TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Five-star Gen. Juan Carlos "El Tigre" Bonilla, spent eight hours talking with The Associated Press about his job heading the National Police in one of the world's most dangerous countries, a force suspected of beating, killing and "disappearing" its detainees. It was his first media interview since 2011.
On accusations against his department:
"I can't be on top of everything. Sometimes things will escape me. I'm human."
On 10-year-old accusations that he was involved in killings and forced disappearances:
"I was not there. I had nothing to do with those events. That happened in San Pedro Sula while I was in Tegucigalpa.
"It's very painful as a human being for your family, your children, your children's schoolmates, your father, your friends or a woman you just met to ask you if you are a murderer."
On this relationship with the U.S. Embassy:
"There are job-related issues that are impossible to solve politically. They are operational and I must take care of them in person. Do I ask the embassy for some things? Yes. I don't ask for anything outside of my responsibilities or my coordination duties."
On his nickname:
"I don't remember how they began calling me 'Tigre,' that's been my nickname for years. I have a nice name, a name I like a lot, Juan Carlos Bonilla. Those who know me call me Juan Carlos."
On his being feared:
"I don't yell, I don't get angry, I don't raise my voice. I say what I have to say and I don't care to whom I say it, or where or when. The angrier I get the more composed I'll be. You'll never see me lose my composure or my manners. If someone is afraid of me it's because they know that I don't compromise, I'm not influenced, I don't do favors, I don't bend before political power or campaigns or threats. I don't kneel before anybody."
On his personal safety:
"Just as I am not afraid of death, neither am I afraid to use weapons to defend myself. If someone barges through that door right now, I would jump over my desk with my gun to defend myself before you even knew what's going on because you'd be frozen by fear. You will never know the type of threats that come with this type of position, threats against oneself and one's family."
On his entering the military at age 12:
"I was recruited by force. That was the way it was then in Honduras, it was a different time, when Honduras had not yet signed international conventions on children's rights. I didn't choose it, but I don't think about it, I don't question it. That's life and you have to move on and make the best of it. I have good memories of that time in my life because it made me who I am."