Honduras Shuts Spaces to Venezuelan Narcotrafficking
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo July 08, 2020
Cooperation mechanisms among Honduras, the United States, and Venezuela’s interim government have become stronger to halt Venezuelan narcotrafficking mafias connected to the Nicolás Maduro regime, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
To strengthen military operations against drug trafficking and crime throughout the region, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández inaugurated the Combined Interagency Operations Center (CCOI, in Spanish) in Tegucigalpa, on May 25.
The CCOI will be used for multi-domain operations and will be linked to the Interagency Tactical Operations Center in Colón, Gracias a Dios, and Olancho departments. “This interagency platform generates real-time mutual support to conduct tactical operations against narcotrafficking mafias,” Honduran Army Colonel Juan Ramón Macoto, commander of the National Interagency Security Force, told Diálogo.
Prior to the center’s inauguration, a commission comprising representatives of Honduras, the United States, and the Venezuelan interim government conducted an inspection of the Interagency Tactical Operations Center in Gracias a Dios to check on the activities of the Cartel of the Suns, a criminal ring involving high ranking officials of the Maduro regime, which uses Honduras as a bridge for illegal drug trafficking, said Claudio Sandoval, ambassador of the Venezuelan interim government in Honduras.
“One hundred percent of the aircraft that land illegally in this country with drug shipments come from Venezuela,” Sandoval told reporters. “[In Gracias a Dios] there is a graveyard for disposable narco-planes that are used only to transport drugs, and the criminal evidence is then left on site.”
“They leave the [Venezuelan] state of Zulia, from Perijá and La Guajira, because they save flight hours,” Sandoval told the Honduran newspaper El Nacional. “Central America is important, ideal for the Cartel of the Suns. It’s where the aircraft land, and criminals then transport the drugs by land to Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States,” he added.
With the launch of the CCOI and a new Honduran law on airspace, narcotrafficking routes will gradually close. The new non-lethal air intercept law aligns Honduras with international conventions and customs and opens the door to increased coordination and cooperation with the United States.
“Criminal structures also use Honduran waters to move illegal shipments. Submersibles, go-fast boats, and fishing boats are the most widely used, generally with transshipment processes, which eventually arrive in coastal areas and use lakes and rivers,” Col. Macoto concluded.