The operation, which started in January 2019, will be conducted throughout the country to counter crime in communities.
On January 18, the Honduran government launched Operation Morazán II, led by its National Interagency Security Force (FUSINA, in Spanish). Morazán II was first implemented in the departments of Francisco Morazán, Olancho, Yoro, and Cortés, and it will be extended to the country’s 18 departments during 2019.
The objective of Morazán II is to counter drug and arms trafficking, unlawful association, homicide, petty crime, and related offenses. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández described Morazán II as an operation to liberate areas and fully prosecute crime.
“We won’t allow criminals to do as they please, like in the past,” Hernández told the press. About 2,000 units of the security forces deployed to the four departments to counter crime in those areas.
“[The operation] was first implemented in these four departments since they reported the highest crime and murder rates in early 2019,” Honduran Army First Lieutenant José Antonio Coello, FUSINA spokesperson, told Diálogo. “Narcotrafficking in Honduras causes death, damages health, and produces violence and insecurity, and all Hondurans suffer the consequences of this illicit activity.”
Liberating the country
The operation will be carried out in three phases, with the first seeking to gain the trust of the people and encourage them to report suspicious activities. Authorities will also focus on capturing leaders of criminal gangs to dismantle them.
During the second phase, security forces conduct security operations with roadblocks, checkpoints, and patrols. Finally, the third phase consists of stabilization with preventive controls and social projects.
“Once the third stage ends, monitoring will be constant in these areas, since we can’t conduct operations and leave [the place] unprotected,” said 1st. Lt. Coello. “Monitoring is maintained by refurbishing police posts and detachments, and improving the quality of life of security personnel, so they can do their jobs better and provide services to areas that are being liberated.”
Morazán’s first edition kicked off in January 2014 to counter organized crime, narcotrafficking, and gangs. According to the United Nations, Honduras was among the most dangerous countries worldwide in 2011, with 92 murders for every 100,000 inhabitants. Since then, FUSINA’s specialized work contributed to sharply reduce these figures.
“We ended 2018 with a murder rate of 40 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants,” said 1st Lt. Coello. “The goal will be to drop to 34 or 32 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants by the end of 2019.”
The concentration of units in the initial four departments struck a tough blow against criminal groups. In less than a month, from Morazán II’s launch until January 12, FUSINA captured 45 alleged criminals—including leaders and other members of criminal organizations—in the conflict area of Valle de Amarateca, Francisco Morazán department.
When the operation advances to the other departments, it will count with the support of military troops from around the country. “Due to the territorial disposition and organization of the Armed Forces, they can be present in every department to contribute to the efforts of the other components,” Honduran Navy Captain José Domingo Meza, director of Public Relations for the Armed Forces, told Diálogo.
By mid-February, the operation had had positive outcomes. According to FUSINA, authorities dismantled seven criminal rings and captured more than 2,000 criminals, 644 of whom had arrest warrants.
“The dismantled criminal gangs were some of the most dangerous,” said 1st Lt. Coello. “They generated violence, multiple homicides, turf wars, attacks, theft, extortion, and hired killings, as well as petty and organized crime.”
In addition, deployed units seized 11 kilograms of cocaine and destroyed 90,000 marijuana plants. Authorities also destroyed a processing lab for illicit substances, six clandestine airstrips, and seized $36,000.
“This is a historical FUSINA mission to change the unfortunate situation our country underwent,” said Honduran Army Brigadier General Germán Velázquez Romero, FUSINA commander. “We are achieving it, and most of all we have the will to do a thorough job.”