Illegal drug trade in Honduras

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Illegal drug trade in Honduras has included trans-shipping of cocaine by the Nicaraguan Contras. Honduras is considered a major drug route to the US.[1] Smuggling is said to have increased after the US suspended anti-drug support following the 2009 Honduran coup d'état. Weak domestic law enforcement institutions, combined with Honduras's long coastline and relatively sparse population distribution, make Honduras a popular point of entry for drug routes travelling through Central America.[2]

Juan Matta-Ballesteros[edit]

In 1978 Policarpo Paz García overthrew Juan Alberto Melgar Castro in a "cocaine coup" financed by the Medellín Cartel-linked drug lord Juan Matta-Ballesteros.[3] The CIA took "a close and friendly interest" in the coup as Paz, unlike Melgar, was a keen supporter of Nicaragua's Anastasio Somoza Debayle.[3] Under Paz, the Honduran army and intelligence service received a cut of Matta-Ballesteros' profits in return for protection, as Honduras became a major shipment route for cocaine and marijuana from Colombia.[3] When the US Drug Enforcement Administration set up its first office in Tegucigalpa in 1981, its resident agent "rapidly came to the accurate conclusion that the entire Honduran government was deeply involved in the drug trade."[4]

CIA and Contras cocaine trafficking in the US[edit]

The head of Honduran military intelligence, Leonides Torres Arias, formed a link between Matta-Ballesteros and the CIA, and in 1983 Matta-Ballesteros' airline SETCO (Services Ejectutivos Turistas Commander) received its first contract to ship arms from the United States to the Nicaraguan Contras, even as it was known that SETCO was smuggling cocaine into the US.[3] This would later develop into the Iran-Contra Affair.

In 1988 Matta-Ballesteros was taken from his home in Tegucigalpa by United States Marshals, sent to the United States for trial, and convicted of the kidnap and assassination of Enrique Camarena, as well as other charges. According to the "Selections from the Senate Committee Report on Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy chaired by Senator John F. Kerry", “the Honduran airline SETCO "was the principal company used by the Contras in Honduras to transport supplies and personnel for the FDN carrying at least a million rounds of ammunition, food, uniforms and other military supplies for the Contras from 1983 through 1985. SETCO received funds for Contra supply operations from the Contra accounts established by Oliver North.”

21st century[edit]

In December 2009 the head of Honduras' anti-drug smuggling operations, Gen Julian Aristides Gonzalez, was assassinated in Tegucigalpa.[1] Journalist David Meza was assassinated in March 2010; he investigated drug trafficking within Honduras, and reportedly received death threats in 2010, according to the El Tiempo newspaper.[5] Another reporter, Nahúm Elí Palacios Arteaga, was also assassinated in March 2010.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b BBC, 8 December 2009, Honduras anti-drug chief shot dead by gunmen
  2. ^ International Crisis Group. "Corridor of Violence: The Guatemala-Honduras Border". 4 June 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair (1998), Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press. ISBN 1-85984-258-5. p281
  4. ^ Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair (1998), Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press. ISBN 1-85984-258-5. p283
  5. ^ "Second Honduran journalist killed in two weeks". International Press Institute. 2010-03-15. Retrieved 2010-04-05.