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Honduran president fires police chief

President Porfirio Lobo on Thursday fired Honduras' national police chief, who has long faced accusations he ran death squads when he was a lower-level officer and whose force has been hit with frequent abuse claims.

Lobo said he made the decision to remove Gen. Juan Carlos Bonilla in consultations with President-elect Juan Orlando Hernandez, who takes office Jan. 27.

Bonilla has been the U.S. government's go-to man in Honduras for the war on drug trafficking, although the State Department denied it worked directly with a man also known as "the Tiger. "

Bonilla was indicted in 2002 for alleged human rights violations stemming from accusations he led a social cleansing campaign that killed criminals while he was in charge of the Central American country's prisons. A court acquitted him, and Honduras' Supreme Court upheld the verdict in 2009.

In August 2012, Lobo named him chief of Honduras' national police department, which faces frequent allegations of beating, killing and "disappearing" people who are detained. Bonilla ran all policing, from planning operations to directing investigations and even approving travel abroad for training and vehicle repairs.

In a wide-ranging conversation with The Associated Press earlier this year, the 49-year-old five-star general denied the accusations against him, and said that he was in no way responsible for a rash of gang members who disappeared after being arrested.

"I can't be on top of everything. Sometimes things will escape me. I'm human," Bonilla told the AP.

Bonilla referred frequently to the support he receives from the U.S. Embassy for police operations.

The claim of a close relationship ran counter to a memo sent by the State Department to Congress shortly after Bonilla was named police chief, saying it was aware of the human rights allegations against him. The U.S. government says it has no relations with him.

Honduras serves as a way station for most South American cocaine bound for the U.S. The deeply poor nation of 8 million people has one of the world's highest homicide rates. Corruption is rampant and the rule of law is weak.

The Canadian Press


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