Shootout Over Drug Shipment Leaves 17 Dead in Honduras

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Up to 17 people died in a shootout in an isolated drug trafficking hub along Honduras’ Mosquitia coast in a clash over 700 kilos of cocaine involving Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Mexican gangs.

While the Honduran Ministry of Defense announced they had confirmed the death of four alleged drug traffickers, prosecutors said they had unofficial information showing a total of 17 deaths, among them women and children, reported Proceso Digital.

According to the military, shooting broke out after a gang of 40 men led by a Nicaraguan drug trafficker, alias, “El Muco,” confronted a Honduran trafficker, Fredy Avila, over a shipment of up to 700 kilos of cocaine reported La Prensa.

El Muco, in some reports identified as Victor Francis Centeno, in others as Juan Carlos Villalobos, is believed to be among the dead.

InSight Crime Analysis

The largely indigenous region of the Mosquitia coast has emerged as a popular spot for drug traffickers thanks to its isolated terrain and weak state presence. The region has become a transit hub for drug flights carrying cocaine destined for the United States — an estimated 79 percent of which stop in Honduras, according to the State Department — and also for shipments arriving by sea.

While information on what sparked the violence remains scarce, it seems likely it was caused by “tumbadores” — gangs that rob rivals’ cocaine shipments –, which are prevalent all along Central American trafficking routes.

The presence of Nicaraguans and the proximity to the Nicaraguan border suggest the groups involved were acting as “transportistas” — local criminal organizations contracted to move shipments through their territory — while the presence of at least one Mexican suggests the shipment may have belonged to one of Mexico’s cartels, who had sent an emissary to oversee proceedings.

However, InSight Crime has learned that Honduran criminal groups are increasingly emerging as traffickers in their own right, so it is also possible the shipment belonged to the Hondurans, who fought off an attempted heist or fell into a dispute with the gang that delivered their cocaine.

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