Honduras to step up measures to avoid increase in drug trafficking
By Dialogo April 15, 2014
In order to establish a strategic regional alliance, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández signed an agreement on April 3 with his Salvadoran elected counterpart, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, who will assume the presidency on June 1. This agreement shows the commitment of both presidents to strengthen the fight against drug trafficking and violence caused by this scourge in the region, which is considered by criminal gangs a strategic transit point to reach the main drug consuming market in the world: the United States.
This topic, specifically Operation Martillo, which is an international initiative focused on information sharing and the unification of air, sea and land efforts conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense, Homeland Security and partner nations from Europe and the Western Hemisphere to counter illicit trafficking, was the focus of the IX Central American Security Conference (CENTSEC) 2014.
To discuss Operation Martillo and other important matters, Diálogo met with General Freddy Santiago Díaz Zelaya, Chief of the Honduran Armed Forces' Joint Chiefs of Staff, during CENTSEC 2014, held during the first week of April in Guatemala City.
DIÁLOGO: Regarding Operation Martillo, what is Honduras's contribution and what does the country expect for the future of this initiative?
GENERAL DÍAZ: For us, Operation Martillo is an excellent effort; it shows the cooperation offered by partner nations' governments and armed forces, and we have been able to see that for our Naval Force, the hardest-working in this joint effort, it has been an activity conducted with a high degree of willingness and diligence, from which we have learned a lot.
DIÁLOGO: What about information sharing between countries in the region and the United States?
GENERAL DÍAZ: I think there was excellent coordination work and information sharing. This has allowed us, I think, to conduct a remarkably coordinated effort.
DIÁLOGO: During your presentation in CENTSEC, you mentioned FUSINA. Could you clarify what that is?
GENERAL DÍAZ: President Orlando Hernández has directed us to use all our services and the institutions of the Honduran State to confront this transnational threat, and we were directed to integrate an inter-institutional force. Therefore, FUSINA, which stands for "National Security Inter-institutional Force," is an effort where the Armed Forces and the National Police work together with other state institutions such as Immigration and the Revenue Office. There are also other institutions that can make contributions, including Civil Aviation, the Attorney General Office and the Judiciary, which can all contribute in close coordination. This way, effectiveness can be measured in each institution, so that we can control whether institutions are carrying out the tasks they have been assigned.
DIÁLOGO: One of the statistics mentioned in the presentation is that eight out of 10 homicides in Honduras are related to drug trafficking. Why did things reach this point and what is being done to counter this?
GENERAL DÍAZ: According to the statistics in Honduras, we are sure that 7 or 8 out of every 10 homicides are related to drug trafficking or caused by it. This demonstrates the activity generated by drug trafficking in Honduras. Why did the situation get to this point? We, as part of government, have stressed that the drug problem is not a direct problem stemming in Honduras. It is a problem that originates in a producer country to the south, and ends up in consumer countries in the north. So Honduras, in my opinion, adopted a passive position with this phenomenon. But currently, after the presidential mandate, we have readdressed the issue and it has been correctly focused, showing that, as the president said, we will not rest and we will use all the state's resources to avoid the occupation of our national soil by drug trafficking.
DIÁLOGO: How is Honduras planning to confront drug traffickers in the Mosquitía region?
GENERAL DÍAZ: Due to lack of state presence in that territory, it has been occupied by drug trafficking gangs. Therefore, we have received specific instructions from our president to counter this problem in La Mosquitía. And we are working hard with all the services that are already there; there is a naval base, a joint task force, as well as an infantry battalion. In addition, other forces from the Honduran interior are supporting them, and we are determined to use all the necessary means, we are already using them, to destroy all these clandestine air strips for aircraft that fly without proper authorization.
DIÁLOGO: Honduras is a country where a new and revolutionary information sharing platform is being tested, the Cooperative Situational Information Integration (CSII) system, an application that is being developed by the Southern Command. Do you think this will increase information sharing, especially from Honduras to the United States?
GENERAL DÍAZ: In regards to information sharing, I think the most important thing is to have the electronic means to generate accurate information. In this regard, Honduras is also making an effort to have technological equipment that will allow us to improve surveillance over our airspace in order to then generate information that will be processed and shared with the proper recipients, including all the relevant and accurate information with the Southern Command to then become capable of countering this transnational threat.
If our authorities don't start cracking down on drug trafficking, 15 years from now the world will be dominated by the drug lords. It is already happening in some countries.