Honduran military destroy a clandestine airstrip

Honduras announced it had destroyed 51 airstrips used for drug trafficking flights in recent months, underscoring the country's importance as a transhipment point for cocaine flights coming from South America.

Honduran Defense Minister Marlon Pascua said government forces had destroyed the clandestine landing strips used for drug trafficking flights over the last few months. Forty of the airfields were located in the largely indigenous zone of La Mosquitia, Gracias a Dios province, and the remaining 11 in the department of Olancho, reported La Tribuna.

Pascua did not provide details on the time frame of the operations though praised the US for their help in carrying them out.

In operations carried out in March, 62 landing strips were destroyed, the majority of them located in Olancho.

InSight Crime Analysis

According to the US State Department, up to 79 percent of all cocaine smuggling flights from South America pass through Honduras with the La Mosquitia region singled out by the US as being a particular concern due to its use as a primary landing zone for traffickers. The region is favored by gangs due to its underdevelopment and lack of state presence, with much of the area covered in dense rainforest. It also provides an ideal jump-off point for cocaine to then be shipped along the coast using boats.

Honduras at the moment does not have its own radar system to track drug flights, leaving them heavily reliant on US tracking operations in the country and the destruction of air fields as a preventative measure.

It appears, however, that toward the end of August, the Honduran Air Force took interdiction measures into their own hands and shot down a drug flight, something which is currently banned under Honduran law. Since the incident, Air force head Ruiz Pastor Landa has been removed from his post.

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