The War against Drugs

In recent days the Honduran people have realized, with surprise and disbelief, the hard hits that the organized criminal networks have taken. First it was the confiscations — called “insurance” by justice officials — which was gradually followed by personnel captures and the constant harassment of the partners and accomplices of local drug trafficking’s big bosses.

The successes achieved by the security forces, with the timely assistance of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, are evident. The important American assistance, expressed in useful intelligence information and competent technological assistance, is flowing now with more frequency and sustainability — especially after the security forces had put together several credible elite units, with the help and careful supervision of the DEA.

This “unexpected avalanche” against drug trafficking is not casual nor does it come from nowhere. It has been prompted by very concrete and provable factors. If we recall, from the beginning of his governmental term, current President Hernandez surprised the national audience with an almost confrontational speech loaded with reproaches and claims against the United States for an alleged attitude of indifference and little interest in helping Honduras in the war against drugs. According to the presidential view, Washington did not give sufficient attention or enthusiasm necessary for Honduras to confront the international drug cartels with a real possibility of victory. This speech, with its changes in emphasis and nuances, remained latent for several months. The first time we heard the speech was on the occasion of inauguration day at the end of January this year. Later, almost the following day, it was repeated in a softened variant before the international press in Havana, when Hernandez and his entourage attended the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States meeting in Cuba. He maintained the same tone during regional meetings with the neighboring presidents or in incidental declarations to the national and foreign press.

The three presidents of the Northern Triangle made a visit to Washington, prompted by the so-called child exodus, the migratory tidal wave that includes thousands of Honduran children, 29 percent of the nearly 50,000 trapped on the southern border of the United States according to official figures from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, a specialized organization of the United Nations. The reception was as short as it was cold. The aim of designing a Central American Plan, based on the model of the Colombian Plan, did not find the expected response. The official response, communicated by Vice President Joe Biden, was that the applicant countries had neither the capacity nor the real will to carry out the changes and reforms that the Colombian Plan had necessitated to have a possibility of success. In the face of this evident rejection, the Central American presidents had no alternative but to turn around and dedicate themselves to preparing a new proposal, this time under the name Alliance for Prosperity, the draft document of which was presented in Washington and before the United Nations the past September.

But prior to their presentation in Washington, President Hernandez, accompanied by the members of the Honduran National Board of Defense and Security, undertook a sudden trip to Miami to visit U.S. Southern Command headquarters on August 6. The invitation had been sent by General John Kelly, commander of the military unit, who the Honduran president boasts as being “a great personal friend.” The visit, as sudden as it was unexpected, disconcerted many and generated more than just political speculation. But the fact is, that on his return, the Honduran president was calmer and less heated in his critique of the Americans and more inclined to discrete cooperation and positive agreement.

Coincidence or not, the fact is that the anti-drug offensive took on a new rhythm at the end of August, including in its radius of activity not just the drug dealers’ goods and their drained bank accounts, but also the drug dealers themselves, first at an intermediate level and then at the level of the mafia leaders.

The new dynamic of the anti-drug fight, therefore, is related to the mysterious visit in August to south Florida, the arrival of U.S. Ambassador James Nealon in August, the rejection of the failed Central American plan, the prospects of the Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity presented in September and, of course, the so-called “humanitarian crisis” generated by the exodus of Central American children to the United States especially from July.

Other arguments and factors that help to explain the anti-drug offensive may exist. One of those factors could be the new “political will” housed in the Presidential Palace, but only after it had been properly stimulated by outside forces. If so, the “political will” could help us in finally understanding the reasons why the drug trafficking mafias had not been dealt with in previous years. Fear, complicity, complacency, indifference and irresponsibility? I don’t know. Maybe it was a mixture of all those elements together. Maybe.

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