The United States has restarted a program to share radar intelligence with Honduras, more than three months after the technology was withdrawn when the air force shot down suspected drug planes.
Intelligence sharing began again on November 19, following what US Embassy spokesperson Stephen Posivak called an “exhaustive review” of the downing of two suspect aircraft in July, reported La Prensa.
Honduras’ decision to shoot down the two planes, contravening an agreement it has with the United States, caused Washington to suspend the sharing of radar intelligence on August 18. The incidents also cost the head of the country’s air force his job.
According to La Prensa, Honduras has promised not to shoot down suspected drug flights. Posivak stated that Honduras has also revised its operating procedures in order to improve communication with air force pilots.
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The restarting of the intelligence sharing program was expected. A month after the withdrawal of radar technology, the US ambassador to Honduras, Lisa Kubiske, said that the program would be restarted soon. A month later, on October 14, the head of Honduras’ armed forces said that intelligence sharing would be started “no later than next week.”
Honduras is a principal transit point for drug flights from South America, with the US State Department estimating that 79 percent of all drug flights in the region pass through the country. The removal of radar monitoring of these flights likely led to an increase in clandestine traffic. Ramon Custodio, the head of Honduras’ human rights commission, Conadeh, declared the country to be “open skies for drug trafficking” following the move, warning that drug flights had almost doubled since the previous year.
The extensive review process by US authorities is in line with the United States’ desire to continue with counter-narcotics operations in Honduras with greater caution, as InSight Crime has learned.