A top US military official has lauded Honduras’ efforts to combat drug trafficking, saying the country is no longer among the principal transit points for cocaine heading to the United States. But there are reasons to be skeptical of such a rosy outlook.
In an interview with Honduran newspaper El Heraldo, the commander of the US Southern Command, General John Kelly, said Honduras had been the number one transit country for South American cocaine destined for the United States before President Juan Orlando Hernandez took office in January 2014. However, since then he said that Honduras had fallen to fifth in the region, although Kelly declined to name the top four drug transit countries.
Kelly credited this steep drop to Honduras’ “incredible” efforts to combat drug trafficking, and the Hernandez administration’s increased cooperation with US anti-drug officials. “Since President Hernandez took office, we have had very good collaboration on all fronts,” Kelly said.
Kelly said radar information revealed the number of drug planes flying over Honduran airspace has gone down significantly, “to the point where we almost stopped seeing any.”
InSight Crime Analysis
The United States and Honduras have indeed strengthened bi-lateral security cooperation since Hernandez took office. The capture and extradition of several high-profile Honduran drug traffickers to the US in the past year is just one example of the increased coordination between security officials from these two countries.
However, it is unclear if this closer security relationship has transformed Honduras to the extent US and Honduran authorities claim. For one thing, the assertion by Honduran security forces that drug flights abruptly dropped from almost 150 in 2013 to nearly zero in 2014 should be treated with some skepticism.
Honduran authorities also claim the country’s murder rate fell significantly last year. Nonetheless, sources in Honduras have told InSight Crime the government may have changed the way it counts homicides, suggesting the drop-off may also be linked to a new tallying system as much as improved security. The recent migration of gang members from El Salvador to Honduras is further indication Honduran security forces remain ill-equipped to combat criminal groups.
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In addition, President Hernandez recently told a US Congressman that he plans to phase out the military’s role in policing within the next two to three years. This claim, while welcome is surprising, as Honduras continues to increase the size of the country’s military police force (PMOP), while simultaneously decreasing the number of civilian police officers.