A string of bumper cocaine seizures on the Honduras Atlantic has provided a stark reminder of the region's importance in the transnational drug trade.
Between January and mid-April 2021, Honduran authorities seized some four tons of cocaine in the department of Colón -- strategically located on a drug route traversing the Atlantic coast -- according to seizure data compiled in a Proceso Digital report.
Colón's haul alone has already surpassed the entire amount of cocaine seized in Honduras in 2019, as well as between January and July 2020, according to official figures.
The largest seizure took place on March 19, when Honduras police discovered 1.6 tons of cocaine stored at a vacant lot in the Iriona municipality, Colón, according to Proceso Digital's report. Weeks later, authorities found 911 kilograms of cocaine stored at a bodega in a nearby town.
Back in February, the Honduras military intercepted a boat off the country's Atlantic coast and later found 1.3 tons of cocaine hidden in a secret compartment during an inspection at a dock in Trujillo, Colón, Proceso Digital reports.
The country's security forces have also found three coca plantations, a cocaine production facility and a clandestine airstrip in the department since the start of the year -- mostly during operations in Iriona -- according to the same report.
The cocaine confiscated in Colón accounts for around two-thirds of the 5.9 tons seized in Honduras between January and mid-April 2021, based on data from military sources cited by Proceso Digital.
InSight Crime Analysis
Long a hub for drug trafficking, Colón's recent spike in cocaine seizures is a sign that the smuggling routes passing through the department are experiencing a relative boom.
Sandwiched between the clandestine runways on Honduras' northeastern Caribbean coast and its western border with Guatemala, Colón is at the center of one of Central America's most important overland smuggling routes that sees US-bound cocaine shipments driven across the entire Atlantic region.
Now, with over four tons of cocaine seized since the start of the year, the department is emerging as a key strategic territory amid a broader revival of the land routes connecting the Honduras Atlantic to the West.
The department is certainly no stranger to the drug trade, having spent years as the operational base of the Cachiros cartel, one of Honduras' most infamous drug clans that used Colón as a transit point to smuggle over a hundred tons of cocaine to the United States, according to estimates made by the cartel's former leader.
The downfall of groups like the Cachiros has left behind a fragmented drug trade throughout Honduras, with smaller networks now vying for control of strategic territories. In Colón, there are no clear signs that any specific group is running the show.
Much clearer, however, is the evidence that Colón's traffickers are branching out into production, evidenced by a string of coca plantations discovered in the department both this year and last, mainly concentrated in the mountainous Iriona municipality.