Honduras Names Ex-Colonel as New Drug Czar

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Honduran President Porfirio Lobo has appointed a former colonel as his top anti-drug official, continuing the militarization of the country’s fight against drug trafficking.

On April 24, Colonel Isaac Ramon Santos Aguilar was sworn in as the new director of the Anti-Narcotics Directorate (DLCN). Santos has previously served as an army spokesperson, head of a military academy, and chief of the counternarcotics division of the armed forces.

The DLCN has not had a permanent head since December 2009, when then-director, retired General Julian Aristides Gonzalez, was assassinated by gunmen while driving in the capital city of Tegucigalpa. Another official reportedly being considered for the position, former DLCN deputy director Jose Alfredo Landaverde, was gunned down in December.

InSight Crime Analysis

In a press conference following the swearing-in ceremony, Santos swore to defend the law and crack down on drug trafficking in Honduras, which is a major transit country for South American cocaine bound for the US. The crime has fueled a wave of homicides, and the government has responded by increasing its reliance on the military for law enforcement. The Lobo administration has stood firmly with the US in opposition to recent calls for drug legalization, and Santos’ policies will likely not bring any change from the current pro-US and heavily militarized anti-drug strategy.  

This strategy has come under fire from critics, who argue that the army’s mandate is too vague and say that it paves the way for the military to interfere in domestic politics. Additionally, the reputation of the military has been muddied by allegations that some elements of the security forces have passed on weapons, including grenade launchers and anti-tank rockets, to criminal organizations. As a career military official, Santos may be hesitant to reign in military abuses.

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