Dim forecast for security in Honduras in 2012
Despite Honduran efforts to promote police reform and check organized crime, the country has become a major transit point for cocaine, and the future of its democratic institutions looks bleak.
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Meanwhile, transnational drug trafficking organizations have taken advantage of the apparent weakness of the Honduran state to transform it into a primary transit point for US-bound cocaine. In September, Defense Minister Marlon Pascua told local press that 87 percent of cocaine which is sent from South America to the United States passes through Honduras. As InSight Crime has reported, applying this percentage to the United Nations’ latest estimates of the size of the US cocaine market suggests that an incredible 143.55 tons of the drug pass through Honduras annually. A recent Washington Post investigation, citing unidentified US government sources, puts the figure even higher, at 25 to 30 tons of cocaine per month, or between 300 and 360 tons annually. According to an anonymous US official working in Honduras, the Central American nation has become “by far the world’s largest primary transshipment point for cocaine.”Skip to next paragraph
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This flow of drugs has been accompanied by a surge in killings. The number of homicides has more than doubled since 2005, and the UN Global Study on Homicide put the country’s homicide rate at 82.1 per 100,000, the highest in the world.
To make matters worse, the vice president of the Honduran Congress, Marvin Ponce, recently claimed to have evidence that powerful sectors of Honduran society could be plotting to overthrow the government of President Porfirio Lobo, just as President Zelaya was ousted in 2009. Ponce told El Tiempo last week that these unnamed interests seek to take advantage of insecurity generated by Lobo’s recent efforts to clean up the country’s police force, and using the situation to weaken Lobo politically. "These groups want to make use of the police crisis and are linked to a section of the Armed Forces, which they could use to cause a coup," said Ponce.
It is worth remembering that this is not the first time that rumors of a coup against Lobo have surfaced. In September 2010, just eight months after taking office, Lobo warned that his critics were planning to overthrow him because of his efforts at reconciliation with the pro-Zelaya camp, though he later scaled this back, saying that carrying out another coup would be like “reaching Pluto.”
Because of the public and international outcry after the coup, it’s likely that it has become a trigger issue for politicians hoping to attract attention. That being said, at the very least the allegations show the weakness of the country’s democracy. This, along with the deep-rooted state of organized criminal activity, suggests that 2012 will be a difficult year for Honduras.
--- Geoffrey Ramsey is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region. Find all of his research here.
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