is named Col\u00f3n because in 1502, the Genoese navigator Christopher Columbus landed on its shores during his fourth and final voyage. Today, the sea remains as tame, the sand as hot, and the sky as menacing, even on a clear day, as it was 500 years ago. Fertile and beautiful, the region could easily be mistaken for a Garden of Eden. But Col\u00f3n is something else entirely: a land ruled by cattle rustlers, drug traffickers, and landowners, where the history of the last fifty years is told through the names of cartels: Los Licenciados, Los Ganaderos, Los del Coque, Los Cachiros, Los Grillos... In Col\u00f3n, you\u2019ll find every evil and misfortune the country has to offer.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ETo get here from the capital, Tegucigalpa, you take the road that goes toward Olancho, then turn onto another road, head down another, turn onto another, then down one more still. Seven hours of roads through dense vegetation until you reach the first of two police checkpoints that mark the entrance to Tocoa, Col\u00f3n\u2019s main urban center.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe city is the epicenter of two contiguous but distinct regions that join to form the department: the Agu\u00e1n Valley, with its palm plantations, pastures, and land conflicts; and a few kilometers away, the Garifuna Coast, one of the territory\u2019s main drug trafficking corridors, used as a stopover for shipments entering by air or by sea from South America and continuing on land toward Mexico.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ELocated on the south side of the river, Tocoa is home to roughly 100 thousand people, among them the family of outgoing congressman \u00d3scar N\u00e1jera. It is a city with dirt streets, but one that proudly assumes its place in the globalized economy, featuring a Wendy\u2019s, supermarkets, boutiques, and a commercial shopping center.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\u003Cfigure class=\"pict pict_land pict_move_posc 0 cs_img cs_img--curr rule--ss_c\" data-shot=\"pict\" data-hint=\"pict\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__pobj text-overflow\"\u003E\u003Cimg src=\"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/get_img?ImageWidth=2000&ImageHeight=1333&ImageId=36797\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"Oil extraction and African palm plants abound in the Atlantic corridor of Honduras, spilling waste into aquifers including the Agu\u00e1n River. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cfigcaption class=\"pict__text cs_img_caption folk_content typo_buttons line--ss_s0c line--ss_s0c--auto block full-width text-overflow rule--ss_l relative\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"__content block-inline full-width align-top tint-text--idle relative\"\u003EOil extraction and African palm plants abound in the Atlantic corridor of Honduras, spilling waste into aquifers including the Agu\u00e1n River. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\u003Cdiv class=\"photographer text_italic rule--ss_l tint-text--idle\"\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/figcaption\u003E\u003C\/figure\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EI visited Tocoa last September and stayed at San Patricio, a hotel three blocks from a park with a small swimming pool filled with kids splashing and playing around. Near the pool hung signs that prohibited smoking, the use of suntan lotion, and entering the pool with firearms.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe central plaza is a park with a playground for children \u2014 where children do, in fact, play \u2014 surrounded by a church, the city hall building, and big trees that provide shade for street vendors hawking jewelry, belts, cell phone cases, chargers, clothes, fruit, and water.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Life here is calm and easy-going, \u003C\/em\u003Eone of the vendors told me.\u003Cem\u003E At least most of the time.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014How often is most of the time?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Sometimes things heat up, but it\u2019s been calm for a few days now. Look at the kids. It\u2019s good for them here.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014At the moment...\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014There\u2019s a lot of days like this now.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Since when?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Since those men went away, there hasn\u2019t been much going on here. In other neighborhoods, there are problems, but it's just a matter of not going there.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp style=\"text-align: center;\" dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003E3.\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u201cThose men\u201d are the Rivera Maradiaga brothers, leaders of the so-called Cartel de Los Cachiros and lords of Tocoa until they surrendered to U.S. authorities in 2015. At that point, according to the U.S. government, the cartel controlled 90 percent of the aerial drug trade in Honduras.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ELos Cachiros was the last of the big cartels to fall. But even with the Rivera brothers in prison in New York, the cartel still has operations in Col\u00f3n. Plenty of drug shipments still come in through the coast, or land on air strips hidden in the palm groves.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EFor decades, the residents of Col\u00f3n have lived under the control of the drug lords or the palm barons. What all places controlled by the narcotrafficking share, whether in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico or Colombia, is that the authorities (police, soldiers, mayors, members of city council, even firefighters) either don't mess with criminal organizations, or they work directly for them. Or, they are a criminal organization themselves. This is what was on my mind as we passed through the two police checkpoints that guard the entrance to Tocoa.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\u003Cfigure class=\"pict pict_land pict_move_posc 0 cs_img cs_img--curr rule--ss_c\" data-shot=\"pict\" data-hint=\"pict\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__pobj text-overflow\"\u003E\u003Cimg src=\"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/get_img?ImageWidth=2000&ImageHeight=1333&ImageId=36798\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"\u00a0The view of Tocoa from the San Patricio Hotel nestled in the city center, territory controlled for years by the Rivera Maradiaga brothers, drug traffickers now standing trial in New York. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cfigcaption class=\"pict__text cs_img_caption folk_content typo_buttons line--ss_s0c line--ss_s0c--auto block full-width text-overflow rule--ss_l relative\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"__content block-inline full-width align-top tint-text--idle relative\"\u003E\u00a0The view of Tocoa from the San Patricio Hotel nestled in the city center, territory controlled for years by the Rivera Maradiaga brothers, drug traffickers now standing trial in New York. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\u003Cdiv class=\"photographer text_italic rule--ss_l tint-text--idle\"\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/figcaption\u003E\u003C\/figure\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EOn November 6 of this year, military police apprehended six agents from the Direcci\u00f3n Policial de Investigaciones, a division of the Honduran national police force, in a house in the neighborhood of Tamarindo. The agents were guarding 50 kilos of cocaine. Days earlier, according to press reports, the police had carried out an operation in the coastal town of Lim\u00f3n against a group of drug traffickers from whom they had \u201cconfiscated\u201d the cocaine. But it wasn\u2019t an official operation; it was an ambush. And they didn\u2019t \u201cconfiscate\u201d the drugs from the traffickers; they stole them.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ELocal press reported that the officers who were arrested are being investigated for links to Los Cachiros. The cartel remains active.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EI asked several people in Tocoa what they thought about Los Cachiros, in light of confessions in New York court that portrayed them as a violent cartel exercising tight control over the drug trade.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EFew people had anything negative to say about them. No one I spoke to told me that things had been worse when they were in control. As if their rise and fall was just part of a natural cycle.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe journalist \u00d3scar Estrada, author of the book Tierra de Narcos, explained it to me like this:\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u201cRegions like Col\u00f3n have no place in modern capitalism, unless they\u2019re injected with capital, like from the drug trade. There\u2019s no other way for young people, for example, to find their place in the world. That\u2019s why nobody in Col\u00f3n complains about drug trafficking. The only thing that bothers them is the violence, not the business.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe Rivera Maradiaga brothers were to Tocoa what El Chapo was to Sinaloa, in kind if not in scale. They were one of the main engines of economic activity in the region: They owned palm plantations, cattle ranches, oil and gas companies, construction businesses, and real estate firms. With the added injection of drug money, they powered an economy that sustained a slew of other businesses: restaurants, bars, hotels, car dealerships, clothing stores.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EJust behind the \u201cMegaplaza,\u201d Tocoa's main shopping center, there is an unfinished concrete building, the skeleton of a large hotel project that was never finished. This, too, was their property.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EMembers of a generation of post-Pablo Escobar narcos, who knew the Colombian drug lord only from the TV series, Los Cachiros even had their \u003Ca href=\"\/es\/201709\/centroamerica\/20882\/Una-finca-de-animales.htm\"\u003Eown zoo, which I visited a few years ago\u003C\/a\u003E, featuring an enormous collection of albino tigers and a giraffe, who every morning would come stretch her neck up to the brothers\u2019 lofted balcony for breakfast.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u201cLos Cachiros were very beloved by the people, very respected by everyone in the community. They\u2019d come to the restaurants and pay everyone\u2019s tab,\u201d says Congressman Pablo Ram\u00f3n Soto, member from the Partido Libertad y Refundaci\u00f3n, or Libre Party, who was recently re-elected to Congress. \u201cLocal officials would ask for a contribution, and Los Cachiros would give it to them. They fixed up schools. Everything the government doesn't do.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ESoto, one of Col\u00f3n\u2019s four representatives in Congress, is something of a local celebrity in Tocoa. We met at a taquer\u00eda downtown, our conversation regularly interrupted by wait staff and fellow diners coming over to greet him. Soto arrived in a sedan, accompanied by two of his children and no one else.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Aren\u2019t you afraid for your safety?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Why would you ask me that?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Because you don't have bodyguards or an armored car or weapons. And we\u2019re in Tocoa.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014He who owes nothing fears nothing.\u00a0\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014I know another saying: Cemeteries are full of brave men.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014If they wanted to do me in, they would have done it by now.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ESoto was already famous before he got involved in politics. For several years he worked as the news director for the local television station. I ask him what it\u2019s like to practice local journalism in a place controlled by narcos.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014They [Los Cachiros] didn\u2019t impose any limits on me. As a journalist, you censor yourself when it\u2019s your own life on the line. Sometimes I would even add in some discreet comments in their defense.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014How can you speak affectionately and with respect for people who you know might kill you if you say the wrong thing?\u00a0\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u2014The thing is\u2026 Here, in Tocoa, the fact that they were narcos is something totally normal. People here would say: \u201cIt doesn't impact us, except for the better.\u201d There wasn\u2019t a single politician who didn\u2019t receive money from them for their campaigns. We lived a \u201cnormal\u201d existence, in quotation marks. There were a lot of armed people around all the time, but they didn\u2019t mess with you\u2026 Los Cachiros was not a violent organization.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Really? One of the Rivera Maradiaga brothers confessed to having participated in the murders of 78 people.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014They were violent in their business dealings. Not with the people.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\u003Cfigure class=\"pict pict_land pict_move_posc 0 cs_img cs_img--curr rule--ss_c\" data-shot=\"pict\" data-hint=\"pict\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__pobj text-overflow\"\u003E\u003Cimg src=\"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/get_img?ImageWidth=2000&ImageHeight=1333&ImageId=36799\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"Ram\u00f3n Soto is currently a deputy for the Department of Col\u00f3n with Libre, the left-wing opposition party led by former president Manuel Zelaya. He is an agricultural engineer who, while running for the Honduran Congress in 2016, also worked as a local journalist. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cfigcaption class=\"pict__text cs_img_caption folk_content typo_buttons line--ss_s0c line--ss_s0c--auto block full-width text-overflow rule--ss_l relative\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"__content block-inline full-width align-top tint-text--idle relative\"\u003ERam\u00f3n Soto is currently a deputy for the Department of Col\u00f3n with Libre, the left-wing opposition party led by former president Manuel Zelaya. He is an agricultural engineer who, while running for the Honduran Congress in 2016, also worked as a local journalist. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\u003Cdiv class=\"photographer text_italic rule--ss_l tint-text--idle\"\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/figcaption\u003E\u003C\/figure\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAfter news broke that the U.S. government was looking for them, brothers Devis Leonel and Javier Rivera Maradiaga made a pact to turn themselves in to the DEA, to avoid being killed to stop them from doing exactly what they did after stepping foot on North American soil: make an agreement with U.S. authorities for a reduced sentence in exchange for providing information and witness testimony against other suspects. Their testimonies have contributed to our understanding of the inner workings of the drug trade.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe confessions of the Rivera Maradiaga brothers implicated officials at all levels of government, from local politicians to three of the country's last four presidents, along with top military and police commanders and Honduras\u2019s wealthiest families. The brothers provided key information in the conviction of Tony Hern\u00e1ndez, brother of still-president Juan Orlando Hern\u00e1ndez; and Fabio Lobo, son of former president Porfirio Lobo; as well as businessmen Yankel and Yani Rosenthal, members of the country's richest family, who themselves \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/contracorriente.red\/2021\/10\/05\/tras-su-maraton-con-la-justicia-al-hondureno-yankel-rosenthal-le-salieron-nuevas-offshore\/\"\u003Econfessed to laundering money for drug traffickers\u003C\/a\u003E (that is, for themselves); as well as several members of the police and military.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ELanding strips are also places where Col\u00f3n\u2019s two main regions converge: the Caribbean coast and the plantations irrigated by the Agu\u00e1n.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThese plantations\u2014the majority of them owned either by the Facuss\u00e9 family, one of the most powerful business dynasties in Honduras, or by agroindustrial tycoons Ren\u00e9 Morales and Reynaldo Canales\u2014have played host to a decades-long land conflict between property owners and campesinos that has reached extreme levels of violence.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe plantations are also used to conceal small airstrips, hidden among the African palm groves and used to traffick drugs. Earlier this year, U.S. journalist Jon Lee Anderson, staff writer for The New Yorker, \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.newyorker.com\/magazine\/2021\/11\/15\/is-the-president-of-honduras-a-narco-trafficker\"\u003Eaccompanied one of the Facuss\u00e9 family members on a tour of a plantation\u003C\/a\u003E. The businessman, Miguel Facuss\u00e9, pointed out a decommissioned airstrip, and admitted to Anderson that drug traffickers do sometimes build runways on some of his properties, but he denied having ever authorized them.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ENo one in Col\u00f3n who has read Anderson\u2019s story would find its revelations surprising. If the most powerful men in the department are drug traffickers and landowners, it would be surprising if they didn\u2019t have associations with each other. Or, at the very least, if they didn\u2019t establish clear rules of coexistence to prevent everyone from ending up dead.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIn 2015, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) tightened its grip on the area when they began cracking down on Los Cachiros and going after the presidential family. The DEA cast such a wide net that they were able to continue their fishing operation in New York court. During the trial of Tony Hern\u00e1ndez, the president's brother, one of the witnesses from Los Cachiros revealed that the cartel moved drugs with the help of Representative \u00d3scar N\u00e1jera, who, the witness said, coordinated with the army and police to remove or relocate checkpoints in order to facilitate the free movement of drug shipments. This was the reason the congressman was originally sanctioned, and his name added to the lists of corrupt politicians. Under the Trump administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly announced N\u00e1jera\u2019s inclusion in the U.S. State Department\u2019s list. \u201cIn his official capacity,\u201d Pompeo said, \u201cMr. Najera engaged in and benefitted from public corruption related to the Honduran drug trafficking organization Los Cachiros.\u201d Pompeo also included one of N\u00e1jeras sons, \u00d3scar Roberto N\u00e1jera, on the State Department\u2019s list. This was in 2017. N\u00e1jera went on to win the next congressional election in a landslide.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\u003Cfigure class=\"pict pict_land pict_move_posc 0 cs_img cs_img--curr rule--ss_c\" data-shot=\"pict\" data-hint=\"pict\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__pobj text-overflow\"\u003E\u003Cimg src=\"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/get_img?ImageWidth=2000&ImageHeight=1333&ImageId=36800\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"Joya Grande, the private zoo of the Los Cachiros cartel nestled in the woods of Santa Cruz de Yojoa, was seized by the Honduran government in 2013. Foto de El Faro: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a.\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cfigcaption class=\"pict__text cs_img_caption folk_content typo_buttons line--ss_s0c line--ss_s0c--auto block full-width text-overflow rule--ss_l relative\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"__content block-inline full-width align-top tint-text--idle relative\"\u003EJoya Grande, the private zoo of the Los Cachiros cartel nestled in the woods of Santa Cruz de Yojoa, was seized by the Honduran government in 2013. Foto de El Faro: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a.\u003Cdiv class=\"photographer text_italic rule--ss_l tint-text--idle\"\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/figcaption\u003E\u003C\/figure\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp style=\"text-align: center;\" dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003E4.\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u201cI don\u2019t give a shit about Pompeo,\u201d N\u00e1jera said during a televised interview. \u201cA m\u00ed, Pompeo me la pela.\u201d This retort earned N\u00e1jera his most popular nickname: El Diputado \u003Cem\u003EMelapela\u003C\/em\u003E. Congressman \u201cI don\u2019t give a shit.\u201d N\u00e1jera challenged the Secretary of State to show proof of his accusations. The most polite thing he called Pompeo was a \u201cliar.\u201d The State Department had made a serious mistake by sanctioning N\u00e1jera\u2019s son, who had drowned to death in 2015. The U.S. couldn\u2019t even claim they had confused \u00d3scar Roberto with one of N\u00e1jera\u2019s older two sons, because they had both already died as well: one murdered in 1992 and the other in an accident a few years later.\u00a0\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EN\u00e1jera is like a poker player who doubles his bet no matter what he\u2019s holding. Contrary to what common sense might dictate \u2014 and contrary to what every other politician in Honduras did when the trials of Honduran drug traffickers began in New York \u2014 N\u00e1jera did not distance himself from Los Cachiros, not then, and not later on, when his name began appearing on all those lists. He continued to boast that he had known the Rivera Maradiaga brothers since they were kids, and that they were friends. Even still, he continues to tell this to anyone who asks him.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ELast August, as his campaign for re-election was already getting underway, I asked N\u00e1jera for an interview. He agreed, on the condition that it be in person. In mid-September, I called to tell him that I was in Tocoa and that I wanted to meet with him. \u201cCall me on Wednesday,\u201d he said. I reminded him that Wednesday was September 15, the bicentennial of Honduras\u2019s independence. Wouldn't he be busy that day with official activities and celebrations? \u201cLook,\u201d he told me, \u201cI\u2019m not a historian. I\u2019m an investment promoter.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EWednesday morning I called him and he gave me partial instructions for where to meet him: \u201cGo to Trujillo, and when you get there, call Varela. I\u2019ll give you his number. He\u2019ll give you directions from there.\u201d Varela is N\u00e1jera\u2019s head of personal security.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ETrujillo is an hour and a half from Tocoa, on the country\u2019s northern coast. The change in scenery is total, and not only because the landscape transitions from palm groves to the dreamy waters of the Caribbean Coast, but because of the people, mostly Garifuna, and their wooden houses with patios and balconies. Trujillo was the first capital of Honduras, and still features the fortress built by Spanish colonizers to defend against pirate attacks. The American filibuster William Walker, who invaded and declared himself president of Nicaragua in 1856, is buried here. After being deposed and expelled back to the U.S., Walker tried to return to his adventures in Central America by mounting an incursion through Trujillo. It was there that he was captured and executed by firing squad. With its history, its culture, its Garifuna music and food, and its beautiful scenery, Trujillo could easily be one of Central America\u2019s top tourist destinations. But its difficult access and a lack of interest from the central government keep it in ruins, which hardly anyone visits. The town suffered even further devastation from hurricanes Eta and Iota, which hit the region especially hard. Trujillo is still the departmental capital of Col\u00f3n, but Tocoa has stolen the town's place in the regional limelight.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EStanding in front of the fortress, accompanied by photojournalist V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a, I called Varela. He told us to follow the main road until it ends, then turn down the dirt road that heads toward Santa Fe. \u201cWalk that way for a few kilometers, until you see an entrance on your right that says \u2018NJOI\u2019.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\u003Cfigure class=\"pict pict_land pict_move_posc 0 cs_img cs_img--curr rule--ss_c\" data-shot=\"pict\" data-hint=\"pict\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__pobj text-overflow\"\u003E\u003Cimg src=\"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/get_img?ImageWidth=2000&ImageHeight=1333&ImageId=36801\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"\u00d3scar N\u00e1jera looks out at the Caribbean from his pool in the private complex NJOI, situated in a network of dirt roads in the Garifuna communities surrounding Trujillo, Col\u00f3n. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cfigcaption class=\"pict__text cs_img_caption folk_content typo_buttons line--ss_s0c line--ss_s0c--auto block full-width text-overflow rule--ss_l relative\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"__content block-inline full-width align-top tint-text--idle relative\"\u003E\u00d3scar N\u00e1jera looks out at the Caribbean from his pool in the private complex NJOI, situated in a network of dirt roads in the Garifuna communities surrounding Trujillo, Col\u00f3n. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\u003Cdiv class=\"photographer text_italic rule--ss_l tint-text--idle\"\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/figcaption\u003E\u003C\/figure\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EWe were expecting a nice sea-side house, but what we discovered, after walking several kilometers down the dirt road, was the entrance to a complex that\u2019s something else entirely: A rotunda with concrete arches, impeccably white and towering several meters high, frame the front entrance security booth. Varela was there waiting for us. After several minutes, the guard in the security booth received authorization for our entry, and we followed Varela down a paved street divided by a well-manicured median. From below, as we made our way around the first hill, we saw an older man in his swimming pool, bald, well fed, holding a wine glass in one hand and looking toward the horizon. It was N\u00e1jera.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EWe turned off the main street and arrived at the entrance to the house. A Garifuna butler opened the door, uniformed in black pants, a vest with gold stripes, and a little bow tie crowning his impeccably white shirt. The butler introduced himself with a very formal smile, welcoming us in. We took our seats in the living room, decorated with leather furniture, a wooden boat, and an enormous television. In front of us, through the large glass windows, we saw N\u00e1jera, the septuagenarian showing off all his power, standing in an infinity pool that melts seamlessly into the Caribbean horizon. \u201cThe master is waiting for you,\u201d said the butler.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EWe greeted N\u00e1jera from the edge of the pool and he invited us to join him. We declined, explaining that we didn\u2019t have our bathing suits \u2014 perhaps not the best excuse, since the congressman is swimming in his underwear. In any case, we stayed out of the pool. We asked permission to take photographs and he agreed. \u201cJust don\u2019t take any of me in my underpants,\u201d he told us.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EWere it not for the tag pinned to his vest, we would never have known the butler's name, because N\u00e1jera simply called him \u201cmy negro\u201d as he reached out with his empty glass of wine-on-ice to have his butler refill it. This happened every few minutes. And it was ten o'clock in the morning.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Ask what you want, however you want to, you won\u2019t catch me.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Catch you? Do you think I\u2019ve come here to ask if you\u2019re a drug trafficker?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014That\u2019s what everyone asks.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014I already know what your answer will be, so why would I ask you that?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014So what do you want to ask me?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014How do you engage in politics in a region controlled by drug traffickers?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Look, let's get right to it. Los Cachiros are my friends. Today, everyone denies it, everyone has disowned them, but everyone did business with those guys. I\u2019m not going to disown them. We\u2019re friends.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014How did you become friends?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014I have an awesome relationship with Los Cachiros! Before, everyone acted like they were their lapdogs. Now all of a sudden nobody knows them. But I do. We\u2019ve been friends since we were kids. I was friends with their dad. Whoever\u2019s going around now saying they were never friends with Los Cachiros is a coward. I was friends with them and I still am. And I\u2019ll admit it. All of it. I\u2019m over 70 years old, they can\u2019t extradite me, hahaha! I wish the best for them. I told them early on to turn themselves in. A person doesn't choose his family, but he does choose his friends. If my friend\u2019s a thief, I\u2019m not going to rat him out.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014They ratted you out. They testified in New York federal court that you moved police and military checkpoints so they could get drugs through.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014But what would you expect them to say, if they\u2019re making a deal to save their own skin? The NGOs put me on that list. When [Los Cachiros] left, the majority of candidates ran out of money.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014And you?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014I financed most of the National Party candidates during Juan Orlando Hern\u00e1ndez's first term. Not his campaign. I don\u2019t get along with him very well.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014With the president?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Yes, with him.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Why?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014No, no, no. We can talk about that another day. But he and I think differently. I invest in two things: businesses and social programs. I give away a lot of money.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014And where do you get your money from?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Well look, I\u2019ve had a lot of businesses. I was the biggest meat supplier in Honduras, and now I\u2019m involved in land projects. I\u2019d guess I make about $60 million Lempiras a year [about US$2.5 million]. And I\u2019ve lost a lot!\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EN\u00e1jera was elected to Congress for the first time in 1990. Before that, he spent ten years working in various government positions. The son of a family of campesinos from the Agu\u00e1n Valley, his folksy style and sense of humor helped pave his way. N\u00e1jera is almost like a caricature of the region\u2019s politicians: mischievous, witty, always ready with a joke to answer any question that might come his way. He is the life of the party and the center of attention. N\u00e1jera voted for land reform and ended up a landowner, in a region that for five decades has served as a bridge between Colombia and Mexico for the largest and most powerful drug cartels in the Americas.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EOn August 2, 2018, N\u00e1jera became the first Honduran to be included on the so-called \u2018Engel List,\u2019 which designates sanctions for Central Americans singled out by the U.S. Congress as corrupt or connected to criminal activity. He is also on the list of individuals sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department\u2019s Magnitsky Act, and by the U.K.. But in Col\u00f3n, he won ten elections in a row. Until this one.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u00d3scar Estrada, journalist and author of Tierra de Narcos, maintains that N\u00e1jera is one of the most important Honduran political figures of the second half of the 20th century, and, so far, of the first half of the 21st century. \u201cHe has succeeded in reinventing himself, rebuilding his power through his relationships with the military, landowners, and drug traffickers. He is the feudal lord of Col\u00f3n, and he continues to rule the department.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Are you the \u201ccacique of Col\u00f3n,\u201d as some people call you?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014I\u2019m not a cacique of anywhere. I\u2019m a friend of the people.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\u003Cfigure class=\"pict pict_land pict_move_posc 0 cs_img cs_img--curr rule--ss_c\" data-shot=\"pict\" data-hint=\"pict\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__pobj text-overflow\"\u003E\u003Cimg src=\"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/get_img?ImageWidth=2000&ImageHeight=1333&ImageId=36802\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"Dylan Alexander Banegas, 7, plays with his snorkel in a half-built construction project on a dock along Trujillo Bay. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cfigcaption class=\"pict__text cs_img_caption folk_content typo_buttons line--ss_s0c line--ss_s0c--auto block full-width text-overflow rule--ss_l relative\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"__content block-inline full-width align-top tint-text--idle relative\"\u003EDylan Alexander Banegas, 7, plays with his snorkel in a half-built construction project on a dock along Trujillo Bay. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\u003Cdiv class=\"photographer text_italic rule--ss_l tint-text--idle\"\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/figcaption\u003E\u003C\/figure\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EN\u00e1jera began his political career in 1974, three years after President Richard Nixon declared the launch of a \u201cwar on drugs\u201d that, half a century later, has yet to produce many victories. This war involved not just the prohibition of drugs, but U.S. military assistance and presence in producing and transit countries. In 1973, Nixon founded the DEA and tasked it with spearheading his war.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EHonduras had recently been integrated into the hemisphere's major drug trafficking corridor, serving as a bridge from Colombia to the United States. The first case that caught the attention of the press, and that shed light on the full dimensions of the drug trade in Honduras, was the 1977 police kidnapping of Mario and Mary Ferrari, a powerful business couple and close partners with the Honduran military whose bodies were found months later. Forensic examinations determined that they had been shot to death. Subsequent investigations reported in Estrada's book determined that their murders had been planned by Roberto Matta Ballesteros, a drug trafficker and associate of Pablo Escobar, at the offices of Honduran military intelligence. The Ferrari couple had been part of Matta's trafficking operation, along with high-ranking Honduran military commanders.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EMatta was captured and imprisoned a few years later, after participating in the assasination of DEA agent Enrique \u201cKiki\u201d Gonz\u00e1lez Camarena, in Mexico. He is still in prison in the United States. Escobar died on the rooftops of Medell\u00edn, fleeing from an elite squad composed of Colombian military and police officers and DEA agents. The drugs continued to flow from Colombia to Honduras, from Honduras to Mexico, and from Mexico to the United States. The DEA agents and the military maintained their presence in Honduras, and U.S. administrations maintained their support for the Honduran government, to ensure their support in the fight against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and the Honduran military continued to smuggle drugs, as they continue to do today, half a century later, as evidenced by the trial testimonies in New York.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014What do you think about the war on drugs?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EN\u00e1jera laughed. His grey mustache rose up. He arched his eyebrows and furrowed his brow, still holding a smile. The unmistakable gestures of sarcasm. He answered with another question.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Do you know any gringo drug lords who have gone to jail?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Is Honduras a narco-state?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Yes, of course! Why even ask about what\u2019s right in plain sight?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EI looked around me. The only thing here that seems incorruptible is the sea, disappearing into the horizon. Everything else \u2014 this pool, this house, this cacique congressman, his Garifuna butler, Varela, everything to my left, everything to my right, everything behind me \u2014 is Honduras. The things you don\u2019t need to ask about, because they\u2019re right in plain sight.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EWe had been speaking for more than half an hour, and the congressman had knocked back, and had his butler refill, several glasses of wine on ice, when it became clear that \u00d3scar N\u00e1jera had me investigated before our interview. I asked him where he got all this information about me, some of which is true.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014I have people in El Salvador and Honduras who tell me things. I have a thousand different contacts in Tocoa alone.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014And what do those thousand different contacts tell you?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014They tell me everything. Yesterday, they sent me a picture of a guy with his penis cut off. He had raped a four-year-old boy. I asked why they hadn\u2019t cut his other head off too.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014And what did they say?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014They told me they had already killed him. I\u2019ll show you the messages later, they\u2019re on a different phone.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EN\u00e1jera never showed me those messages and I was never able to confirm if his story was true. I have no idea. But I wondered, and still wonder, why Congressman \u00d3scar N\u00e1jera, who went to all the trouble of having me investigated, would decide to tell me something like that; why a politician who claims to be a representative of the people, a friend of the people, a man of humble campesino origins, made the deliberate decision to host me at his exclusive residence and greet me at his private swimming pool, with a view of the Caribbean Sea, drinking wine at ten in the morning, with a security guard in the living room visibly packing a 9mm pistol, and with a uniformed Garifuna butler refilling his cup every ten minutes. What image was he trying to convey to me?\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u201cThey reminded me of Mr. Candy and his Black butler Stephen,\u201d Victor Pe\u00f1a would later tell me, referring to the characters in the movie Django Unchained, played by Leonardo Di Caprio and Samuel L. Jackson.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\u003Cfigure class=\"pict pict_land pict_move_posc 0 cs_img cs_img--curr rule--ss_c\" data-shot=\"pict\" data-hint=\"pict\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__pobj text-overflow\"\u003E\u003Cimg src=\"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/get_img?ImageWidth=2000&ImageHeight=1333&ImageId=36803\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"Justo works as \u00d3scar N\u00e1jera's personal butler. His name originates from the Garifuna communities living on the outskirts of the municipality of Trujillo. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cfigcaption class=\"pict__text cs_img_caption folk_content typo_buttons line--ss_s0c line--ss_s0c--auto block full-width text-overflow rule--ss_l relative\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"__content block-inline full-width align-top tint-text--idle relative\"\u003EJusto works as \u00d3scar N\u00e1jera's personal butler. His name originates from the Garifuna communities living on the outskirts of the municipality of Trujillo. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\u003Cdiv class=\"photographer text_italic rule--ss_l tint-text--idle\"\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/figcaption\u003E\u003C\/figure\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp style=\"text-align: center;\" dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003E5.\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ESeven years ago, N\u00e1jera sponsored a bill to ban the carrying of firearms in Col\u00f3n, which passed by a simple majority in Congress.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAt the time, the Lower Agu\u00e1n Valley, or Bajo Agu\u00e1n, was the site of a \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/salanegra.elfaro.net\/es\/201208\/cronicas\/9355\/La-revoluci%C3%B3n-de-las-palmeras.htm\"\u003Esmall-scale civil war\u003C\/a\u003E that pitted poor campesinos who had taken up arms in an attempt to occupy and defend plots of productive land, with large palm producers who fought the land usurpations with an army of private security agents. The conflict, at that point, had already claimed the lives of some 50 people on both sides.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EBanning firearms might not seem like such a bad idea in a place plagued by violence, but only 66 of the 122 members of Congress voted to approve the law. Barely enough for it to go into effect. Those who opposed the bill said that it would only disarm legal firearm owners, because criminals would always find a way to get more guns.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIn the Bajo Agu\u00e1n, the law turned campesinos who carried weapons into criminals, thus authorizing their arrest, but it did not criminalize the hundreds of private security personnel guarding the plantations of the three big landowners: Facuss\u00e9, Ren\u00e9 Morales, and Reynaldo Canales. Nor did the law do anything to disarm drug traffickers, who were already living an illicit existence anyway.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe law still exists, and so do the guns. Tocoa has a murder rate double the national average, and is more violent than Central America\u2019s most violent cities, like San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EEsly Banegas was arrested in 2005 on charges of land usurpation. At the time, she was the leader of the Coordinadora de Organizaciones Populares del Agu\u00e1n, or COPA, a coalition of campesino organizations, and was actively denouncing the murders of campesino organizers. She was only in jail for one day, because hundreds of campesinos turned out in protest, blockading roads to demand her release. One year later, the president of the Movimiento Unificado de Campesinos del Agu\u00e1n, Jos\u00e9 \u00c1ngel Flores, was assassinated. Four men entered his house in Tocoa and shot him to death.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u201cSince 2011, there have been more than 110 campesinos killed, and 126 precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,\u201d says Banegas. \u201cBut the precautionary measures don\u2019t matter. My son's father was granted precautionary measures, but was killed just a few months after my son, who was also murdered.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EBanegas first came to the Agu\u00e1n Valley in 1982 as a social worker employed by the Honduran government, and has supported the campesinos in their struggle against the land barons ever since. She works out of a small office in a rural area on the outskirts of Tocoa, on the premises of the National Agrarian Institute, surrounded by African palm trees. You enter the campus on a dirt footpath and leave through a garbage dump. I visited Banagas here recently. With great patience, she recounted the last half century of Bajo Agu\u00e1n history to me, beginning with the failed attempt at agrarian reform in the 1970s.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EWhen she first arrived here, the Cold War was still in full swing and the army, which controlled everything in Honduras, had started disappearing campesinos in the Agu\u00e1n. \u201cThey were the owners of the land, but with all the persecution, they were pressured to sell,\u201d Banegas says. \u201cIt\u2019s a vicious cycle that forces people into a corner and keeps campesinos in poverty, and they end up selling their landholdings to the latifundistas, to the large landowners.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u201cWe\u2019re faced with a network of corruption protected by the military and the police, which continues to expand its exploitation today through mining projects,\u201d she says. \u201cWe have to fight for the land and fight against mining. It\u2019s the same common enemy. We live in a militarized zone, surrounded by police and by an army of private security.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EI asked her about the role of congressman \u00d3scar N\u00e1jera in the agrarian reform, which he claims to have helped bring about during his early political career. Banegas, who rarely laughs, laughed: \u201cHe also owns several hectares of palm trees in the area.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EN\u00e1jera admits to being a palm oil producer and the owner of Aceydesa, a palm oil company managed by one of his daughters. \u201cBut I\u2019ve never, ever been partners with Facuss\u00e9, like they want to accuse me of. No way.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp style=\"text-align: center;\" dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003E6.\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe November 28 general elections marked a historic defeat for Honduras's ruling National Party. This came despite the fact that Juan Orlando Hern\u00e1ndez, a member of that same party, did not hesitate in throwing the entire weight of the state apparatus behind Nasry Asfura, the National Party candidate who lost the presidency to opposition leader Xiomara Castro of the Liberty and Refoundation Party (known simply as Libre) by more than 20 points. But that wasn\u2019t all: The National Party lost a third of its seats in Congress and a majority of the country\u2019s mayoral seats as well.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAbsent any residual ballot counting, all indications are that Col\u00f3n\u2019s four congressional seats will also go to the candidates from Libre, the party of the newly elected president.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EI spoke with Congressman N\u00e1jera four days after the elections, when it seemed clear that he would not be returning to Congress this coming year. He was in Tegucigalpa.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014I thought you said you were a shoo-in?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014This was a total butchering. Altering vote records, buying votes. They screwed me\u2026\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Who was it that screwed you?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014My own party, man. My own party. They sold me out, they used me\u2026 They abused my trust!\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014But your whole party, all the candidates, they all came in behind the candidates from Libre. And you didn\u2019t just lose in Col\u00f3n. Your party took a tremendous beating all over the country.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Well yeah, the voters were obviously punishing us. It was all greed, ignorance\u2026 We lost control of 17 departments.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Why do you think they were punishing you?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Because of the corruption of Juan Orlando Hern\u00e1ndez, because of the impunity in all those corruption cases.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Aren\u2019t you afraid, now that you\u2019ve lost your parliamentary immunity, that you\u2019ll be prosecuted?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Why would I be prosecuted?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014For all the information that got you included on all those lists?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014There\u2019s nothing to those accusations. There\u2019s nothing there. There\u2019s not a single case against me. My only judge is my conscience, and my conscience is totally clear.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014So will you retire from politics?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Yeah. That\u2019s what I've been thinking. That this is the end of my political career. Especially at my age\u2026\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014So what do you think you\u2019ll do?\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E\u2014Tomorrow I leave for Dubai.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\u003Cfigure class=\"pict pict_land pict_move_posc 0 cs_img cs_img--curr rule--ss_c\" data-shot=\"pict\" data-hint=\"pict\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__pobj text-overflow\"\u003E\u003Cimg src=\"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/get_img?ImageWidth=2000&ImageHeight=1333&ImageId=36804\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"Local children jump from the dock into Trujillo Bay, one of the few distractions for youngsters living nearby. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cfigcaption class=\"pict__text cs_img_caption folk_content typo_buttons line--ss_s0c line--ss_s0c--auto block full-width text-overflow rule--ss_l relative\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"__content block-inline full-width align-top tint-text--idle relative\"\u003ELocal children jump from the dock into Trujillo Bay, one of the few distractions for youngsters living nearby. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\u003Cdiv class=\"photographer text_italic rule--ss_l tint-text--idle\"\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/figcaption\u003E\u003C\/figure\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E*Translated by Max Granger\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E*\u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/una-guerra-adictiva.elclip.org\/\"\u003EUna Guerra Adictiva (\"an addictive war\") is a collaborative transnational journalism project\u003C\/a\u003E on the paradoxes of 50 years of drug policy in Latin America involving the Latin American Center for Investigative Journalism (CLIP), Drom\u00f3manos, Ponte Jornalismo (Brazil), Cerosetenta and Verdad Abierta (Colombia), El Faro (El Salvador), El Universal and Quinto Elemento Lab (Mexico), IDL-Reporteros (Peru), The Miami Herald\/El Nuevo Herald (United States), and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)\u003C\/em\u003E.\u003C\/p\u003E"}