May 31, 2012

Despite Deaths in Honduran Raid, U.S. to Press Ahead With New Antidrug Policy

The New York TimesWASHINGTON — After several villagers were killed on a Honduran river this month during a raid on drug smugglers by Honduran and American agents, a local backlash raised concerns that the United States’ expanding counternarcotics efforts in Central America might be going too far. But United States officials in charge of that policy see it differently.

Throughout 2011, counternarcotics officials watched their radar screens almost helplessly as more than 100 small planes flew from South America to isolated landing strips in Honduras. But this month — after establishing a new strategy emphasizing more cooperation across various United States departments and agencies — two smugglers’ flights were intercepted within a single week, a development that explains why American officials say they are determined to press forward with the approach.

“In the first four months of this year, I’d say we actually have gotten it together across the military, law enforcement and developmental communities,” said William R. Brownfield, the assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs. “My guess is narcotics traffickers are hitting the pause button. For the first time in a decade, air shipments are being intercepted immediately upon landing."

With Washington’s attention swinging from Iraq and Afghanistan — and with budget dollars similarly flowing in new directions — the United States is expanding and unifying its antidrug efforts in Central America, where violence has skyrocketed as enforcement efforts in the Caribbean, Colombia and Mexico have pushed cocaine traffic to smaller countries with weaker security forces. Read more. 

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