HomeNewsAnalysisWas A Honduras General Fired For Drug Flight Shoot-Downs?
ANALYSIS

Was A Honduras General Fired For Drug Flight Shoot-Downs?

HONDURAS / 7 SEP 2012 BY ELYSSA PACHICO EN

The abrupt removal of the commanding general of the Honduran Air Force has raised questions over whether it was because the Air Force shot down a suspected drug flight, currently banned under Honduran law.

Brigadier General Ruiz Pastor Landa was removed as head of the command of the Honduran Air Force on August 23, a day before General Douglas Fraser, Commander of the US Southern Command, visited the country and met with the president.

According to a report by Honduran newspaper El Heraldo, Landa was removed after the Air Force intercepted a suspected drug flight near the Bahia Islands in early August. The interception was not publicly reported to the media at the time.

While it is not clear whether the Honduran Air Force actually shot down the suspected drug flight, or forced it to crash land, President Porfirio Lobo told El Heraldo that there was a recent “military action” that “violated” international law. According to El Heraldo, Lobo’s statements refer to the shooting down of the suspected drug flight over the Bahia Islands, which then prompted Landa’s dismissal.

"There was an incident in which in some way we, you could say, violated a treaty that we have for this type of fight against organized crime," Lobo told the newspaper.

Under the terms of an international aviation treaty known as the Chicago Treaty, Honduras does not have the authority to shoot down suspected drug flights. Presumably, this is the treaty which Lobo implies Honduras has recently “violated.”

InSight Crime Analysis

Lobo’s statements to El Heraldo are far from a clear admission that the Honduran Air Force has actually shot down suspected drug flights and thereby violated international law. By the account of the security forces, the Air Force has engaged in previous operations that forced drug flights to make rough landings, without actually opening fire. On August 4, for example, the security forces reported intercepting a plane piloted by a Colombian and a Guatemalan, carrying some $4,800 in US bills and half a million Colombian pesos (about $280) in cash.

El Heraldo’s report is just one theory for why Landa was stripped of his position so suddenly. La Tribuna published a letter reportedly written by the defense minister, stating explicitly that the decision to remove Landa was made after meeting with the US Southern Command and with the US Ambassador to Honduras.

La Tribuna has also published an unsubstantiated report that Landa was fired after the Air Force forced down a suspected drug flight on June 14, which allegedly carried a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent. The two bodies recovered from that crash were burned beyond recognition and could not be identified, authorities said.

What appears to be driving the intrigue is two issues. The first is whether Landa’s removal should be interpreted as evidence of US influence over Honduran security policy. Such questions of Honduras’ sovereignty have become especially sensitive in the public sphere, as Honduras has accepted increased aid from the US to bolster its fight against organized crime. And with various reports this year of the DEA participating in fatal shootings against drug traffickers in Honduras, the question of the US role in Honduran security is becoming increasingly delicate.

Second, Landa’s exit -- and Lobo’s vague statement to El Heraldo -- also raises the question of whether the Honduran Air Force has actually shot down suspected drug planes. Honduras has made previous efforts to upgrade its limited Air Force, but currently has no legal authority to shoot down aircraft. Notably, the head of the Honduran armed forces has publically said that Honduras must be able to do so, in order to properly combat drug traffickers. A survey published last June by government human rights comission CONADEH also found that 73 percent of those surveyed were in favor of the government shooting down aircraft, showing that the measure does enjoy substantial popular support.

Lobo’s remarks are far from official confirmation that Landa’s removal was prompted by a shoot-down. But the larger debate over how the Honduran security forces should react to drug flights will likely continue, especially as more drug traffickers use Honduras as a key transit zone. In 2011, for example, 99 drug flights were tracked landing in Honduras, according to El Heraldo.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Tags

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ELITES AND CRIME / 21 MAY 2020

Twenty-eight-year-old Honduran investigator Sherill Yubissa Hernández Mancía died two different ways, depending on whom you ask. Found in a…

BRAZIL / 31 DEC 2015

Welcome to InSight Crime's Game Changers 2015, where we highlight the year's most important trends in organized crime in Latin…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 17 OCT 2012

The Honduran government is reportedly set to conduct a review of its gun laws in an apparent effort to combat…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…