Challenges: Honduras is a major transit country for cocaine, as well as some chemical precursors, and synthetic drugs. The United States estimates that more than 80 percent of the primary flow of the cocaine trafficked to the United States first transited through the Central American corridor in 2012. The Northern Atlantic coastal region of Honduras is a primary landing zone for drug-carrying flights and maritime traffic. The region is vulnerable to narcotics trafficking due to its remoteness, limited infrastructure, lack of government presence, and weak law enforcement institutions. Transshipment from the North Atlantic coastal region is facilitated by subsequent flights north as well as maritime traffic and land movement on the Pan American Highway.
In addition to violent drug trafficking organizations, transnational gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street contribute to violence and trafficking in Honduras. Gangs do not appear to be a formal part of the transnational drug logistics chain, but generally participate in drug distribution in local communities. In addition, gangs conduct other illicit activities such as extortion, kidnapping, and human trafficking.
Honduras suffers from violence and a high homicide rate. According to the Violence Observatory at the National Autonomous University of Honduras, Honduras' homicide rate could fall to 80 per 100,000 for 2013, from 85.5 per 100,000 in 2012, a 6.4 percent decrease, but will likely remain the highest in the world.
Goals: INL is committed to supporting the Honduran government’s effort to counter transnational criminal organizations; reduce the flow of illicit narcotics; and improve citizen security while building Honduran institutional capacity. Programs primarily focus on the need for institutional change, especially on everyday crimes that affect many Honduran citizens. We provide training and assistance to officers throughout the Honduran National Police to promote professionalization, respect for human rights, and accountability.
As part of its efforts to root out illicit activity in the security and justice sectors, the Government of Honduras expanded the use of financial disclosures, polygraphs, and other types of vetting for police and prosecutors, and it used the results to remove dozens of police and prosecutors from their positions. The government increased the capacity of units and task forces composed of polygraphed and/or background checked Honduran police and prosecutors. A number of these units received U.S.-supported training and had U.S. or international advisors assigned to them. The Ministry of Security took steps to improve internal controls in the HNP, for example by requiring police officers to present for an inventory the weapons assigned to them and by installing GPS in police cars to track their whereabouts. For its part, the Supreme Court dismissed 57 judges and suspended 16 by mid-year after conducting a review of the work performed by all judges.
To strengthen investigative institutions, the United States provided training for more than 1,200 Honduran police, prosecutors, and judges on a variety of topics. The United States also provided support to the Criminal Investigative School, which trained almost 250 students in basic criminal investigations. As part of U.S.-Colombian cooperation, Colombia trained staff of the HNP, the Public Ministry and the Supreme Court in a variety of skills and provided on the job training to police officers.
On September 19-26, the Government of Honduras seized between $500 and $800 million worth of assets during Operation Neptune, including properties, vehicles, bank accounts, and businesses that belonged to the largest drug trafficking organization in Honduras, Los Cachiros. The operation was planned with substantial U.S. support and coordinated with the U.S. Treasury designation of seven individuals as drug kingpins associated with the Sinaloa Cartel. Operation Neptune included participation from 230 vetted personnel from the Honduran National Police, Public Ministry, Office for Administration of Seized and Forfeited Assets, Honduran Armed Forces, the Financial Crimes Task Force, as well as other U.S.-supported vetted units. An INL advisor was pivotal in assisting the Hondurans and facilitating the travel of more than 200 participants.