In early July, following months of investigation, the Honduran Armed Forces, with the support of the Office of the Attorney General against Organized Crime and the Technical Criminal Investigation Agency (ATIC, in Spanish), carried out an operation in the tropical rainforest near Limón municipality, Colón department, where they destroyed a 6-hectare coca field.
After being transported by helicopters, service members began their advance, crossing the thick jungle to reach the coca field and a wooden structure that served as a narco-lab. Several precursor chemicals to prepare cocaine hydrochloride were also found, Honduran Army Colonel Norman Ayax Medrano, commander of the Xatruch Task Force that led the operation, told Diálogo.
“We are talking about 30,000 coca plants that were cut and incinerated in Colón department,” Army First Lieutenant José Antonio Coello, Honduran Armed Forces’ Communications officer, told Diálogo. “This is the area where the most [crops] were reported.”
From January 1 to July 22, 2020, 1st Lt. Coello said, authorities destroyed 34,000 coca plants in Colón. In May 2019, ATIC agents destroyed a coca crop and a narco-lab in Limón, where the drug produced was of optimal quality.
Referring to the 2019 operation, Ricardo Castro, head of ATIC, told the Honduran newspaper La Prensa that “according to sample analysis from the field found, the alkaloid is better or equal to that produced in Colombia.”
“Criminal structures always look for remote places like jungle areas and near the Atlantic Ocean, to do topographic and weather tests, as well as places with infrastructure to prepare, store, and distribute this drug,” said 1st Lt. Coello.
“Areas favored by these criminal structures are the Colón and Gracias a Dios departments,” the officer continued, adding that authorities have destroyed 20 clandestine airstrips and four narco-labs so far in 2020 in Gracias a Dios.
First Lt. Coello highlighted U.S. and Colombian support in the fight against narcotrafficking, an effort that “aims at intercepting suspicious vessels, aircraft that carry drugs, and land operations to destroy narco-labs.”
In 2017, Honduran authorities found the first coca fields in the national territory, 1st Lt. Coello said.
According to InSight Crime, an organization specializing in security threats in Latin American, the 8-hectare plantation found in Olancho department in May 2017 was an experiment by narcotraffickers. InSight Crime indicated that Colombians were known to operate in the area and that the coca fields found in the country had further complicated Honduras’ position in the narcotrafficking chain.