Honduras: Cocaine, marijuana seizures on the rise
By Dialogo August 31, 2012
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Honduras has used its bonds with fellow Central American nations as part of Operation Martillo to score major victories in its narcotics fight during the first seven months of the year.
“The cooperation among countries allows for the exchange of information and improved technological resources, which leads to the strong blows we’re presently delivering against narco-traffickers, who move by air and sea,” said Col. Isaac Santos Aguilar, head of the Directorate for the Fight against Drug Trafficking (DLCN).
The DLCN seized 11,023 pounds of cocaine and 39,282 pounds of marijuana during the first seven months of 2012 after confiscating 12,612 pounds of cocaine and 154 pounds of marijuana all of last year.
Santos Aguilar praised the results of Operation Martillo, an international mission that gathers Western Hemisphere and European nations in an effort to curtail illicit trafficking routes on both coasts of the Central American isthmus.
“We work jointly with international cooperation to try to interrupt the flow of drugs,” he said. “The efforts have been successful: A great amount of drugs has been confiscated; airplanes have been forced to land; it’s allowed for the capture of speedboats; and through Operation Martillo, in March of this year a semi-submersible was intercepted in the Caribbean.”
So far this year, authorities have seized two narco-submarines. Last year, they seized three, according to the DLCN.
Thanks to information gathered through Operation Martillo, the DLCN determined where narco-traffickers have established their principal routes.
“During the past nine months, the inflow of drugs from South America into our country by land has centered in the northwestern region, especially in the department of Olancho,” Santos Aguilar said. “On the other hand, in the Caribbean we’ve seen an increase in trafficking in the department of Gracias a Dios and Colón.”
The majority of narcotics-carrying planes enter the country through the Agalta Valley and the municipality of Catacamas in Olancho. But there’s also been an increase in narcotics-related activities in the areas of Ahuas, Auca, Brus Laguna and Wampusirpe in Gracias a Dios, Santos Aguilar said.
“Those are remote areas and hard to reach,” he added.
So far this year, the DLCN has destroyed 17 clandestine airstrips used by narco-traffickers to smuggle narcotics into the country – 13 more than were eradicated in 2011.
Santos Aguilar also said the judicial system is handing down stiffer penalties and prison sentences to convicted narco-traffickers.
“[The drug traffickers] no longer operate with as much impunity,” he said. “Perhaps toward the end of last year and the beginning of this one, we were saturated with the amount of drugs and flights entering the country,” he said. “But officials are coming down on crime, and the drugs that are confiscated are destroyed immediately.”
Santos Aguilar said it isn’t just large-scale traffickers the DLCN is targeting.
“We’re fighting the small-scale sale of narcotics and the illegal money being made by people who act in collusion with Honduran and foreign mafias to introduce drugs into the country,” Santos Aguilar said. “It’s money that’s being made at the expense of blood – the blood of Hondurans.”
Santos Aguilar added the fight against narcotics extends beyond enforcement, as the DLCN has partnered with the Honduran National Police, the Executive Directorate of Revenue (DEI), which is the tax collecting branch, and the Secretary of Health to steer children away from drugs.
“Young people are the biggest consumers in the country, and it’s evident that they’re increasingly using synthetic drugs; but the trafficking, consumption and distribution of drugs remain,” he said.
At least 100,000 students use marijuana, 47,000 use cocaine, 37,000 use crack and other drugs and 174,000 drink alcohol, according to a survey given to students nationwide by the Honduran Institute for the Prevention of Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, and Dependency on Pharmaceuticals (IHADFA).
There are 1.3 million elementary and junior high school students between the ages of 6 and 15 and 533,000 high school students nationwide, according to the Secretary of Education.
“The use of drugs among young people is hard to control because drugs have a presence all over the country, “said Rony Efraín Portillo, IHADFA’s general director. “Only by acting together can we face this evil.”
About 60% of Hondurans, a country of eight million, say narco-traffickers have anywhere between “a lot” and “some” degree of influence in their municipalities and departments, according to a July 2012 survey conducted by the National Commissioner on Human Rights (CONADEH).
The survey shed light on why Ramón Custodio López, the head of CONADEH, said narcotics have become a major problem.
“Honduras is no longer a country where drugs transit through – it’s now a country with drug trafficking, which impacts all facets of society,” he said. “So far, we’ve managed to restructure some institutions created to combat narco-trafficking. It’s a long road but we’re in the right path.”