Honduras seized a record haul of 15 tons of drugs

Honduran authorities have seized an estimated 15 tons of illegal drugs in the largest haul in the country's history, highlighting its increasingly central role in the international drug trade.

Authorities discovered the drugs stacked on pallets in 344 bales of at least 40 kilos each at a site in the northern province of Yoro. They have yet to confirm what the bales contained, but believe they are cocaine, coca paste or synthetic drugs.

The haul was discovered in a sophisticated 15 x 6 meter underground storage facility designed to protect shipments from both the authorities and the elements.  Branching from the warehouse was a network of tunnels, where officials believe more drugs may be hidden.

On the grounds of the site, authorities also found chemicals and other substances, an electrical installation and a transformer, and they believe the gang running the complex were in the process of constructing a drug lab.

Authorities said that, by the time they'd arrived, the site was empty, and no arrests were made.

InSight Crime Analysis

With Mexican criminal groups like the Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel both believed to be active in the country, Honduras has become one of the principal drug transit routes in the region. Some estimate that as much as 87 percent of cocaine moving north to the US passes through Honduras.

If this latest haul turns out to be cocaine, it would represent a fraction under 70 percent of the total seizures for 2011, supporting the theory that this process has been accelerating, especially since the 2009 coup.

More significant would be if the seized drugs are coca paste, as this would call for a reassessment of the importance of Honduras as a location for cocaine processing and not just a transit and storage point for processed cocaine. Over the last two years, authorities have discoverd two cocaine hydrochloride (HCl) labs in Honduras.

In any case, the sheer size of the seizure confirms the scale of the problem facing the Honduran authorities as they confront the increasing influence of local and international drug trafficking organizations.