Drug interdiction: The U.S. wades more deeply into Honduras

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Drug interdiction: The U.S. wades more deeply into Honduras
June 4, 2012 12:11 am
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A drug raid last month by Honduran police and U.S. agents in State Department helicopters killed four civilians and has drawn attention to Washington's growing involvement there.

Honduras, particularly its Mosquito Coast on the Caribbean, has become an important transit stop for aircraft flying cocaine from Colombia to Mexico, from where it is then transported to the United States by Mexican drug cartels.

The U.S. Central American Regional Security Initiative, focused on security and the interdiction of drug trafficking in countries of that region -- Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama -- put $107 million into Honduras in 2011. Under jurisdiction of the military's Southern Command, headquartered in Miami, the United States has built three new forward operating bases in Honduras.

U.S. officials have said that, with the Iraq War finished and the Afghanistan War winding down, more attention and money can be devoted to the war on drugs in Central America. That effort, with military, law enforcement and development components, complements U.S. companies' involvement in the region, including the traditional banana producers, Dole and Chiquita.

One problem with increased U.S. involvement, apart from the futility of an effort to keep drugs out of the United States by trying to shut off transit points, is the nature of the Honduran government. President Porfirio Lobo came to power in controversial elections held after a coup by Honduran security forces in 2009, which overthrew a democratically elected president. Those same security forces, Mr. Lobo's base, are now said to be tangled up with the country's drug traffickers.

To Americans of a certain age, the picture of U.S. drug advisers, flying in State Department helicopters and operating in a small jungle country in support of the corrupt security forces of a questionable president, is all too familiar. It is also entirely inappropriate, particularly as innocent civilians die as a result of their work.