Honduras, Nicaragua Using Green Energy to Fight Drug Smuggling

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The US recently helped install solar panels in naval stations in Honduras and Nicaragua, an example of the kind of creative approach needed when dealing with infrastructure shortcomings in Latin America’s fight against organized crime.

As highlighted in a feature story for Dialogo, a publication of the US Southern Command (Southcom), the Command installed the solar panels in order to enable communications in remote areas where electricity is not readily available.  

One set of solar panels were installed at Nicaragua’s naval outpost in the Miskito Cays, an archipelago in the Carribbean. The area is reportedly a key corridor for transnational criminal groups trafficking drugs, weapons and people from South America into Mexico, according to Dialogo. Other solar panels were installed along Honduras’ Caribbean coast, in the department of Gracias a Dios, meant to support operations by the Honduran Navy. 

The installations follow previous US aid meant to build up Central America’s ability to interdict illicit shipments, including two boats and a new operations center — worth roughly $4 million — donated to Nicaragua in 2014, Dialogo reported. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Using renewable energy to aid drug interdiction is just one example of an innovative approach to combating crime in Latin America’s most remote areas. 

These rural, difficult-to-access areas have challenged governments across the region when it comes to extending state presence. In Guayana, for example, some police stations are without reliable telephone service. One Colombian state along the Venezuelan border, Vichada, has no paved roads. Another department along Colombia’s Pacific coast, Choco, a major hub for armed groups, has roads in such bad shape that most locals depend on river transport.

Drug crops are often cultivated in these areas with little state infrastructure, and criminal groups may respond to the lack of movement corridors and communication networks by making their own — including hidden airfields and radio networks.

As it is unfeasible to extend roads and power grids to every remote area — especially in poorer nations — creative solutions such as independent off-grid power installations and drones surveillance may become powerful tools in extending law enforcement’s reach into remote areas. Meanwhile, crime-fighting efforts in more urban areas have been accompanied by the creation of a wide range of smart phone apps

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