US radar technology

US officials announced they have suspended the sharing of radar intelligence with Honduras following the unilateral decision by the Honduran Air Force to shoot down two suspected drug flights. The announcement further destabilizes the already shaky US-Honduras counter-narcotics assistance program.

The radar technology had been in place since May as part of the US-led "Operation Anvil." However, the US decided to suspend sharing radar intelligence August 18, according to La Prensa, following the downing of two suspected drug flights by the Honduran Air Force in July. The confusing incident led to the removal of the head of the Honduran Air Force.

The US has stated that it is willing to restore the radar system but only once it has carried out a full review that will establish strict guidelines to ensure no such unilateral actions take place in the future. Ramon Custodio, the head of Honduras' human rights commission (known by its acronym CONADEH), said in response to the withdrawal of the radar that the country is now, "open skies for drug trafficking."

InSight Crime Analysis

Honduras is one of the primary transit points for cocaine traversing Central America. The State Department estimates 79 percent of drug flights pass through the country.

The US' concern, however, has not translated into a stable relationship with the Honduran government. Last month, US officials announced that police aid would be suspended to units under the command of the country's police chief due to claims he ran death squads in the 2000s.

Hondurans are also not happy, especially with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which has employed special teams to some of the more drug-ridden areas. In May, the DEA was involved in the killing of four suspected drug traffickers in the northeastern Gracias a Dios province, one of whom was a woman who was allegedly pregnant. 

Still, the US is keen to continue with special operations and counter-narcotics activities in Honduras, InSight Crime has learned, and will likely proceed with greater caution going forward.