Thursday, November 24, 2011

Honduras a major transit point for South American cocaine

By A Yu

While Columbia and Mexico have long been on the international drugs map, Honduras is now recognized as a major hub for  cocaine trafficking. US and Honduran authorities estimates  that 20 to 25 tonnes, or approximately half of the cocaine that reaches the United States per month, is offloaded in the Latin American country according to an AP report.

The drug makes its way to Honduras by plane or boat from various South American countries before it is smuggled across the border to Guatemala, then to Mexico.

Earlier this year, Reuters reported that the Honduran navy seized a submarine off the Mosquito coast containing 5 tonnes of cocaine that was destined for the United States – just one example of the multiple methods of transport used by drug smugglers.

Professor Aaron Schneider from the Latin American Studies department of Tulane University believes that mass corruption amongst local governments has made Honduras an especially vulnerable target for drug smuggling.

“In my opinion, Honduras is a preferred destination for drug traffickers because there was a coup in Honduras in 2009, and that coup weakened state institutions, delegitimated authorities and caused massive economic disruption,” Professor Schneider said.

The 2009 coup that ousted then-President Manuel Zelaya was widely condemned by governments in the Western hemisphere. The New York Times reported officials in the U.S. as saying the 2009 coup ‘kicked open the door to [Mexican and Colombian] cartels’ that were facing aggressive crackdowns in their home countries.

“Areas of the country and economic life [in Honduras] were now available to drug traffickers,” says Professor Schneider. “They faced a state with no popular support that was unwilling and unable to regulate or intervene in any kind of economic activity, even if that activity included drug trafficking.”

The effects of this are most evident in Honduras’ staggering murder rate at 66.8 per 100,000, compared to Mexico’s 12 per 100,000, according to the UN’s Global Study on Homicide.  Honduras’ murder rate has doubled from 2005 to 2010.

Professor Schneider believes that Guatemala, Honduras’ neighbouring country, could face a similar fate to Honduras.

“[In Guatemala], a coup almost succeeded in 2008, and conservative forces look set to win the presidential election,” Professor Scheider says. “While Honduras looks bad now, Guatemala is likely to soon join Honduras at the top of the list of drug trafficking destinations.”

But the ultimate destination of the drugs – the United States – is where many believe the solution to Latin America’s growing drug wars lies.

“Efforts to combat narco-trafficking in Honduras and the crime and violence that it fuels can have only a limited impact so long as there is an insatiable demand for and consumption of illegal drugs in the United States,” writes Marco C├íceres, editor of the independently owned and operated Honduran Newspaper Honduran Weekly. “This is a market-driven problem that can only be resolved by dealing with its source: the US consumer.”

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