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03TEGUCIGALPA1497 2003-06-25 20:58:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tegucigalpa
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEGUCIGALPA 001497 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/25/2013


B. 02 PANAMA 3031 (NOTAL)

Classified By: Political Chief Francisco L. Palmieri;
Reasons 1.5 (b) and (d).

1. (U) SUMMARY: On Friday June 20, a Honduran representative
to the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), Cesar Augusto
Diaz Flores, was arrested in Nicaragua for trafficking and
possession of seven kilos of heroin (said to be worth some
USD 6.3 million and a portion of a larger 20-kilo shipment
from the same source). With details still developing in this
case, many questions are being raised about high-level
government officials meddling in illicit activities and the
use of legislative immunity by congressmen. END SUMMARY.


Claiming Immunity After Being Caught Red-Handed



2. (U) According to press reports and Honduran contacts, on
Friday, June 20, a Honduran representative to the Central
American Parliament (PARLACEN), Cesar Augusto Diaz Flores,
was arrested in Nicaragua for trafficking and possession of
seven kilos of heroin (said to be worth approximately USD 6.3
million and part of a 20-kilo shipment from the same source).
At approximately 7:30 PM, Diaz was stopped just inside the
Costa Rican border for a standard vehicle check. He was
traveling with three other companions in a gray Hyundai SUV
with diplomatic plates CD 044 (and an anti-corruption bumper
sticker). When asked by the Costa Rican patrol for proof of
vehicle registration, Diaz reportedly became agitated and
explained that he had diplomatic plates and need not be
bothered with the inspection. After some further bantering,
Diaz then wielded a .45 caliber pistol and fired two shots
outside of the vehicle. No one was hurt in the shooting
incident. He then turned his vehicle around and sped over
the border into Nicaragua, breaking through a security
barrier in the process. He was then detained by Nicaraguan
authorities and the vehicle searched. The search turned up a
small suitcase which held seven kilos of heroin.
Furthermore, the three companions (2 Chinese and 1 Guatemalan
who were later released) were unable to produce proper
documentation and it is now believed that Diaz may have been
involved with alien smuggling. Diaz has since maintained his
innocence on all charges brought against him. He is claiming
immunity from prosecution based on his status as a Honduran
member of the PARLACEN.



Growing Nexus between Political Elites and Organized Crime



3. (SBU) Cesar Augusto Diaz Flores is a leading political
figure in his native Sabanagrande, which is in the Department
of Francisco Morazan just 30 minutes south of the capital.
He is a member of the Liberal Party and served two terms in
the Honduran Congress from 1990-1994 and again from
1994-1998. His political endorsement was actively being
sought by practically all of the possible candidates seeking
the Liberal Party presidential nomination because of his
popularity with the voters in southern Francisco Morazan
department. He has a reputation of generosity and assistance
to people in need. He is currently serving a 2002-2007 term
as 1 of 20 Honduran Congressman with the Central American
Parliament, with offices located in Guatemala. (Note:
PARLACEN membership is widely sought by Honduran political
leaders because of its perceived broader regional legislative
immunity. Former President Rafael Callejas is a PARLACEN
member. End Note.)

4. (C) According to Embassy sources, Diaz is connected with a
well-known cartel involved with arms and drug trafficking.
More specifically, the Costa Rican Ministry of Security
claims that Diaz works directly with known Colombian
traffickers Delgado Orozco and Vazquez Salazar. Costa Rican
authorities claim to have intelligence that puts Diaz at the
heart of some recent drug activities in Costa Rica, just
north of the capital city of San Jose. Concurrently, Diaz
has been tied to a large stolen vehicle scam that imported
stolen vehicles from the U.S. for resale in Honduras. Diaz
is known by EmbOff to be close friends with Wilfredo
Alvarado, the Honduran Consul General in San Jose and a
former head of the DLCN (the counternarcotics directorate)
and former special assistant to Attorney General Roy Medina
(another Liberal Party politician). Post previously
suspected a possible connection, but had no proof, between
Alvarado and Diaz in the sale of Honduran citizenship for
purposes of smuggling aliens illegally to the United States.

5. (SBU) Diaz's case is similar in many respects to the
September 9, 2002 arrest of Ricardo Antonio Pena, a former
Nationalist Party member of the Honduran National Congress,
who also was traveling on a diplomatic passport and was
attempting to smuggle four kilos of heroin from Panama to
Costa Rica. His U.S. nonimmigrant visa has since been
revoked by the Consular Section (ref A). (Note: Press
reports in 1999 alleged that Pena was linked to the
contraband trade in coffee. End Note.)


Immunity or Impunity - When is Enough, Enough?



6. (C) COMMENT: Diaz's arrest comes at a time when the
involvement of public figures of various sectors of the
Honduran government and political class in illicit activities
has come under intense media scrutiny and speculation. His
criminal activity is yet another strong piece of evidence in
the growing indictment against Honduras's political and
economic elite. It appears to be another case of the
outright purchase of power and corrupt use of official status
to carry out criminal activities. His invocation of
parliamentary immunity in order to cover up exposed criminal
actions reveals the extent to which these powerful Honduran
political figures believe they are above the law. It also
raises the question of when enough is enough in regards to
immunity claims by Honduran members of the National Congress
and the PARLACEN.

7. (C) COMMENT CONTINUED: The Embassy has already received
credible reports from local sources that members of the
Liberal Party have begun an effort to press on behalf of
Diaz's claim to immunity from Nicaraguan prosecution and
incredibly to suggest that charges be brought against the
police agents that executed the search against him.
Nonetheless, Foreign Minister Guillermo Perez-Cadalso
declared to the media that the government will provide only
normal consular services and will await action by the
PARLACEN on any immunity claim by Diaz. MFA Director General
for Foreign Policy Mario Fortin told PolOffs June 25 that the
GOH had no plans to protect Diaz or any other corrupt
officials claiming immunity. However, Post believes there
are intense efforts under way by Diaz's supporters to force
PARLACEN to act in support of Diaz's immunity claim.

8. (C) COMMENT CONTINUED: Honduran President Ricardo Maduro
and President of Congress Pepe Lobo are calling for immediate
immunity reforms. According to these two leaders, no one
should be above the law and that it is now long-past time to
bring a stop to the ease with which people escape prosecution
on grounds of immunity. Despite these public declarations,
the jury remains out on whether or not Diaz will be made an
example of, or if he will escape punishment like so many
before him. What is obvious is that this is not simply a
Honduran problem, but one with which the entire Central
America region will have to deal. Sadly, we do not expect
Honduras or its top political figures to lead the effort to
reform this ongoing abuse of legislative immunity. END