August 21, 2008

La Prensa exposé: Narcotrafficking in Honduras, part II

Luxury homes in El Espíritu
All photos: La Prensa, Honduras

Continuing with highlights of La Prensa's investigative reports of narcotrafficking in Honduras, August 11-16, 2008:


El Espíritu, refuge of drug king El Chapo

El Espíritu, Copán, is a tiny community with a population of about 3,000 where sophisticated security systems are installed in any house and heavily armed men walk the streets and drive the roads. Though the main street of the town is not even paved, the high economic level of its citizens can be seen in the elegant two-story houses, luxurious cars, and modern communication equipment.

El Espíritu is not famous for its lifestyle, but for rumors that it is the refuge of 'El Chapo' Guzmán, jefe of the Mexican organized crime cartel of Sinaloa, "most wanted" by the US Drug Enforcement Administration and in 180 other countries, and for whom the US has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.


Connection to the mystery jet

La Prensa has private report which indicates that the mystery jet abandoned at the Tegucigalpa airport in February 2006 was used to transport a large quantity of dollars. It is presumed that Mexican drug king El Chapo Guzmán arrived on that jet, which was later auctioned by the Honduran government.

DEA officials suspect that this capo has been in Honduras and has liquidated local cocaine distributors. According to north American intelligence information, Guzmán was in Honduras' Bay Islands and probably in Copán Ruinas. Guzmán escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001 and has been trading arms for drugs with FARC of Colombia.


One third of remesas are money laundering

Ex-Ambassador Charles Ford, who has been speaking out quite candidly since he rotated out of Honduras, said that the relative success of anti-drug trafficking operations in Colombia, Mexico, and Guatemala have resulted in a rapid augmentation of this problem in Honduras. He stated that 'gente grande' (important people) have come to Honduras recently and that the US estimates that one third of the remesas (money transfers) from the US are actually money laundering, rather than money sent to support family members back in Honduras.

Activity laundering is also an important theme. "This has also increased and it is for that reason that we see so much construction and note the classic signs of having money that is not the product of something good."


Selling crack near the high schools

The minister of security is very worried about the increasing quantity of crack cocaine confiscated daily from young Hondurans, adding that this is the pay that the narcos give the "mules". The crack is then sold in the vicinity of schools and youth entertainment centers.

"We view with great concern that a large part of the youth consume cocaine. I urge parents to know where their children are going and whether they are consuming drugs.


Confiscated assets are returned to narcos

Another problem is that various attorneys come to reclaim the confiscated assets of narcotraffickers and in some cases they get them back from the courts, despite the fact that the law establishes that the assets be transferred to the state.

Government rents assets to the narcos

Besides returning various autos confiscated in drug raids to the narcos, the minister of security reported that a boat seized in a drug operation, in the hands of the agency responsible for such assets, was rented out by the government, and then recaptured again in another drug raid a few months later.


Activity laundering

The laundering of activities is the strongest arm of the drug cartels. This is a crime that is almost never persecuted in Honduras and for that reason, Honduras is considered a paradise for those dedicated to this illegal activity. The conglomerates in general look for politicians and businessmen to launder money on a grand scale. They also use common people to launder money on a smaller scale with the installation of businesses.

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