Honduras is committed to eradicating narcotrafficking. Since 2014, drug transit through the nation has dropped from 80 percent to 3.7 percent. According to Honduran Minister of Defense General (ret.) Fredy Santiago Díaz Zelaya, these results come from the joint work of the Honduran Armed Forces and State agencies. Diálogo spoke with Gen. Díaz about the topic and the progress of combined international operations.
Diálogo: How has the National Inter-Institutional Security Force (FUSINA, in Spanish) contributed to reducing crime rates in Honduras?
Honduran Minister of Defense General (ret.) Fredy Santiago Díaz Zelaya: FUSINA was created out of the need to unite State agencies and build synergy, in order to give an unprecedented response to criminality in the country. FUSINA’s creation has combined all the efforts to change the situation we had in early 2014, because there was a very well-organized crime, where we reached 86.5 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. We were the most violent country in the world. It was sad and difficult at that time, and the question came to our mind as to how the Armed Forces could collaborate, in accordance with the laws and the constitution, to help solve this problem. Today, the Armed Forces are a fundamental part of FUSINA, and we are beginning to change history by reducing the homicide rate. Being able to work together with prosecutors, police, and judges is a very important example for the region and for the world of how Honduras was able to solve a problem as strong and as tricky as the one we had at that time.
Diálogo: In reducing crime in Honduras, what do you consider to be the biggest security problem in your country right now?
Gen. Zelaya: It continues to be narcotrafficking, as it drives and stimulates crime in the country, because this business moves more than $600 billion annually. Honduras is the most equidistant geographical point between the south and the north, and we are on a route where this “disgusting and dirty” business, as we’ve called it, has the power or capacity to contaminate the State’s integrity.
Diálogo: What progress has been made in the Honduran Armed Forces on the issue of human rights?
Gen. Zelaya: It is an important subject at the core of the institution, in everything related to training, education, and instruction, both for permanent and auxiliary officers as well as for noncommissioned officers and troops. If we check each course’s syllabus, we see the many hours they devote to human rights instruction. This is due to the strong commitment of the Honduran Armed Forces, who are eminently professional, to respect for human life and our people. Of course, we have received great help from U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in this matter, and the results are clear. Seeing our Armed Forces working together with the National Police, prosecutors, and judges, and with a minimum level of error, is worthy of praise, because they do so under the parameters, training, and education in human rights.
Diálogo: What does the recent U.S. donation of the Río Aguán FNH-8502 patrol vessel represent for the fight against transnational criminal organizations in your country?
Gen. Zelaya: For Honduras and for the Armed Forces, this donation means that the United States is on the same team with our country, as it illustrates that the work we do at the maritime level to combat crime allows us to strengthen our commitment to yield solid results in the fight against the common threats we have with the United States. This donation comes at a very special time of need for our country and, above all, the trust this country has in Honduras, the trust SOUTHCOM has in our armed force to yield results and work toward the future on this important issue of countering common threats in the region.
Diálogo: Operation Dominio has yielded very good results in the fight against narcotrafficking. Why is it important to carry out binational operations with the United States or other countries in the region? Do you plan to carry out new combined operations?
Gen. Zelaya: We spoke with [U.S. Navy] Admiral [Craig] Faller [SOUTHCOM commander] about the need to continue with this type of combined operations. To the extent that we can work together with U.S. authorities and agencies, Honduras will be able to collaborate in the best way possible to combat this great scourge. We look forward to seeing new operations of this magnitude in the future, and of course to seeing the Honduran Armed Forces, especially the Honduran Navy, delivering the results they have so far.
Diálogo: Do you carry out other types of combined operations with other countries in the region?
Gen. Zelaya: Yes. We are very well integrated in the framework of the Central American Armed Forces Conference, together with Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. With Guatemala, we have a combined Joint Task Force, the Maya-Chortí Task Force; with El Salvador, we have the Lenca-Sumpul Task Force; and with Nicaragua, we have Operation Morazán-Sandino, which are of a temporary nature. We have robust information exchange with Colombia and Mexico, which strengthens the work we have done in the region. Of course, [there’s] the closeness to the U.S. agencies based in our country. We need to always be close, in a single team, to yield results such as those that are known up to today.