Honduras in Frontal Assault against Drug Trafficking
By Kay Valle/Diálogo November 18, 2016Drug trafficking is a multinational menace, especially to Northern Triangle nations. That’s why each country is taking steps to fight it. “Honduras in particular improves every day,” said Soraya Cálix, director of the Directorate for the Fight against Drug Trafficking (DLCN, per its Spanish acronym). The nation’s Public Ministry has several special units, including the DLCN, where the fight against drug trafficking begins. Director Cálix told Diálogo that drug seizures and other actions are a focal point for countering national and international organized crime activity. “According to the results of the detective work in this office, from 2015 to November 2016, drug seizures from national and international organized crime groups have doubled,” Cálix said. Lieutenant Colonel Santos Nolasco, spokesperson for Honduras’s National Inter-agency Security Force (FUSINA), reported that in addition to the increase in seizures, the transit of cocaine through Honduran territory decreased significantly due to FUSINA’s head-on assault against common and organized crime. This fight consists of implementing extreme measures, such as the ground, air, and maritime shield, and the joint work of law enforcement agencies. Throughout 2016, these measures have resulted in the confiscation of 15,000 kilos of cocaine, 700 kilos of cocaine paste, 200 barrels of precursor chemicals used in drug production, and the destruction of 10 drug laboratories. These drug seizures took place along the Atlantic seaboard. As a preventive measure, FUSINA focuses its operations in this area. In addition to the drug seizures, law-enforcement operations resulted in the dismantling of numerous criminal gangs engaged in drug trafficking. This has allowed for the extradition of 12 Honduran citizens wanted by the United States justice system for illegal drug trafficking. “The work carried out during almost three years of operation has allowed for the disabling of 137 clandestine landing strips used for unloading drugs,” said Lt. Col. Nolasco. Actions against drug trafficking DLCN focuses on coordinating and executing actions aimed at fighting drug trafficking in all its forms and modes. It began fighting drug trafficking in 1996. The corporation has 166 detectives distributed among four departments: Counter-Narcotics Investigations, Money-Laundering and Forfeiture Investigations, the K9 canine unit, and Investigations on the Diversion of Precursor Chemicals. The directorate is headquartered in Tegucigalpa. It also has three other main offices to coordinate and execute operations against drug dealing as well as large-scale seizure operations in ground, air, and maritime zones. “In an operation against drug dealing in the city of San Pedro Sula during the first six months of 2016, detectives from this directorate discovered a new form of distributing crack, now in blister packs, that drug dealers are using in the country’s largest cities,” Cálix said. “When the DLCN’s investigative actions lead to a seizure operation, its detectives is supported by FUSINA elements,” said Lt. Col. Nolasco. After the seizure, the drugs pass through a chain of custody as evidence for a court case, which then leads to penalties. Once the evidence is presented before the judge, it is destroyed. Fighting and prevention “In Honduras, the most produced and consumed drug is marijuana, whereas cocaine consumption is minimal,” reported Lt. Col. Santos. He added that “since October 28, 2014, we have confiscated 58,000 kilos of marijuana in Honduras to date. To prevent an increase in drug consumption in the country, the Military Police of Public Order implemented the ‘Live Better Drug-Free’ program.” According to FUSINA statistics, in 2016, the program provided prevention talks to more than 70,000 high-school students. Meanwhile, Cálix confirmed that combating drugs is not the DLCN’s sole responsibility. It also aims to raise awareness among the people about the health hazards posed by drug consumption. “We are raising awareness at the national level through a campaign called ‘Freedom and Health without Drugs,’ which carries out informational conferences in the nation’s educational centers,” she said. Cálix stressed that many of the seizures were achieved thanks to anonymous citizen complaints. “The success of many drug-seizure operations is thanks to citizen collaboration. We have a professional team of detectives ready to receive their complaints,” she concluded.