The Honduran Armed Forces’ naval shield wrapped up 2018 with the largest seizure of the year.
In a naval operation conducted on November 22, 2018, the Honduran Naval Force (FNH, in Spanish) seized half a ton of illicit drugs in the Honduran Caribbean. The Honduran National Police Anti-drug Directorate assisted with the operation.
Through a joint intelligence effort and information provided by an informant, FNH identified a vessel loaded with drugs in the waters of Gracias a Dios department, on the border with Nicaragua. After obtaining the information, FNH sent two Coast Guard rapid-response Cayman speedboats.
“A vessel loaded with drugs set off from the village of Palacios in Gracias a Dios department, bound to a place near the village of Santa Rosa de Aguán, in Colón department,” FNH Captain José Domingo Meza, director of the Armed Forces’ Public Affairs, told Diálogo. “[The information] was transferred to the Coast Guard so they could conduct a maritime interdiction operation.”
As a result of the operation, authorities seized 532 kilograms of cocaine and an Eduardoño offshore speedboat. The boat’s crew escaped after leaving the vessel on the beach.
In the early hours of the day, FNH units deployed to the coast of Santa Rosa de Aguán, where they located the suspicious speedboat. “According to information received, the boat’s description, its sailing speed, and the crew’s refusal to follow the Coast Guard’s orders, it was identified as the suspicious vessel,” Captain Juan Pablo Rodríguez, FNH head of operations, told Diálogo. “When it was detected, the vessel was navigating off to the coast, at no more than 1 mile, bound 270 degrees from east to west.”
Based on naval protocols, the Coast Guard agents fired warning shots as an order to stop the boat. However, the vessel’s crew did not stop the boat and replied by firing at the naval units. This led to a pursuit that ended on a beach at Santa Rosa de Aguán.
“As soon as these criminals knew they had been busted by our Coast Guard, they headed straight to the beach,” Capt. Rodríguez said. “They escaped so as to not be arrested with the evidence and be brought to justice.”
On the deck of the vessel, FNH units found 18 bags with a total of half a ton of cocaine. They also found AK-47 rifle shells. The drugs as well as the glass-fiber speedboat—22 feet long and with two 200 horsepower outboard engines—were brought to the Honduran Public Ministry’s Special Prosecutor Office Against Organized Crime.
The largest seizure in 2018
The coastal area of Madre de Dios and Colón is plagued with narcotraffickers, Capt. Rodríguez said. “[Criminals] choose these locations to smuggle drugs because they get the support of the population and because these are remote areas with little or no police presence,” he said. “It’s a strategic spot where they can move without being noticed, due to the interconnected riverine channels.”
According to the Armed Forces, FNH’s achievements are up. The seizure on November 22 was the largest the institution carried out in 2018. In total, FNH seized about one ton of cocaine during the year. In 2017, 713 kg of cocaine were seized, compared to 275 kg in the previous year.
Capt. Meza attributed FHN’s success to the rigorous training and the frequent exchanges of experience between partner nations, such as the United States and Colombia. The spokesperson also stressed the increase of patrols throughout the maritime territory.
“They take courses in maritime interdiction, board and search, trained commands in maritime interdiction and counter-narcotics, sniper, riverine pilot, riverine gunman, and urban operations,” Capt. Meza said. “We have more than 1,200 vessels patrolling our areas of responsibility on a permanent basis.”
The naval institution also intends to increase its fleet with new speedboats. The last ships obtained, two Multi-Mission Interceptor 35 speedboats, made by the Science and Technology Corporation for Colombia’s Naval, Maritime, and Riverine Industry Development, will be delivered in 2019 and will continue to strengthen security operations against narcotrafficking and related crimes.
“The emphasis on operational readiness is to avoid having criminal groups smuggle drugs in areas under the Naval Force’s control,” Capt. Meza concluded. “Our mission, as the Armed Forces, is to protect naval, land, and air borders.”