Honduras: Organized Crime Gaining Amid Political Crisis: Wilson Center

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Analyst James Bosworth provides an overview of the dynamics of the drug trade through Honduras and the changing political landscape after the 2009 coup, before exploring how organized crime has thrived in the post-coup landscape.

In “Honduras: Organized Crime Gaining Amid Political Crisis,” a working paper for the Woodrow Wilson Center, Bosworth begins by outlining the principal actors involved in Honduras’ drug trade, highlighting in particular the role of the Mexican drug trafficking organizations — the zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel·–·who tend to direct Honduran drug transporters, or “transportistas.” Bosworth notes that Honduras’ role as a key transit point for cocaine moving from South America to the US is not a new development, but that the drug trafficking organizions present in the country have altered, with Mexican groups overtaking Colombian gangs.

The author then charts the rising violence in the country from 2005 onwards, arguing against an ineffective and counterproductive 2003 anti-gang law. Furthermore, he states, the government seemingly moved to de-prioritizing the fight against organized crime during the administration of Manuel Zelaya (2006-2009).

However, as this excerpt argues:

If the fight against organized crime was minimized under Zelaya, it was completely ignored under [post-coup interim president] Micheletti. Honduras was in a complete political crisis, with protests and counter-protests and with a full time focus on legitimizing the government and maintaining stability. Counterdrug chief Julian Aristides told Reuters at the time that the Micheletti government didn’t even have a strategy to fight organized crime.

The resulting removal of aid by the US following the coup and the general political turmoil enabled organized crime to benefit greatly, according to Bosworth. Mexican drug traffickers, along with others, moved to fill “governance vacuums” created by the coup, and solidify their strongholds in Honduras. The tenuous nature of post-coup elections that brought Porfirio Lobo to power have done nothing to help the situation, Bosworth argues. The growing strength of transnational criminal groups means Honduras needs to prioritize security as it faces, a “long-term stability threat from organized crime.”

Click here to read the full report (pdf).

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