Armed forces say they've halted drug flights through Honduras, prompting cautious optimism about progress in a nation with a dire public security record.
Security forces say they've reduced the number of aircraft transporting drugs through Honduras to nearly zero in 2014, compared to an estimated 12 each month the previous year, local media reported, citing sources in the military.
Honduras was reportedly able to do so thanks to three mobile radar towers purchased from Israel for $30 million, as well as a new law passed last year, which allows for the shooting down of suspicious aircraft that do not comply with the military's instructions. Complemented by a flotilla of US gunboats off Honduras' Atlantic coast, this air shield has forced criminal groups to transport drugs through other countries, the Honduran military was quoted as saying.
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While Honduras' air shield is undoubtedly good for security and follows a string of similarly positive developments, there are reasons to temper an optimistic outlook for the Central American country.
Notably, US ambassador to Honduras James Nealon recently said that the flow of drugs through Honduras has been reduced "significantly" due to bilateral cooperation. While this may be the case, assessing the amount of illicit drugs passing through a country is never an exact science due to the trade's clandestine nature. Traffickers could very well be avoiding Honduras, or else they may simply be using new routes and methods which have yet to be discovered.
Assuming the flow of drugs through Honduras has in fact been reduced, it's also worth questioning how much the military's air shield would have contributed to such a phenomenon. Honduras' first radar became operational in March 2014, and the country approved the shoot-down law two months prior to that -- and yet the military is claiming that within that amount of time, they have virtually eradicated drug flights.
Even if the air shield has dramatically impacted transnational drug trafficking in Honduras, the country still needs to face up to its public security problems, which arguably affect the everyday lives of its citizens more. This is, after all, a nation which registered the world's highest murder rate in 2014, according to Human Rights Watch.