The Honduran military will reportedly make the destruction of illegal airstrips used for drug trafficking flights a priority for 2013, a crucial step in cutting the principal air bridge for cocaine arriving from South America.
The head of the armed forces, General Rene Osorio Canales, told national newspaper El Heraldo that the destruction of illegal airstrips was now a military priority and that they expect to identify and stop more suspected drug flights in 2013. This will be thanks in no small part to the restarting of a radar intelligence sharing program with the US. The US temporarily suspended sharing radar intelligence with Honduras for a three-month period last year, after Honduras shot down two suspect aircraft.
General Osorio said that the armed forces will focus their efforts on identifying and destroying airstrips in the provinces of Yoro and Colon, near Honduras’ Atlantic Coast. Colon is one of the country’s most troubled regions: the government deployed a special military-police task force there last year, charged with improving security. Last year the military destroyed between 70 and 80 air strips across the country.
Asides from the destruction of the airstrips, the armed forces claimed credit for seizing some five tons of cocaine and 12.5 tons of coca paste, the largest seizure ever in Honduras.
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Honduras is a key transit point for cocaine shipments moving between South and Central America. The US State Department has said that up to 79 percent of all cocaine smuggling flights from South America first travel to Honduras.
While the armed forces have presented the dismantling of these illicit airstrips as evidence of their progress in the fight against organized crime, it is worth questioning whether they are permanently destroyed. The true challenge may lie in ensuring that drug traffickers cannot return and rebuild the runways. General Osorio has previously noted that drug traffickers are heavily reliant on air strips, sometimes providing up to three alternate landing sites for a single drug flight.