Honduras’s National Interagency Security Force (FUSINA, per its Spanish acronym) continues to conduct operations to build itself up as the most successful government task force in the fight against crime. “This institution’s work has been reinforced through joint interagency operations,” Honduran Military Justice Lieutenant Colonel Santos Nolasco, a spokesman for FUSINA, told Diálogo. “Also, new legislation was passed to support these operations, and that will make the application of justice more effective.”
One of the most recent achievements was the destruction of coca and marijuana plantations in July, in which special anti-narcotics units identified, secured, and destroyed drug manufacturing centers. “That operation located one four-hectare coca plantation and a 24-hectare marijuana plantation in the department of Colón. Both have already been destroyed,” Lt. Col. Nolasco reported. “Twenty hectares [planted] with marijuana were also secured in the department of Olancho.”
“Organized groups devoted to the distribution and sale of narcotics will always be continually evolving and willing to expand their illegal enterprises,” said Edgardo Mejía, a security analyst and professor at the National University of the Honduran Police. “Drug trafficking has expanded the kinds of operations that are conducted in Honduran territory. This territory has become a transfer point and a place for money laundering, as it is seen as a geographical area for drug production.”
Training and equipment
The acquisition of arms and high-tech material is a clear example of the effort that this Central American nation is making in the fight against organized crime and drug trafficking. “Little by little, Honduras is acquiring new technology to strengthen its Armed Forces,” Lt. Col. Nolasco said. “This technology is deployed in our land shield, in our naval shield, and in our air shield, in order to combat drug trafficking and all petty crime and organized crime activities.”
According to the U.S. State Department’s 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, the vast majority of cocaine that transits through Honduras arrives by sea. “The Caribbean region of Honduras continues to be a primary landing zone for maritime transport in drug trafficking and for non-commercial flights,” according to the report.
That is why, with cooperation from partner nations, specialists from the Honduran Armed Forces have undergone training within the framework of Operation Morazán. An example of this occurred in June, at the Naval Training Center located in Trujillo Bay, where a group of 255 Honduran officers and noncommissioned officers received elite training from qualified instructors from the U.S., Colombia, and Chile.
“The goal of the training, in addition to training naval personnel in combating drug trafficking and other illegal activities and raising the level of operational readiness, will be to bolster and equip the Marine Corps and create a new force that is comparable to Army Special Forces,” Captain Héctor Manuel Tercero López, chief of the Joint Staff of the Honduran Navy, told Diálogo. “Navy Special Forces will be the new force to bolster our maritime shield, and it is expected to be up and running at full capacity by the end of 2017.”
As with other nations, it will act as a certified professional force that will combat new threats. “The most important thing is that these officers will have a multiplying effect,” Capt. Tercero stated. “From what they have learned, they will train other [elite] service members in order to strengthen the maritime shield implemented along the coasts.”
Forecasting the future
“There are clear objectives in the strategic combat plan against drug, arms, and human trafficking and the criminal acts of the maras and gangs, among others,” Lt. Col. Nolasco said as he forecasted FUSINA’s future. “However, the short-term goal is to achieve a considerable reduction in the rate of homicides per 100,000 residents in 2017.”
For his part, Mejía acknowledges that social progress is just the starting point for more meaningful achievements that will benefit the citizenry. “At one time, Honduras was considered the most violent country in the world. That has changed. We’ve achieved a reduction in violence as well as of the homicide rate, showing that our teamwork strategy is working,” he said. Mejía added that FUSINA’s evolution as a joint interagency task force will be based on not losing continuity with training and specialization programs and that they must not stop recruiting personnel to grow the force.
“All of the elements that work with and make up FUSINA — the Honduran Armed Forces, the Office of the Attorney General, the National Police, the Supreme Court, and Immigration — receive ongoing training,” Lt. Col. Nolasco concluded. “This has allowed us to be unified and specialized in fighting the domestic and transnational crime that impacts Honduran society.”