Honduras and Nicaragua have signed a cooperation agreement for anti-narcotics operations along their shared border, underscoring increased efforts to improve security in recent years.
On April 22, representatives from the Honduran and Nicaraguan militaries signed a security agreement in Nicaraguan capital Managua to fight drug trafficking and organized crime in the border region, reported Spanish news agency EFE.
The accord came on the heels of a joint operation along the border between April 1 and April 22 that resulted in the capture of 121 people who were either alleged criminals or lacked proper migration documents, reported La Prensa. During the operation, security forces also destroyed two clandestine airstrips and seized 450 kilos of cocaine, 410 kilos of marijuana, and 71 cows. The Nicaraguan army also dismantled a criminal network dedicated to growing and smuggling marijuana.
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The agreement provides further evidence that Honduran officials are investing resources in improving the country's security situation and increasing interdiction efforts. Honduras has also recently expanded security operations along its violent northern border with Guatemala, creating a joint task force that began operations in January.
Although the Honduras-Guatemala border is more commonly associated with contraband, Honduras' border with Nicaragua is also a major contraband smuggling route -- especially when it comes to the illegal cattle trade. Last year, police reported that 22,000 heads of cattle were smuggled into Honduras over a three-month period.
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The fact that authorities destroyed two clandestine airstrips is also notable. In January, the Honduran military claimed that no drug flights entered the country in 2014. While the fact that security forces are still destroying clandestine airstrips along the border with Nicaragua shows this assertion should be viewed with skepticism, there are certainly reasons to believe drug flights have been reduced. The US State Department estimated that 60 percent of drug flights leaving South America landed in Honduras in 2014, down from 75 percent in 2013, a far cry from the military’s claim but a significant improvement nonetheless.
With drug flights reduced, another challenge remains for Honduras and Nicaragua: combatting the maritime drug trade. The US State Department estimates that 80 to 90 percent of the cocaine smuggled through Honduras comes by sea, while Nicaragua's Atlantic coast is a stop-off point for traffickers transporting cocaine in go-fast boats.