According to an unidentified source in the Honduran security forces, drug trafficking has dropped significantly in Honduras thanks to military and intelligence work, the latest in a series of assertions that the country is no longer a major hub for organized crime.
El Heraldo reported that the source, identified as an official with inter-agency security force Fusina, said that the amount of drugs moved through Honduras has dropped 72 percent. While Honduras was once the top transit nation for drug trafficking in the region, now Guatemala, Costa Rice, and Nicaragua all see more drug shipments than Honduras does, the source told the newspaper.
The improvement is thanks to Honduras' improved ability to act on intelligence from the US and Colombia, as well as increased maritime and land patrols, and use of radars to track drug flights, the source reportedly said. More than 12,000 Honduran police, military, and other security officials are dedicated to combatting drug trafficking, with about 1.8 tons of cocaine seized so far in 2015, the source added.
Daily, 24-hour maritime patrols off Honduras' Pacific coast have forced drug traffickers to seek alternate routes in non-Honduran waters, according to El Heraldo's report. Meanwhile, use of radar has resulted in drug flights dropping down to a fifth of the previous number, with 25 clandestine landing strips destroyed thus far in 2015, the newspaper's source said.
The country's easternmost border state, Gracias a Dios, remains a primary entry point for drug shipments, which is then moved to the neighboring states of Olancho and El Paraiso. To the south, Choluteca remains an important entry point for drugs being moved by land.
El Heraldo's source also said that most drug shipments that do end up transiting through Honduras originate in either Venezuela or Colombia's Providencia island, and are moved through Nicaragua first before continuing through Central America.
InSight Crime Analysis
While El Heraldo's report is based on a single, unidentified source, there have been multiple previous claims that drug trafficking has dropped significantly in the country. Earlier this year, security forces claimed that the number of drug flights through Honduras had dropped to zero. The commander of the US Southern Command has also said that Honduras is no longer the principal transit nation for US-bound cocaine.
SEE ALSO: Honduras News and Profiles
Major shake-ups to Honduras' underworld may have indeed contributed to a decrease of transnational drug trafficking through the country. The leaders of the country's top criminal organizations, the Valles and the Cachiros, are in the hands of the US. Meanwhile, the political agreements that once guided Honduran organized crime are reportedly falling apart.
While this flux could have lead to a decrease in the amount of drugs being moved through Honduras, it also creates a dangerous opening for the country's most powerful and disciplined street gang, the MS-13. The group is already heavily involved in the local drug trade in urban Honduras, and has previously acted as security for transnational drug trafficking groups. So while the eyes of Honduras' authorities may be fixed on statistics showing decreased drug trafficking, they would do well to also keep their focus on the MS-13.