Despite the COVID-19 crisis and the measures imposed by the Honduran government to prevent the spread of the virus — including mandatory confinement, border closings, and the deployment of service members and police officers to carry out new tasks — Honduran law enforcement agencies continue to deal a heavy blow to narcotrafficking.
From March 16 (when mandatory confinement began) to June 9, the National Anti-mara and Gang Force (FNAMP, in Spanish) seized more than 3 tons of marijuana as part of operations under the framework of the National Inter-Institutional Security Force (FUSINA, in Spanish), the agency said in a statement. In addition to illicit substances, FNAMP units captured 300 gang members and seized 43 weapons, 33 vehicles, and more than $74,900.
According to figures the Ministry of Defense provided to Diálogo, law enforcement agencies carried out thousands of security and reconnaissance patrols and captured 670 individuals for narcotrafficking in the first quarter of 2020.
Due to government restrictions, criminal groups adapted and began to use vehicles that carry basic supplies, FNAMP said. For example, in late April, FNAMP intercepted a food freight truck on a Tegucigalpa road with more than 1,130 kilograms of marijuana that two members of the Barrio 18 gang (also known as Calle 18 or Mara 18) transported.
The other criminals that FNAMP captured in the last three months carried smaller amounts of drugs, the institution reported.
“When the COVID-19 emergency began and criminal gang organizations saw their extortion charges decrease, they focused on narcotrafficking in the form of micro-trafficking,” Special Forces Major Ubaldo Rodríguez Chinchilla, chief of the FNAMP Analysis and Intelligence Unit, told Diálogo, referring to the fees criminal groups usually collect from businesses.
FNAMP has been working on micro-trafficking cases since early 2020, since according to the institution, more than 90 percent of the distribution is carried out by maras and gangs.
“These gang organizations look for opportunities to get involved in narcotrafficking, to get a leading role, hence the interest in using micro-trafficking in our country,” Maj. Rodríguez said.
Created in July 2018, the FNAMP’s mission is to fight against maras and gangs engaged in narcotrafficking, extortion, and money laundering, among other related crimes, such as arms trafficking and even terrorism.