HomeNewsHow 'Narco-Highway' in Honduras Became National News
NEWS

How 'Narco-Highway' in Honduras Became National News

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME / 6 JUL 2021 BY SANTIAGO PREVIDE EN

The future of a controversial highway in Honduras, thought to be a conduit for drug trafficking, remains uncertain as the government and local associations remain at each other's throats.

In late June, the government announced the suspension of construction activities for a road passing through a jungle region in the remote eastern region of Honduras known as La Mosquitia – a major center for drug trafficking and illegal logging.

But on July 5, Mirna Wood Flores, the vice president of an Afro-Honduran Moskitia community organization, stated locals would defend the project "with our lives." According to Wood, the 28-kilometer road was being self-financed by impoverished local populations seeking to improve connectivity between the communities of Krausirpe and Wampusirpi.

SEE ALSO: Honduras News and Profile

In the weeks leading up to its suspension, there was considerable controversy surrounding the highway, which would have cut across the Río Plátano Biosphere – a UNESCO-protected nature reserve in La Mosquitia already hard hit by deforestation.

Environmentalists and local populations say the route was being built by local drug traffickers in the region, La Prensa reported. Critics also emphasize the serious ecological damage being caused, as its construction involved indiscriminate logging and would likely facilitate illegal ranching.

Despite Wood Flores' claims, the road was being built without the necessary legal permits, according to Proceso Digital.

Since the pandemic began, deforestation has increased by 72 percent in the Río Plátano Biosphere, while 39,000 hectares of forest have been razed in the nature reserve over the last five years.

InSight Crime Analysis

It is not clear who would stand to benefit the most from this road project: local communities who genuinely need better infrastructure or criminal groups known for carving out clandestine routes for drug, timber and cattle trafficking.

La Mosquitia's dense rainforest, bereft of national highways, makes it almost impossible to access the region by land, meaning smugglers often rely on illegal roads to transport drug shipments to other parts of the country.

This pattern is not uncommon. In 2019, InSight Crime reported on another illegal highway, allegedly built and controlled by drug traffickers, which connected Culmí, in northeastern Honduras, to Tahuaca on the border with Nicaragua.

SEE ALSO: How Drug Traffickers Became Masters of Honduras’ Forests

These clandestine roads often work in tandem with the numerous hidden runways scattered throughout La Mosquitia – a region routinely used by drug traffickers to receive cocaine shipments in Central America thanks to its isolated location and minimal state presence.

The aggressive appropriation of land by drug traffickers is a key driver of deforestation in La Mosquitia, including in the Río Plátano reserve, which loses around 2,700 hectares of forest each year, according to data from the National Institute of Forest Conservation and Development (Instituto de Conservación Forestal de Honduras – ICF). Aside from building illicit roads and runways, drug traffickers and other criminal groups in Honduras' eastern jungles also seek to profit by illegally harvesting precious woods, such as mahogany and cedar, further accelerating deforestation.

These groups are also involved in illegal cattle ranching. An environmental activist from Río Plátano, who asked to remain anonymous due to security concerns, told InSight Crime that there are cattle farms within the reserve housing drug runways and that serve as money laundering fronts for criminal groups.

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.

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

EXTRADITION / 16 OCT 2015

A former police intelligence agent became the eighth criminal suspect that Honduras has extradited to the United States to face…

HONDURAS / 27 JAN 2014

A firefight between security forces and a group of heavily armed suspected drug traffickers on Honduras' Caribbean coast left 2…

CARIBBEAN / 20 APR 2012

As the US Coast Guard intercepts a drug-smuggling submarine in the Caribbean, the 30th such vessel intercepted since 2006, Southern Command…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.

THE ORGANIZATION

Combating Environmental Crime in Colombia

15 JUN 2021

InSight Crime presented findings from an investigation into the main criminal activities fueling environmental destruction in Colombia.