Honduras Worried About Becoming Narco-State

  •  tegucigalpa
  • Inter Press Service

The official also visited Guatemala, before heading on to the Honduran capital on Wednesday. In both countries he met with the highest-level authorities, to discuss how to improve the fight against drug trafficking and strengthen anti-drug and law enforcement institutions, and to highlight how important the two Central American nations are for Washington in the war on drugs. Johnson said on his visit to Honduras that this country is not on the verge of becoming a narco-state, as some have warned because of the growing penetration of the country by drug mafias, especially along the lengthy Caribbean coastline and the much shorter Pacific (Gulf of Fonseca) shore, where there are areas that the police are unable to enter.

After meeting with President Lobo in the government palace Thursday, the U.S. official said that working together with the United States, Honduras can build more solid institutions to face the challenge of drug trafficking. He added that mechanisms for assistance in meeting that challenge must be designed under the Merida Initiative, a multi-billion dollar U.S. counterdrug assistance programme for Mexico and Central America.

Johnson said he was satisfied with Honduras's efforts against the drug trade but stressed that the road ahead was long, and said Washington would be a key partner of Honduras in its fight against the drug cartels. Less than two weeks before the U.S. official's visit, the government dealt a blow to the drug mafias, as part of an 18-month undercover operation that also involved Colombia and Panama and that led to the arrest in Bogotá of a member of the 'Buda Cartel' based in San Pedro Sula, 250 km north of Tegucigalpa.

The man arrested was Miguel Villela, a prominent Honduran businessman with ties to the most powerful economic elites in Honduras's second biggest city. Security Minister Óscar Álvarez told IPS that Villela confessed that he belonged to the cartel, and that he was cooperating by providing the names of politicians and members of the business community who are connected to the drug trafficking ring.

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