As I was writing these articles on Tripoli, Honduras, I wondered if Tripoli had ever made the Honduran newspapers. Unfortunately, it had. It gave me a whole new view on Tripoli. If you want to remain nostalgic about this little pueblo, you might just want to skip this article.
I guess the newspaper articles demonstrate how narcotrafficking, fueled by the high US consumption of illegal drugs, affects everyone in Honduras in one way or another — even in tiny, generally crime-free, agricultural communities like Tripoli.
I wish I had known about this before we visited Tripoli, because I definitely would have asked them about it. I don't think that I could have written about their responses, though, because it might have put them in danger. Not that I think any narcos read the Blogicito, but who knows. I never like to take any chances with information that people give to me.
Anyway, the El Heraldo story is that around midnight on July 22, 2009, a small plane, owned by a Gilberto Ramírez Romero, crashed into a powerline and then into a house, owned by a Gilberto Romero. La Tribuna reported that the house belonged to Alberto Ramírez Romero, rather than Gilberto. I guess we'll never know whether a narco crashed his plane into his own house, that of a relative, or whether the names are merely a coincidence. [Photo: El Heraldo]
The plane and its two occupants burned, the news said. The occupants were unidentifiable. Police reported that burned remains of black plastic bags and white powder were found in the plane.
Two days later, El Heraldo wrote that some bags of white powdery substance initially were taken by the residents of the area, but that all were recovered by the anti-drug forces who came to the crash site. This report obviously conflicts with the statement above that all the drugs burned in the crash. I'm not sure how they could know whether or not all bags were recovered anyway. There were no further follow-up articles that I could find. Inconsistencies like these in the news drive me crazy. [Photo: El Heraldo]
If you read the La Tribuna article (in Spanish), note that it goes on to write about a June 12 incident "in the same community" where fardos containing 500 kilos of cocaine were thrown out of a circling plane to the transportistas waiting below. I remembered that incident being in La Masica, not Tripoli, and it was. Another error was that 1,500 kilos of cocaine, not 500, were recovered in that operation.
According to authorities, more than 100 tons of cocaine passes through Honduras in its route from Colombia to the United States each year. The 2009 El Heraldo article stated that each kilo of cocaine (~2.2 pounds) has a value of about US $6,000 in Honduras, but can be as much as US $26,000-30,000 in the US. I've been told that in past years, some Hondurans were primarily transporters and money launderers, but increasingly are becoming users, too.
This was the 13th drug plane crash of about 24 crashes in 2009. We saw many fewer crashes in 2010, but rather than indicating the existence of less drug traffic, I'm afraid that it likely just indicates more successful takeoffs and landings. [Photo: La Tribuna]
Sorry to end the Tripoli series on a sour note, but I guess that is part of the reality of Honduras. Hopefully, this doesn't affect the lives of the people of Tripoli and that their young people won't be tempted to be involved in drug trafficking.