Friday, 17 June 2016

Dr. R. Evan Ellis: Honduras: A Pariah State, or Innovative Solutions to Organized Crime Deserving U.S. Support?





Introduction
In July 2015, tens of thousands of Hondurans turned out in the streets of the nation's principal 
cities, Tegucigalpa, its sister city Comayagüela, and San Pedro Sula for recurring weekly protests 
against the government of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, which many saw as corrupt and 
going beyond democratic mechanisms to exercise and consolidate its power.   Key protest issues 
included a scandal involving the nation's principal state health organization, the Honduran 
Institute for Social Security (IHSS), in which government payments for false or substandard 
medicines may have resulted in the deaths of ill and elderly Hondurans, while part of the illicit 
gains went to the nation's leading politicians, including the President's own electoral campaign.   
For many, however, the last straw was the April 2015 ruling by Honduras' Supreme Court to 
overturn the nation's constitutional prohibition of re-election,  a decision that many in the 
country saw as orchestrated by President Hernandez to sustain himself in power, relating it to 
other acts by Hernandez that some in Honduras found questionable, such as when he, as head of 
Congress, played a key role in the  removal of four Supreme Court justices supporting ex-
President Manuel Zelaya. 

While the allegations of corruption and abuse of power by opponents of President Hernandez are 
serious, they also contrast dramatically with evidence that  the Hernandez administration has 
made significant progress in combatting organized crime and insecurity in Honduras. In less than 
two years, murders in Honduras have been reduced from 86.5 per 100,000 in 2011 to 64 per 
100,000 in 2014, in a country that was previously the most violent in the region.   By the 
estimate of the Honduran government, shipments of drugs via air have declined 98%,  an 
achievement publicly collaborated by U.S. authorities,  and a significant accomplishment for a 
country through which 80% of all U.S.-bound cocaine once passed. 

These successes of the Honduran government, largely overshadowed by the political scandals 
noted in the previous paragraphs, is fundamentally important not only for the country, but also 
for its neighbors, the region, and the United States.  The 2014 immigration crisis, in which an 
estimated 60,000 Central American children arrived at the U.S. southern border, attempting to 
enter the United States, forced the Obama administration to dedicate $3.7 billion in one month  
to deal with a humanitarian crisis coming from three countries which collectively had received 
only $1.2 billion in U.S. aid since 2008.   Moreover, while the solutions adopted by the 
Hernandez government have shortcomings, and raise concerns from the perspective of 
democratic governance, they also contain innovative elements and have produced achievements 
that will serve as a reference for other states in the region with similar challenges.

Beyond the region itself, a full and nuanced understanding of the achievements and shortcomings 
of the security initiatives of the Hernandez government in Honduras is important for the U.S. 
government as it makes decisions regarding how, and to what degree, to continue to support 
Honduras in its fight against transnational organized crime, violence and insecurity.
While a significant amount has been written in both the Latin American and U.S. media 
regarding organized crime, gangs, and the political challenges faced by the Hernandez 
administration,  there has been a relative absence of detailed academic work published in English 
regarding the security challenges facing Honduras, and the initiatives of the Hernandez 
administration for addressing them.  This study is designed to help fill that void.


Methodology
The present study examines the state of security challenges in Honduras, with a focus on street 
gangs and transnational criminal organizations.  It reviews the principal security policies, 
relevant government structures, and initiatives of the Hernandez government to combat those 
challenges, followed by an examination in greater detail of key difficulties or areas of contention 
associated with that struggle, then concludes with a series of recommendations for U.S. 
policymakers to support Honduras' fight against the challenges of gangs and transnational 
organized crime.

This work employs a qualitative approach, based on in-person, telephone, and email interactions 
by the author with officials and academics in the Honduras' defense, security, and law 
enforcement sectors, including 17 in-depth interviews conducted in Tegucigalpa during  July 
2015, supplemented by the review and application where appropriate of English and Spanish-
language documents, news accounts, and secondary sources.


The Honduran Security Challenge
For more than 40 years, Honduras has been an important transit country for narcotics flowing 
from "source zone" countries in South America such as Colombia and Peru, to the United 
States.   In the 1970s, Honduran drug trafficker Juan Ramon Matta leveraged the country's 
strategic geographic position as a "bridge" moving the cocaine of Pablo Escobar's Medellin 
Cartel in Colombia, to the Guadalajara Cartel in Mexico. 

The same strategic geography also placed Honduras in arguably the most hotly contested part of 
the Western Hemisphere during the Cold War.  During this period, Honduras' neighbors on all 
sides (Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala) were involved in civil wars with spill-over effects 
into Honduras, even though Honduras itself managed to avoid an internal conflict.
Beyond drugs and civil wars, the geography of Honduras has also prejudiced it with respect to 
hurricanes, tropical storms, and other natural disasters.  More than 30 hurricanes have impacted 
the country since 1950, including Hurricanes Fifi, and Mitch, the latter causing an estimated $2 
billion in direct damages when it struck the country in 1998, leaving an estimated 20% of the 
country's population homeless. 

Finally, Honduras' strategic location has contributed to it being one of the countries of the region 
most beset by gang violence, together with neighboring Guatemala and El Salvador.  The gang 
presence centers on, but is not exclusive to, two groups: "Barrio 18" (B-18) and "Mara 
Salvatrucha (MS-13), each of which have their origins in Central American immigration to the 
United States during the region's civil wars of the 1980s.  Many settled in the greater Los 
Angeles area, with Central American youth giving birth to both street gangs there.  The 
subsequent deportation of thousands of undocumented Central American immigrants with 
criminal records beginning in 2000  transplanted the new gangs to the region, where they 
quickly spread.

The security situation in Honduras has particularly degenerated during the last 15 years, as a 
product of the interaction between gangs, drug traffickers, immigration, and weak institutions. 
As B-18 and MS-13 took root in the country and fought to displace rival gangs and each other, 
the resulting violence increased outbound emigration, already high because of the lack of 
economic opportunities in the country.  Such immigration split up families, leaving more 
Honduran youth without two-parent family structures in violent neighborhoods, vulnerable to 
recruitment by the gangs.  

With respect to narcotrafficking, family-based Honduran criminal smuggling groups such as the 
"Cachiros" and the "Valles" moved drugs through the region, generally financed by Mexico-
based cartels and other groups.  They  found a readily-available labor force to help it to do so, 
particularly in isolated rural areas with few other economic opportunities, such as the 
departments of Copan, Olancho, and Gracias a Dios.  Their  ability to move drugs was further 
facilitated by a police force and political class which had come to be compromised at the highest 
levels by money from criminal organizations, contributing to a dysfunctional judicial system in 
which impunity approached 100%, particularly for actions involving protected major criminal 
groups.

The growing crisis of governability in Honduras from the interaction of gangs and 
narcotrafficking deepened even further in 2009 when Honduran President Mel Zelaya was ousted 
from power in an irregular process which many within the country, and in the regime, saw as a 
violation of Honduras' democratic principles.   Whether or not the ouster of President Zelaya 
was defensible within the nation's laws and constitutional framework, it caused the international 
community, particularly in the Americas, to isolate the Honduran government,  including a cut-
off of most U.S. security assistance.    In the resulting breach, Mexican cartels significantly 
ramped up the use of Honduran territory for U.S.-bound narcotics shipments. 

By the outset of the Hernandez administration, the movement of drugs through Honduras had 
come to be dominated by two family-based clans: the Cachiros (the Rivera Maradiaga brothers) 
and the Valle Valles, although both subsequently suffered grave blows at the hands of both the 
Honduran government and U.S. law enforcement.

The Cachiros, whose origins involved smuggling, including cattle, operated principally in the 
inaccessible and sparsely-populated eastern portion of the country, in departments such as 
Atlántida, Olancho, Colon, and Gracias a Dios.  As the use of the country as an air bridge to the 
U.S. grew during the period of Honduras' international isolation, the Cachiros dominated such 
operations.

During this period, the Cachiros and other groups also brought significant quantities of drugs 
into the country by sea, initially moving much of the product along Honduras' rugged, 
inaccessible coastline, taking advantage of the lack of government presence there.  Drugs 
brought in both by air, and by sea were also commonly transferred to trucks, cars, motorcycles 
and people for movement overland to the Guatemalan border.

Behind the scenes, the Honduran government, with the support of U.S. and other international 
law enforcement organizations, was working to take down such networks.  Such efforts 
culminated in an important victory in January 2015 when the two top leaders of the Cachiros, 
Javier Eriberto and Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, both fled to the Bahamas, where they turned 
themselves in to U.S. authorities. 

By contrast to the Cachiros, the Valles operated principally in the department of Copan, in the 
west of Honduras along the border with Guatemala.  Their strategic geographic position allowed 
them to control drug flows moving west from the Atlantic coast of Honduras, as well as from El 
Salvador, in the south, moving toward the Guatemalan border.  Valle-affiliated smugglers 
reportedly controlled property on both sides of the (then poorly supervised) Honduras-
Guatemalan border which they reportedly operate as their own private "customs houses" for 
narcotics and other contraband passing across, en route to Mexico and the U.S.  
Both the Valles and Cachiros enjoyed strong relationships to the Honduran political class, as 
illustrated by the case of Jose Miguel "Chepe" Handal, who reportedly purchased cocaine from 
the Valles on behalf of interests in Guatemala.   In doing so, Handal reportedly enjoyed 
protection as the cousin of Arístides Mejía, the Minister of Defense under previous Honduran 
President Manuel Zelaya

The two principal heads of the Valle organization, Miguel Arnulfo and Luis Alonso Valle Valle, 
were arrested and extradited to the United States in October 2014. 
In addition to the two principal transporter groups, a number of other smaller drug smuggling 
organizations also operated in Honduras, with varying levels of affiliation with, or subordination 
to, the Cachiros and Valles.  These included groups such as the "Olancho Cartel" (reportedly 
operated by the Saramiento family), the "Southern Valley" cartel (operating in Choluteca, the 
strategic point where Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador converge in the Gulf of Fonseca), 
and the "AA Brothers" organization.  They  also included the group "14e," a shadowy umbrella 
organization rumored to coordinate the efforts of the 14 leading families in San Pedro Sula 
involved in narcotrafficking.  

With the exception of the 14e, such groups are not so much independent cartels as organizations 
that subcontract to, or are affiliated with, the Valles or Cachiros, and which have grown and have 
taken a measure of independence as those two groups have been progressively dismantled during 
the course of 2014 and 2015.

Even these smaller groups are in a state of flux.  Members of the Saramiento family, for 
example, were reported to have fled to Nicaragua following actions against the "Olancho Cartel" 
in July 2015,   while cartel boss and mayor of the village of El Paraiso, Alexander Ardon, and 
his "AA Cartel" have reportedly become a focus of the Honduran authorities. .

As noted previously, the use of aircraft, vis-à-vis boats, to bring drugs into Honduras 
(particularly to the Atlantic coast), fell off with U.S. re-engagement with the country, as well as 
with the increased Honduran state presence since 2010, particularly in the sparsely populated 
east of the country.  
In addition, Narcotraffickers continue to apply creativity and their substantial resources to find 
new ways to conceal drug shipments, including the use of submarines.  Although Honduran 
authorities reportedly do not intercept such vessels frequently, persons interviewed for this study 
mentioned rumors of such vehicles sunk off the northern Honduran coast in the area of Islas de 
Bahia, near Roatan. 

Finally, transportation of drugs overland is often part of drug smuggling, including movement by 
car, commercial vehicle, motorcycle, and foot traffic.  Shipments brought into the country by 
aircraft and boats are moved by such means across the country, generally to the Guatemalan 
border as part of their larger journey toward the United States.   To do so, smugglers use a broad 
range of techniques to conceal their cargo, from hidden compartments in cars and trucks, to 
artificial breast implants, to planting cocaine in the intestines of cows.

In such operations, local labor has played an important role in offloading incoming narcotics-
carrying aircraft and ships, storing drugs until such time as it is believed that security and market 
conditions make opportune their movement to their next destination, and physically transporting 
the drugs when that time comes.   

In general, Mexican groups such as the Sinaloa Cartel, and the Zetas, contracted for and partially 
financed the movement of drugs across the country.  Yet such groups generally did not operate 
directly in Honduras.

Honduran narcotics experts consulted for this study generally viewed the Mexican cartels as 
maintaining a distant and pragmatic posture with respect to narcotraffickers in the country, 
shifting between the groups that they contract with for drug shipments as the situation of those 
groups in the country evolved.  Indeed, in the face of occasional robberies of drug shipments 
("tumbes"), the cartels reportedly buy back the stolen drugs from organizations that hijacked 
them, regarding doing so as a cost of business.

Although, as noted previously, Mexican cartels generally have not operated directly in Honduras, 
the cartels and leaders have played an important role in the country, and continue to maintain 
relationships with Honduran traffickers.  The most famous example is Joaquim "El Chapo" 
Guzman, leader of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, who reportedly spent time in the principal 
compound of Los Valles, in the village of "El Pairiso."    

The influence of the Mexican cartels is also reportedly strong in Choluteca, Honduras' principal 
outlet to the Pacific coast, where the "South Valley" cartel of Orlando Pinto Espino operates. 
While opinions differ regarding the presence in Honduras of Mexico's newly emergent cartel 
"Jalisco Nuevo Generacion," those interviewed for this study generally believed that they were 
operating in the country, with some suggesting that they were involved in operations in the 
Department of Yoro, which potentially serves as a geographical bridge between the Atlantic 
coastal provinces and the border with Guatemala.

With respect to the Zetas, who came to exercise considerable influence in neighboring 
Guatemala during the 2008-2011 period,  although the group reportedly has a presence in 
Honduras,  those consulted for this report believed that its influence in the country was 
declining.

Finally, with the previously noted dismantling of the leadership of Honduras' narcotrafficking 
organizations, the Cachiros and Valle Valles, some Mexican cartels may now be taking a more 
active role in the country, reaching out to the smaller cartels and others to build new networks for 
transporting drugs through Honduran territory.  The Honduran newspaper El Heraldo, for 
example, reported an alleged meeting between members of Mexico's Juarez Cartel and ranchers 
in Olancho to discuss such support activities. 

Beyond the movement of drugs across the country, authorities have found some evidence that, 
since 2013, criminal organizations have been processing drugs in laboratories in Honduras.   
The first such laboratory was uncovered in 2011 in the Merendon mountain area, near the 
Guatemalan border.   The second was found approximately 40 kilometers from La Ceiba, and 
the third was discovered in the vicinity of the village of Omoa, also close to the border with 
Guatemala.
Rumors have also circulated that coca plants may be grown in the northern department of Yola, 
although to date, authorities have not uncovered specific evidence that this is occurring.
Beyond cocaine, Honduran narcotics experts consulted for this report suggested that synthetic 
drugs such as methamphetamines are being produced in the country.  In one case, 13.6 tons of 
pseudoephedrine, a precursor chemical used in the production of methamphetamines, was 
reportedly found in San Pedro Sula.  The chemicals (the largest quantity ever found in one place 
in the region), were said to be linked to narcotrafficking operations of the Ramirez Corria 
brothers.  The extent of synthetic drug production in Honduras is unknown, however, in part 
because Honduran authorities reportedly lack capabilities, such as trained police chemists, to 
effectively investigate such activities.


Gangs.  
With respect to gangs, as in other northern triangle countries, the two principle groups in 
the country are Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 (B-18).  The two are similar in strength, 
sophistication, and activities in Honduras, although Barrio 18 is believed to have more members 
in Honduras, when measured by the number of each gang in Honduran prisons, and also 
reportedly tends to be more violent.

The gangs are generally concentrated in the country's major urban areas, Tegucigalpa, San Pedro 
Sula, and to a lesser extent, La Ceiba.  B-18 is reportedly more dominant in Tegucigalpa, while 
MS-13 is more powerful in San Pedro Sula.   La Ceiba is principally populated by smaller gangs, 
including Los Grillos and Los Colocho.

The two principal gangs, B-18 and MS-13 also have a limited presence in smaller towns, such as 
Roatan and El Paraiso.  There has also been some dispersion of gang members into the 
countryside.  In response to anti-gang legislation passed in 2001, some gang members began to 
migrate to rural areas, although in recent years, according to those consulted for this study, they 
have mostly "re-consolidated" in urban zones.

The situation of Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 in Honduras is somewhat different than that in 
other Central American countries.  In Honduras, the leadership structures of the gangs is more 
diffuse, and by contrast to El Salvador, a smaller percentage of their leaders are in prison.  Nor 
has the split in B-18 between the "Revolucionarios" and "Surenos" factions, manifested in 
neighboring El Salvador, been replicated in Honduras.  

The "truce" temporarily achieved between B-18, MS-13, and four smaller gangs in El Salvador 
in 2012,  gave rise to an attempt by Honduran Bishop Romulo Emiliani to achieve a similar pact 
between the gangs in Honduras,  but by 2013, it was clear that such attempts had failed. 
By contrast to other Central American countries, in recent years, new smaller street gangs have 
also appeared in Honduras, including "Los Chirizos,"  "El Combo que no se dejan"  and "Los 
Benjamin,"  each local to Tegucigalpa, and generally focused on extortion.  

With respect to the origins of the smaller gangs, the first two emerged from an extortion group 
led by the mafia figure "El Gato Negro," who both extorted, and protected merchants in the 
public market of Tegucigalpa from Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18.  "El Gato Negro" was 
eventually assassinated (reportedly by police with whom he had previously collaborated in the 
extortion racket), paving the way for the emergence of Los Chorizos and Los Combo Que No Se 
Dejan as groups who had previously worked for him.  

The criminal activities of the gangs in Honduras have generally been focused on extortion, and to 
a lesser degree, distributing and selling drugs in the urban areas that they control, as well as 
serving as assassins for transporters and other organized crime groups.

Such groups also earn some revenues from extorting immigrants along routes to the United 
States. Within B-18 and MS-13, there is reportedly some specialization, with some "clicas" (the 
smallest unit of gang member) which earn revenue as assassins, versus others which focus on 
more exclusively on extortion and other crimes.

Those interviewed for the present study emphasized the adaptability and quality of constant 
change of both the gang and narcotrafficking organizations in Honduras. 

To some degree, as the two established gangs have aged, they have also become more 
"corporate," coming to own transportation companies, bars and discos, providing security for 
their own operations while extorting their competitors.  

The current generation of gang members also generally does not use tattoos, or uses small tattoos 
on concealed parts of their body.  This change in behavior from the previous generation of B-18 
and MS-13 in El Salvador arguably is an adaptation to anti-gang legislation passed in 2001 and 
modified in 2015,  as well as the targeting of gang members by Honduran law enforcement, and 
to some extent, the social stigma of gang membership.

The gangs have also evolved as organizations.  Reflecting the need to manage their substantial 
revenue streams, B-18 and MS-13 have also sent members to schools to study skills useful to 
their organizations, including law and accounting.   They have also reportedly sent members to 
infiltrate the police academy, and to a lesser extent, the military. 

With growing revenues, some senior gang leaders, referred to in some circles as "master 
homies," have come to resemble successful businessmen, living in well protected neighborhoods, 
driving fine cars, and otherwise enjoying affluent lifestyles. 

The gangs in Honduras are also evolving their activities and tactics, driven not only by the 
actions of authorities, but also popular culture.  One law enforcement expert interviewed in 
Tegucigalpa for this study noted, for example, that in the months following the broadcast of the 
television drama "Cartel de los Zapos" (a dramatization of the exploits of Colombian drug 
kingpin Pablo Escobar), the use of motorcycles to commit assassinations in the streets of 
Tegucigalpa (a tactic highlighted by the show) experienced a significant surge in Honduras, 
prompting the National Assembly to pass a law prohibiting the carrying of passengers on 
motorcycles. 

Honduras' New Initiatives to Combat Organized Crime and Insecurity
With the election of Porfirio Lobo in November 2009, and in recognition of the dramatic 
expansion in narcotrafficking activity that occurred in the country during its period of isolation 
by the international community following the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya, the U.S. began 
to re-engage with Honduras in the security domain in important, albeit limited ways.
On the Honduran side, President Lobo took important actions during his presidency to re-engage 
with the U.S. and combat organized crime and delinquency, the creation of an oversight body for 
investigating police corruption, the authorization of the military to support the national police, 
the establishment of a new Honduran national security council, a constitutional reform 
permitting extradition to the United States, and a major counter-organized crime initiative, 
"Operation Lightning."   One key to Lobo's success with such new initiatives under difficult 
circumstances was his strong relationship with then head of the National Congress (subsequently 
elected President) Juan Orlando Hernandez, who helped to craft many of the initiatives and 
secured their passage in the Congress.  

While not widely appreciated outside of Honduras, the scope of changes in laws related to public 
security in Honduras under President Lobo, and subsequently President Hernandez, is 
impressive.  Former Interior Minister and head of the non-governmental Centro de 
Documentation de Honduras (CEDOH) catalogs 34 separate laws which have been passed since 
2010 regarding security and defense matters. 

Since assuming office, Juan Orlando Hernandez as President has relied heavily (albeit not 
exclusively), on the Honduran military, reflecting his conviction, shared by many in the country, 
that  in the near term, the national police and other instruments of government have been too 
thoroughly penetrated by criminal elements to be effective.  
According to senior Hondurans knowledgeable of the President interviewed for this study, 
Hernandez disposition to use the military as his primary tool for combatting organized crime also 
has roots in his past experience, having attended a conservative military academy in San Pedro 
Sula in his youth, and reportedly having a particularly close personal relationship to Amilcar 
Hernandez, one of his 16 brothers, and a well-respected officer in the Honduran military before 
his career was cut short by an accident during a military parachute jump.

To date, the cornerstone of President Hernandez' approach to combatting organized crime in 
Honduras has been the creation of an operational-level, inter-agency task force to execute 
operations against criminal organizations and insecurity in the country.  The task force, FUSINA 
(Fuerza de Seguridad Inter-Institucional Nacional) was planned and officially established upon 
the President's January 2014 inauguration.  

Although the organization was compared by persons interviewed for this study to the U.S. 
Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in actuality, FUSINA is narrower and more 
"operational" in its orientation than DHS.  Nonetheless, its significance as a creative and 
ambitious structure, wrestling with the inter-institutional challenges of the fight against 
organized crime and delinquency in Honduras is no less ambitious, and no less filled with 
challenges.

Although officially, FUSINA was created by President Hernandez, the organization also reflects 
intellectual inputs from the nation's key military leaders, including commander-in-chief of the 
Honduran armed forces General Freddy Santiago Díaz Zelaya, as well as Coronel Colonel 
Gustavo Adolfo Paz Escalante, who became FUSINA's first director.

FUSINA operates under the authority of the Honduran National Security Council, created by 
Hernandez' predecessor, Pepe Lobo.  It includes the President, the President of the National 
Congress, the President of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of the 
Presidency, the Minister of Defense, the Minister of Public Security, and the head of the 
Honduran Joint Chiefs of Staff.  While, for use in this role, the National Security Council and its 
members are specified in the Honduran constitution, not all Presidents have made use of the 
council as actively as President Hernandez has.

Although FUSINA is not specified in the framework of the Honduran constitution, the 
government characterizes FUSINA as the "operational arm" of the National Security Council, 
particularly in matters of combatting organized crime and insecurity.  The members of the NSC 
provide oversight of FUSINA, particularly the Minister of Defense and Minister of National 
Security, and are reportedly consulted when FUSINA executes operations against "high-impact" 
personalities, such as major narcotraffickers or political figures.  Nonetheless, the day-to-day 
activities of FUSINA are managed by the Coronel-level military officer, currently Gustavo Paz, 
who heads the organization.   

The guide for the activities of FUSINA is the President's "Inter-Agency National Security Plan," 
adopted upon his assumption of office.  The plan addresses both FUSINA, and its primary 
mission, "Operation Morazán."    By contrast to previously conducted inter-agency operations 
of more limited scope, such as Operation Libertad,  Operation Morazán contemplates operations 
by FUSINA against criminal organizations and insecurity in the entirety of the national territory.
Operation Morazán includes four phases: (1) "Configuration and Dissuasion," realized during 
President Hernandez' first two months in office, during which time key structures to implement 
the new plan, including the PMOP, were set up, (2) "Taking the Initiative," officially spanning 
from January through May 2014, during which time the major operations contemplated under the 
plan were launched, (3) "Domination," from May 2014 through January 2016, during which time 
the newly established security  structures are envisioned to substantially re-establish order in the 
country, and (4) "Stabilization and Transition" from January 2016 through January 2018, during 
which time the new security organizations are anticipated to "consolidate their successes" and 
importantly, return control to civil authorities. 

From the name "Operation Morazán," to the use of terms such as "Domination," the plan reflects 
its military roots.  While such language arguably refers to organized crime, rather than civil 
society, to be "dominated," the choice of words highlights the differences in attitudes between 
the Honduran armed forces, and other parts of civil society.

With respect to the establishment of FUSINA as the key organization for implementing 
Operation Morazán, the organization has been assigned part, but not all, of the assets of the 
armed forces and national police, as well as judicial investigators, and judges.  Other elements of 
the Armed Forces and resources of the Honduran government are reportedly available to be 
assigned to FUSINA on short notice, when needed.

Although as noted previously, the head of FUSINA is a military officer, its second in command 
is an officer of the National Police.  In addition, reflecting FUSINA's intra-institutional 
character, the other agencies contributing resources are included on its managing "executive 
board," facilitating access to those organizations for operational issues.

The entirety of the newly created "Military Police for Public Order" (PMOP) (discussed later in 
greater detail) is assigned to FUSINA, as well as the elite paramilitary police force, the "Tigres."  
With respect to Honduran Army, Navy, and Air Force units, as of July 2015, FUSINA had 6,300 
members of the armed forces under its jurisdiction, including over 3,000 members of PMOP, and 
approximately half of Honduras' naval assets. 

Other Honduran government organizations that could potentially play a role in the fight against 
gangs and criminal organizations, available to be tasked by FUSINA, include the nation's 
principal counter-drug agency, the DLCN ("Dirección de la Lucha Contra Narcotráfico"). 
Organizationally, below the level of senior leadership, FUSINA is divided into 18 "Intra-
institutional task forces," generally organized by the geographical divisions (Departments) of 
Honduras (for budgetary, as well as operational reasons).   Special additional task forces, such as 
"Maya-Chorti," whose mission is to control illicit flows (including people and contraband as 
well as drugs) along the border with Guatemala, are also included as distinct entities within the 
FUSINA command structure.

Replicating the organization at the national level, each task force is "co-led" by a military officer 
and an officer of the National Police, and generally includes some military and police personnel, 
at least one investigator from the "public ministry,"  as well as access to judges with national 
jurisdiction, for making rapid decisions on special cases, such as the disposition, and potentially 
extradition, of high-profile cartel heads.

Military Police for Public Order (PMOP).  The Military Police for Public Order (PMOP) is 
arguably the best known, and most controversial component of President Hernandez security 
plan, and arguably the most misunderstood.

The PMOP organizationally falls under the joint chiefs of staff of the Honduran Armed Forces, 
although as noted previously, it is operationally assigned, in its entirety, to FUSINA. The 
enabling law for the PMOP was designed and passed through the Honduran Congress in August 
2013 by Hernandez himself, who was then President of the body. 

 The principal objective of the PMOP is to serve as a professional force which is free of the 
corruption undercutting the effectiveness and the public acceptance of the National Police, and 
which can legally and practically conduct a subset of difficult law enforcement operations such 
as imposing order in urban neighborhoods dominated by the maras, and conducting actions 
against narcotrafficking organizations.  

In addition to such core missions, PMOP has also been deployed in other roles, including 
providing security for important public events, and escorting high-profile criminals to prison or 
to the airport for extradition. 

As of July 2015, the PMOP had six battalions, each with 524 persons, and similar compliments 
of vehicles and equipment, as well as a canine battalion, oriented toward counter-drug 
operations.  The first two battalions were created in September 2013, and were deployed in 
Tegucigalpa and its sister city Comayagüela.  The second and third battalions were created in 
February 2014, and the 5th and 6th, and the canine battalion in August 2014.

The PMOP is anticipated to grow to 10 battalions, plus the canine battalion, with a total 
compliment of 5,976 members.  While the Hernandez administration has talked about an 
eventual "return to civilian control" in Honduras after the problem of gangs and insecurity is 
brought under control, and while such is clearly contemplated in the fourth phase of Operation 
Morazán, Honduran experts interviewed for this report indicated that the PMOP would likely 
continue in existence. 

Although President Hernandez sought a constitutional amendment which would have separated 
the PMOP from the Honduran Armed Forces as a separate force under the executive branch, the 
defeat of this initiative in the Honduran Congress in January 2015  left the organization as 
formally part of the military.  Undeterred, the President has announced his intention to revisit the 
issue of enshrining the PMOP within the Honduran constitution as an independent entity, 
through a popular referendum to be held in conjunction with the 2017 national elections.  
 In establishing its doctrine, the PMOP has received substantial assistance from the Honduran 
armed forces, including help in formulating its doctrine from the doctrine organization of the 
Honduran Joint Chiefs of Staff, although in doctrine and other matters, it has also drawn insights 
from the Honduran National Police, the military police of the United States, and other foreign 
partners such as Mexico, Colombia, and Guatemala.  According to authorities within PMOP 
consulted for this report, the organization continues to refine its doctrine, which it hopes to have 
consolidated by 2016.

At the level of enlisted personnel, the PMOP is populated by the selection of candidates from 
among "volunteers" from within the Honduran armed forces.  By contrast, the officers of the 
PMOP are "assigned" to the unit by the leadership. Thus all PMOP personnel, both officers and 
civilians, are, or become, active duty military personnel.  

Within the enlisted ranks, those interested in joining the PMOP must have at least one year of 
service in the armed forces to be eligible, and must receive the approval of their commanding 
officer to apply.  According to representatives of the Honduran military interviewed for this 
study, applicants from all ranks and experience levels are accepted, but aside from officers and 
non-commissioned officers, younger recruits are preferred because of their presumed physical 
adeptness, as well as to avoid, where possible, disciplinary challenges arising from a large 
number of older recruits supervised by younger officers.  

Non-military applicants are accepted into the PMOP only in a limited number of fields, including 
those with experience in law, medicine, and psychology.

As the ranks of the PMOP units are filled, the armed forces conducts a parallel campaign to 
backfill those units from which the PMOP recruits are taken.  According to Honduran officers 
consulted for this study, this process has caused some loss of experience and personnel shortages 
in operational units, although the adverse impacts are expected to level off once the current surge 
to create all 10 PMOP battalions has passed.

Once accepted, those entering the PMOP receive initial training in basic competencies of the 
institution.  Officers and NCOs attend the two-month long "Military Police Operations Course," 
while those of lower ranks attend the four month "Basic Course."  Both courses are taught in the 
RECALBLIN ("Regimento de Caballería Blindado") armored cavalry post in Choluteca.

As of the end of 2015, both courses were taught by officials from the military police itself, by 
definition, former military officers with two years or less in the organization (based on the date 
of the PMOP's creation).

Upon graduating the operations course or basic course candidates are officially accepted as 
members of the PMOP.  From this point, candidates may receive additional training in police 
specialties, such as forensic graphology, customs, crime scene investigations, the chain of 
custody, combat medicine, and human rights.  For these specialty courses, outside experts are 
brought in including personnel from the public ministry, which supports the PMOP through 
programs in their "Training School for the Public Ministry."

In order to avoid the risk that those joining the PMOP are, or later become, corrupt  (as has 
occurred widely within the Honduran national police), the PMOP has a program of monitoring 
and confidence tests, including psychological testing and other screening upon entry, as well as 
polygraphs approximately every six months for those members serving in the organization.  In 
addition, by contrast to regular police officers, the military structure of PMOP arguably places its 
members under more constant supervision, and deploys its members in a fashion that, in 
principle, gives them fewer opportunities for close contact with the people in the zones in which 
they operate.  As a result, those interviewed for this report argue that members of the PMOP are 
less vulnerable to being corrupted.  

On the other hand, however, others argue that the limitations that the PMOP have in their contact 
with the population also gives them fewer opportunities to gather intelligence from, and build 
positive relationships with that population.

Tigres.  
The elite national police unit called the Tigres ("Tigers" in Spanish), like the PMOP, 
was spearheaded as a legislative initiative of Juan Orlando Hernandez before assuming the 
presidency.  
The Tigres were designed to be an elite, highly-capable unit within the police force for taking on 
difficult missions such as those against organized crime groups.  From the beginning, the unit 
was closely coordinated with, and substantially funded by the United States, which not only 
provided equipment and confidence testing, but also provided training, paid for by the U.S. State 
Department, including courses conducted by Colombian Special Forces units.
As of the time that this article was researched, the Tigres had an estimated 250 persons, less than 
a tenth the number of personnel in the PMOP. 

An important contributor to Hernandez, then head of the Congress, in establishing the Tigres was 
not only the pervasive corruption within the regular Honduran police, but also nine prior 
initiatives by the U.S. to establish special units within that force, in areas such as anti-gang 
activities, anti-kidnapping, and counter-narcotics, which emphasized to him, and others in the 
government, that in providing assistance in the fight against organized crime and insecurity, the 
U.S. preferred to work through civilian organizations.

While organizationally the Tigres are part of the Colombian National Police, within the Ministry 
of Public Security, they have been wholly put under the operational command of FUSINA, along 
with the PMOP.

Despite the substantial capabilities of the unit, the Honduran government has sought to minimize 
the public profile of the force following an unfortunate incident involving the improper diversion 
of $1.3 million in cash seized  in October 2014, during the unit's first major operation, arresting 
Miguel Arnulfo and Luis Alonso Valle Valle, leaders of the Honduran narcotics smuggling 
organization "Los Valles."  Although the theft was quickly discovered, the incident cast a 
shadow over the unit at a key moment when the question of the need for a "military police," 
rather than new or reformed units within the Honduran National police, was a key theme of 
debate.

As a compliment to the creation of new structures such as the PMOP and the Tigres, the 
Hernandez administration has also engaged in a "purge" of corrupt elements of the National 
Police.   As set forth in Operation Morazán, the official plan of the Honduran government is to 
return law enforcement operations to civilian organizations such as the National Police once both 
public order has been restored and corruption within police institutions has been brought under 
control.

Other Organizations within the Public Ministry.  Although FUSINA and the PMOP, and to a 
lesser extent, the Tigres, have received the lion's share of media attention in the Hernandez 
administration's struggle against organized crime, other organizations have also played an 
important role.  These include ATIC ("Agencia Técnico de Investigación Criminal"), FESCO 
("Fiscal Especial Contra el Crimen Organizado"), and the DLCN ("Dirección de la Lucha Contra 
Narcotrafico").

According to Hondurans consulted for this study, the creation of ATIC was driven by Honduran 
Attorney General Oscar Fernandez Chinchilla to provide greater investigative capabilities within 
the public ministry.  ATIC has received a significant share of resources, particularly in the 2015 
fiscal year, generating some resentment from other organizations, such as DNIC, whose own 
budget has not expanded to a similar degree.  As of July 2015, ATIC had approximately 120 
investigators, with an additional 50 reportedly being added.

The DLCN, as noted previously, is the principal investigative organization in the fight against 
criminal organizations.  It was created in 1995 as an independent organization under the 
Honduran Public Ministry.  As of July 2015, the DCLN had a modest force of 53, although it 
was programmed to nearly double in size, with 43 new investigators. The body works closely 
with FUSINA in the fight against criminal organizations.  Indeed, its support from the armed 
forces is explicitly specified in Article 48 of the law enabling the organization.

Prior to December 2015, the DCLN was headed by Issac Santos, a retired military officer.  
Owing to differences with the head of the Public Ministry, Oscar Fernando Chinchilla, Santos 
was dismissed and replaced by Soraya Cálix, a career criminal investigator who, prior to her 
appointment, headed Public Ministry Office of the Special Prosecutor Against Organized 
Crime. 

In addition to its funding by the Honduran government, the DLCN also receives training and 
other support from the Russian Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN),  among other 
international organizations.  Senior DLCN personnel such as its deputy head Zoilo Salustio 
Hernandez reportedly travel frequently to Russia for training programs.

FUSINA Operations.  As of July 2015, within the framework of Operation Morazán, the most 
significant operational activities of FUSINA included the interdiction of narcotrafficking flows, 
operations against narcotraffickers and other high-profile criminals, and the establishment of 
security in areas dominated by maras and other police organizations. 

To this end, two types of FUSINA operations stood out.
First, FUSINA deployed significant numbers of the newly created military police (PMOP) to 
major urban areas, such as Tegucigalpa and sister city Comayagüela, and San Pedro Sula, 
patrolling public spaces, and allowing authorities to re-establish a presence in neighborhoods 
such as Flor del Campo (Tegucigalpa) which had previously become so heavily dominated by 
gangs that the national police did not dare to enter. 

Second, FUSINA employed its forces to deny the use of national territory as a transit zone or 
base of operations for narcotraffickers.  The efforts of FUSINA in this respect is conceptualized 
in terms of three "shields": (1) an "Air shield," which refers to control over Honduran airspace 
against narcotics flights, particularly in the remote and sparsely populated eastern part of the 
country, which became a major problem during Honduras' period of international isolation in 
2009, (2) a "Maritime shield" to protect the Honduran coast and inland waterways against the 
importation of drugs, and their associated transfer to overland traffic via vehicles and persons, 
generally toward Guatemala, and (3) a "Land shield," associated with the control of the 
Honduran-Guatemala border via interagency task force Maya-Chorti, as well as the deployment 
of military forces throughout the country to control routes used to move drugs overland from 
clandestine airstrips and coastal and river disembarkation points, across the country generally 
toward that border.

The "Air Shield" was enabled by the passage of a law, in January 2014, authorizing the 
Honduran military to shoot down aircraft making unauthorized incursions into the national 
airspace.   Its application in Honduran airspace is supported by the acquisition of three radars 
from Israel, delivered in late 2013.  Nonetheless, the risk that the program could lead to the 
downing of an innocent aircraft by the Honduran military reportedly raised concerns within the 
United States, which in response, restricted military support activities that could contribute to 
such a shoot-down.  

Although Honduran officials interviewed for this study maintained that the "Air Shield" is 
functioning well even without U.S. support, to date, the Honduran military has not forced down a 
single aircraft.  Nonetheless, since the implementation of the Air Shield, drug flights to Honduras 
have fallen dramatically. 

As a compliment to blocking air traffic, the government also engages in a continual process of 
identifying and destroying clandestine airstrips in the country.  Although one official consulted 
for this study characterized such operations as a relatively unproductive game, with the 
government disabling airstrips and the narcotraffickers rebuilding them.  Yet others consulted for 
this study countered, arguing that, despite the ease of building airstrips in the generally flat 
terrain in the east of the country in la Mosquitia, the drug trafficker's response provides insights 
into who the narcotraffickers are, and who is helping them, since doing so generates observable 
and traceable activity, particularly since construction equipment is not common in the remote 
areas where such airstrips are built. 

With respect to the maritime shield, Honduran government efforts have generally focused on the 
deployment of naval assets along the Atlantic coast, where the Honduran navy has boosted its 
presence from one modest shore facility to seven, in addition to augmenting control points on 
inland rivers.

Nonetheless, at least two Honduran Naval craft have been deployed in the Gulf of Fonseca as 
well, available to perform counter-drug missions.

To date, the maritime domain has been the area in which the U.S. has most effectively been able 
to help Honduras with material, training, and intelligence support, as well as with its own 
complementary maritime operations. 

In addition to support from the U.S., the Honduran Navy has generally been effective in working 
with Nicaragua to coordinate intercept operations along the coast shared by the two countries.  
According to persons interviewed for this report, such cooperation reportedly includes relatively 
fluid exchanges of intelligence, and is bolstered by good political relations between the two 
countries and their presidents. 

In the Gulf of Fonseca, on Honduras' Pacific coast, coordination of naval intercept operations in 
is complicated by the unresolved dispute over the maritime boundary in the area between 
Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador,  although the coordination between the three Navies has 
reportedly improved.  
In general terms, Honduras' "Maritime Shield" has been limited by a relatively small navy of 
aging vessels, supporting a relatively high operational tempo.  Honduras currently has three large 
craft and 25 smaller vessels.  Nonetheless, the country has acquisition projects that would 
increase its capabilities. 

As an example, Honduran capability perform coastal intercepts has been bolstered by new 
militarized "go fast" boats.  The craft, initially seized from narcotraffickers, have been adapted, 
in a special factory with U.S. assistance, with new 300 horsepower 4-cyllinder engines, hull 
modifications, and gun mounts.  According to senior Hondurans consulted for this report, the 
new craft have been particularly useful for patrolling in the relatively shallow waters along the 
Atlantic shoreline, which features numerous inlets and islands, 

Beyond these "go fast" boats, the Honduran Navy also reportedly is considering the acquisition 
of two new roll-on/roll-off landing craft from the Colombian vendor COTECMAR, as well as a 
new Offshore Patrol Vessel.

Turning to the "land shield" portion of Honduras' counterdrug operations, the principal focus to 
date of the Honduran government has been on the control of the Honduras-Guatemala border.  
Nonetheless, through FUSINA, the Honduran government has also deployed ground forces to 
control routes for the movement of drugs in other parts of the country.

The principal vehicle for controlling Honduras' border with Guatemala has been the interagency 
task force Maya-Chorti.  One important goal for FUSINA in operating this task force on the 
border between the two countries has been to cut the numerous informal border crossings ("pasos 
ciegos") that allow narcotics and other contraband to move across the border without state 
control.  A study by the Conference of Central American Armed Forces (CFAC) estimated that 
there were 55 such informal crossings along the Honduras-Guatemala border alone.

While task force Maya-Chorti has significantly increased the presence of Honduran forces in the 
border region,  the sheer quantity of drugs moving through the area, the difficult terrain, and the 
number of people with adjoining property on both sides of the border facilitating passage of 
contraband through the pasos ciegos, will continue to make controlling the border difficult.
Beyond the presence of task force Maya-Chorti on the border, the majority of FUSINA's PMOP 
and civilian police elements are deployed in Honduras' principal urban areas: Tegucigalpa-
Comayagüela and San Pedro Sula.  Yet smaller numbers of ground forces are also deployed 
throughout the country to control overland movement of narcotics, to provide security, to gather 
intelligence, and to conduct operations against high-profile criminals once authorized by judicial 
and other appropriate authorities.

With respect to operations against specific criminal targets, the FUSINA concept of operations 
begins with intelligence to identify a potential criminal target or activity of interest.  Such 
intelligence is obtained from multiple sources, including the country's newly-created National 
Investigative Intelligence Organization (DNII), formed in 2013,  and which reportedly has a 
particular specialization in electronic intelligence.  Such intelligence collection also includes 
obtaining information from units which are part of the PMOP, civilian national police units, 
investigative organizations such as the national counter-narcotrafficking organization, (DNIC), 
as well as foreign sources, with important partners reportedly including Nicaragua,  Colombia, 
and Guatemala, as well as the United States.

Supported by such multi-source intelligence, in principle, FUSINA leverages the prosecutors 
under its operational control, in conjunction with investigators from supporting organizations 
such as DNIC, to prepare cases to be acted upon.  Where the case requires police action against a 
criminal target, FUSINA then obtains the authorization of the relevant judicial authority to 
proceed.  For normal operations, a local judge will typically be used to approve such action, but 
for high-profile cases where there is concern that the local judge could be corrupted or 
intimidated, FUSINA has three special judges with national jurisdiction, and presents its request 
to one of these to authorize police action.

In addition to such judges, another organizational innovation of FUSINA in the fight against 
organized crime is the use of "embedded" investigators and prosecutors.  Such investigators and 
prosecutors are operationally assigned to FUSINA, and often travel with the military and police 
units to the scene of the operation.  The FUSINA leadership believes that such integration makes 
the process of coordination between parts of the police/criminal system faster and more accurate, 
helping to eliminate some of the delays and miscues that previously contributed to the near total 
impunity within the Honduran justice system.  Prior to embedded investigators and prosecutors, 
for example, military or police units would conduct an operation, and would then transmit the 
case to authorities to conduct a judicial investigation.  Under the new system, with police 
investigators and prosecutors present during the operation, they are reportedly able to do their 
investigation more rapidly, as well as with a better understanding of what actually transpired in 
the operation.

 The new approach also has generated concerns.  One law enforcement expert consulted for this 
study noted that having an investigator spend days "tromping around in the woods with a 
military unit" was perhaps not the best use of time, given the limited number of prosecutors 
available.  

The new system also arguably raises questions about protection of citizen rights through the 
traditional separation between police, prosecutor, and judge, creating the appearance of "judicial 
officials being put in the service of the police."

Yet such concerns notwithstanding, the new system has arguably contributed to improvements in 
the struggle against crime and insecurity in the country.

With respect to the conduct of operations at a technical level under the new system, if a law 
enforcement action such as the detention of a person is required and authorized, FUSINA may 
use either PMOP units, national police units (including recently created elite units such as the 
Tigres), or a combination of both to execute the operation.  As an example, the previously 
mentioned October 2014 operation to detain Miguel Arnulfo and Luis Alonso Valle Valle 
employed both the Tigres and the PMOP, as well as other units. 

To understand the change represented by the employment of PMOP in operations against 
criminal organizations, it is important to note that, in the pre-FUSINA period in Honduras, as in 
other Central American countries such as E Salvador, the military conducted operations in 
tandem with national police units, in order to have both sufficient firepower and legal arrest 
authority.  In Honduras, perhaps even more than in those other countries, the level of corruption 
within the police put many such operations at risk, with the possibility that one or more of 
persons in the police chain of command was in the pay of criminal organizations and had tipped 
off the criminals to the operation before it was conducted.  The use of the PMOP, by taking the 
national police out of the chain, has arguably reduced the risk that the operation is compromised.  
Yet in the short term, one troubling side effect has been to substitute the military for the police in 
important law enforcement operations, relegating the police to only routine or inconsequential 
activities
Beyond improved coordination between military, law enforcement, and judicial organizations, 
FUSINA has also sought to increase "jointness" and "inter-agency" character of Honduran 
government operations.  The organization, for example, coordinates the use of naval assets to 
resupply and move personnel of other military branches and government organizations between 
posts, including naval bases and other control points in remote parts of the country.  Such 
coordination has become increasingly important, not only for deploying investigators, 
prosecutors, police and military police contingents and supporting intelligence operations in 
remote areas, but also in supporting the Honduran Navy in its establishment and sustainment of 
multiple new bases to control remote areas of the country's coast, such as in the Department of 
Gracias a Dios.  

In order to minimize the probability of the corruption of the soldiers, policemen, investigators 
and others in the organization FUSINA has adopted a policy of frequent personnel rotations.  Yet 
doing so has also imposed a significant logistics burden on the organization.  In addition to the 
impact on the personnel themselves and the ships, aircraft and vehicles used to transport them, 
the rotations policy requires FUSINA to make significant contributions to the budget of 
Honduran navy elements for fuel and other resources, to help it to cover the burden of supporting 
the operation.

Finally, in addition to its operations themselves, the leadership of FUSINA has recognized the 
importance of strategic communication and has dedicated attention to managing public 
perceptions of its successes.  As an example, statistics involving the activities of the 
organizations under its operational control, including counter narcotics operations, actions 
against clandestine runways, confiscation of properties, arms seizures, arrests of criminal leaders, 
and other activities, are reported through FUSINA.   Even when an operation is primarily 
performed by one particular organization, such as the PMOP, the Tigres, ATIC, or the DNIC, per 
policy of the Honduran leadership, it is reported as performed "by FUSINA" with "the support 
of" the other Honduran organizations involved.  While persons consulted for this study indicated 
that this posture has caused some minor resentment among the organizations leading the 
operation, it has also arguably bolstered the image of FUSINA and the perception that the 
government is conducting a coordinated national-level campaign against organized crime and 
insecurity.

Penitentiary Reform.  In parallel with activities of FUSINA and associated organizations such as 
the PMOP the Hernandez administration in Honduras is also attempting to reform the 
penitentiary system.  Like other penitentiary systems in Central America and elsewhere in the 
region, that of Honduras is considered vastly overcrowded, with an inmate population of more 
than 14,500 and growing, in facilities with a capacity for 8,000.   Moreover, as in neighboring 
Guatemala and El Salvador, the facilities have become dominated by the criminals who inhabit 
them, using them as secure spaces from which to manage their extortion operations, in 
coordination with members of their organization on the outside.  

One of the initiatives already put into place by the Hernandez administration is the blocking of 
cell phone service to and from the prisons, in order to limit the number of extortion calls made 
from inside.   Such control has been partially successful, with a significant decrease in such 
extortion calls.   Nonetheless, such controls reportedly have not been completely effective, 
because it has not been possible to block all calls, including those by prisoners using contraband 
satellite phones (for which service is not interrupted by the blocking of cellphone signals), and 
because prisoners are still able to communicate with the outside through visits from family 
members, relaying instructions to others who can deliver the extortion demands by phone or in 
person from outside the prison walls.  

To help address the challenge of prison overcrowding, the Hernandez Administration proposed 
creating two new facilities: a minimum security prison, and a medium-to-maximum security one, 
which would, together, provide capacity for 4,500 inmates.  To date, the first of these facilities, 
in the town of Porvenir, with space for 2,000 inmates, has been completed. The second, in the 
north of the country near the town of Anaco, designed to house 2,400 inmates, is reportedly 
going slowly due to cost overruns and lack of resources.

The Honduran military has also created a small detention facility for high-level prisoners within 
the compound of the 1st Battalion, with space for approximately 20 persons, maintaining those 
held there in relative isolation and control, if also under relatively sparse conditions, reportedly 
without access to cellphones or computers.

At the same time that the government is adding these two new jails and the small supplemental 
facility in the 1st Battalion headquarters, the government also contemplates consolidating the 24 
facilities throughout the country down to 12 and modernize and re-establish control over those 
that remain.

While in the short term, control of Honduran prisons remains a problem, as in Honduras' 
neighbors, the military is attempting to play a role by controlling the perimeters separating the 
prison from the community.  Yet prison perimeter control is not a popular mission for the 
military, and only partially prevents activities such as the smuggling of weapons and contraband 
cellphones to inmates, yet it is regarded by the military as "necessary" due to the insufficiency of 
civilian law enforcement in prevent such flows, due to the ability of the gangs to both corrupt 
those controlling the prisons, and intimidate them.  The later includes not only threats of harm to 
the prison workers themselves, but also the ability of the inmates to use their gang ties outside 
the prison to threaten the families of the prison workers.

Cooperation with the United States.  In its activities against organized crime and insecurity, the 
Hernandez administration has made an effort to work more closely with the United States, albeit 
with mixed success.

As president of the Congress, in January 2012, Juan Orlando Hernandez successfully 
spearheaded a change to the provision of the Honduran constitution prohibiting extradition; in 
May 2014, the country conducted its first extradition to the United States, Carlos Arnoldo 
Lobo.   Although not widely publicized, Honduran experts consulted for this report noted that 
the country continues to extradite an average of approximately 5 people to the US per week. 
 the Honduran government has also worked closely with the U.S. on operations against the 
leadership of narcotrafficking groups in the country, particularly the two principal family-based 
smuggling organizations in the country: the Valle Valles and the Cachiros.  

In addition, the Hernandez administration has also cooperated closely with the United States in 
the area of maritime narcotrafficking interdiction operations, as part of the "maritime shield" 
concept.   

At a personal level, President Hernandez reportedly has had a particularly good relationship with 
U.S. Southern Command and the Marine Corps general who commanded it through the end of 
2015, John F. Kelly. 

Cooperation with Other Countries.  While Honduras continues to work closely with the United 
States in its fight against gangs, drugs, and other elements of organized crime and insecurity, it 
also collaborates with, and receives support in this struggle from a variety of other countries, 
including Taiwan, Russia, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, among others.

With respect to Russia, as noted previously, Honduras' principal counter-narcotics organization, 
the DLCN, and potentially other organizations, reportedly receive training and intelligence 
support from their Russian counterpart, the FSKN.

Nicaragua is reportedly one of the closest collaborators in the region with Honduras with respect 
to counter narcotics intelligence, as well as police and military operations. There is reportedly 
fluid cooperation between the two countries in patrolling their combined shoreline, and the 
presidents of both countries reportedly enjoy a close personal relationship.
Guatemala is the first country in the region to establish joint multinational patrols with Honduras 
along their shared border, in the form of the previously discussed Task Force Maya-Chorti.   
The two countries currently reportedly collaborate closely with respect to managing the shared 
border, and on other issues. 

Impacts of Honduran Government Efforts in the Fight Against Organized Crime and 
Gangs
Although Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez had only been in power two years [at the 
time this study was written], his administration's security policies have had a remarkable impact 
on delinquency and organized crime in the country.  Nonetheless, some outside the 
administration have questioned the accuracy of government figures showing strong progress 
against murders and criminal activity.   Whatever the truth regarding the statistics, it is clear that 
much work remains to be done.

According to official figures, homicides in Honduras during the January-July period dropped 
from 3,688 in 2013 to 3,271 in 2014, to 2,757 in 2015. 

With respect to narco-flights, prior to the Hernandez regime, almost 80% of U.S.-bound drug 
flights stopped in Honduras.  By 2015, thanks, in part, to the country's air interdiction program, 
the number of such flights showing up on US radar had fallen to almost negligible numbers. 
Narcotraffickers moving drugs are also reportedly changing tactics.  Some have reportedly 
switched from light planes to larger turboprop aircraft.  Another new tactic has been an increase 
in short, low-altitude flights below the radar monitoring the area.  With respect to the overland 
traffic, Honduran authorities noted an increase in the use of vehicles with hidden compartments 
("caletas"), as well as more smuggling inside of animals such as mules and horses.  In the 
maritime domain, those moving drugs through the country previously sent large shipments of up 
to 2,000 kg of cocaine at a time in "go-fast" boats.  During the past year, however, there has 
reportedly been a trend to greater use of smaller, slower vessels, following more indirect routes.  
 According to Honduran law enforcement officials , whereas previously Honduran traffickers 
would bring in narco-shipments by air to Atlantic coast towns such as Palacios, in the northeast 
of the country and openly transfer their cargo into armored cars for transit to Guatemala via 
highway, in the past year they have reportedly switched to use more remote landing facilities in 
areas such as Ibanos and Brus, then covertly move their product via canals and other means 
before eventually being able to use roads.

Another observed shift, prompted by increased counterdrug activities in the east of the country, 
is the expanded use of routes along the Pacific coast to move drugs.  Areas such as Choluteca (on 
the Pacific coast of the country where Honduras converges with El Salvador to the north and 
Nicaragua to the south) have reported an increase in narcotrafficking activity.  The increased use 
of the Pacific side of the country for drug smuggling is reflected in the unexplained surge in 
upscale houses, hotels, and other establishments in the Pacific-coast province of Choluteca.   The 
expansion of routes on the Pacific side of the country includes the smuggling of cocaine across 
the Nicaraguan border in animals. 

In addition to the displacement of narcotrafficking operations to the Pacific, more drugs are 
reportedly being sent from South America through Costa Rica and Panama, instead of directly to 
Honduras.

Beyond the impact on patterns of trafficking, and the tactics of narcotraffickers, the combination 
of increased interdiction activities, and increased operations against cartel leaders has reportedly 
had an impact on the structure of criminal groups in the country moving narcotics.  Smaller 
groups which were once contractors to major family clans such as the Cachiros, including the 
"Byron Ruiz" organization, Ramon Matta (son of famous cartel leader Juan Ramon Matta), the 
"Olancho Cartel of Moises Amador (who was eliminated in an operation in July 2015), the Sizo 
cartel, and the Brus cartel, are reportedly working in a more independent fashion, generating 
increased violence in some areas of the country as a result.

With respect to gangs (the maras), the intervention of the Military Police has allowed the 
government to re-establish presence in some urban neighborhoods.  The most celebrated case has 
been the re-establishing of state presence in the "Flor de Campo," neighborhood in the south of 
Tegucigalpa, once so dominated by the gangs that the national police could not maintain a 
presence there.    Yet the PMOP has also reportedly restored state presence in other once gang-
ridden neighborhoods as well, including Ulloa, Carrizal, Campo Cielo, and Centavo in the south 
of Tegucigalpa, as well as the El Lato and Barrio Kennedy neighborhoods in the heart of the 
city. 

Despite progress in such neighborhoods, persons consulted for this study generally concurred 
that only limited progress had been made in reducing the level of extortion and other criminal 
activities by the gangs.  Others noted that in some urban neighborhoods, merchants such as taxi 
and bus drivers who once had to pay extortion to three or four different groups, now only have to 
pay off the principal two (B-18 and MS-13).

To some degree, in reaction to the presence of the PMOP and increased activities by Honduran 
law enforcement in general, the groups reportedly are changing their extortion tactics, making 
greater use of radios and other communication alternatives to cell phones, in order to avoid 
government electronic surveillance.  Some gangs are also not only employing children to collect 
extortion payments, but are also obligating non-gang-affiliated civilians to do participate in such 
activities as well, in order not to expose gang  members themselves to law enforcement 
activities.

Challenges for Honduras in the Fight Against Organized Crime
The ability of Honduras to make significant advances against organized crime and insecurity 
must be understood in the context of uncertainty in the continuity of the current government of 
Juan Orlando Hernandez.  As noted in the introduction to this study, throughout 2015, and 
particularly in July, the Hernandez government was confronted by protesters calling themselves 
the "indignant," decrying what they saw as a combination of corruption, and procedural 
irregularities by the President himself and those surrounding him, seeking to enrich themselves, 
and to centralize power, using payoffs and other forms of influence within the nation's 
institutions to marginalize its political opponents. 

Yet such protests do not necessarily reflect a desire to replace the Hernandez government with a 
return to the previous left-of-center regime of Manuel Zelaya, or its contemporary manifestation, 
the LIBRE movement, even if he and his followers hope to capitalize on it as such. 

The continuity of the Hernandez government in power neither assures success in the fight against 
organized crime and insecurity, nor does its fall condemn the nation to devolve into a narco-
state.  Yet at least in the short term, President Hernandez' fall would likely undermine the efforts 
of the government to combat organized crime and insecurity, including the loss of the lessons 
learned from the innovations achieved by his government.  Still, the degree of the negative 
impact would depend on the degree of political chaos generated in the country by his ouster, and 
the orientation of the government that followed.

Beyond the future of the Hernandez government, the greatest challenge for the country in 
combatting transnational organized crime and other sources of insecurity over the medium term 
is arguably corruption.

In addition to the previously mentioned accusations against President Hernandez, the exposure of 
"narco-politicians" such as Jose "Chepe" Handal provide a glimpse into the extent of the 
problem, as does the assassination of politician Juan Gomez in January 2015, which reportedly 
so frightened the leaders of the Cachiros that they fled to the Bahamas the next day to turn 
themselves in to U.S. authorities, rather than face the Honduran justice system.   Similarly, the 
U.S. extradition request against former Honduran Vice-President and the head of the Continental 
Group Jaime Rosenthal,  illustrates how deeply corruption and criminality has infected all parts 
of Honduran politics and the economy.

On the other hand, such corruption, at the highest levels of the Honduran political system, is not 
necessarily centralized in one interested group, and may thus permit innovative or courageous 
politicians to combat organized crime in select areas, while, by design or otherwise, leaving 
other interests untouched.

Below the level of political elites, such corruption within the police force also creates 
particularly difficult obstacles in combatting organized crime and insecurity.  The police must 
interact on an ongoing basis with the population, in which its adversaries have enormous 
resources to both bribe officials and put them and their families at risk.  Such corruption not only 
directly impedes the ability of law enforcement and other government organizations to combat 
criminals, but also undermines their confidence in working together and sharing information, 
thus destroying from the inside the effectiveness of the organization. 

Police Reform.  The elimination of corrupt elements from the national police, and its reform as 
an institution, has gone very slowly.  Although a significant number of polygraphs and other 
confidence testing has been performed, few of the policemen who have failed the confidence 
tests, and even fewer senior level police officials, have been removed.  

The effectiveness of police reform has been limited by three factors: (1) it began from the bottom 
up, not the top down, leaving in place the senior leadership which is arguably a major part of the 
problem, (2) the process lacks the transparency to generate confidence among a public already 
deeply skeptical about political, as well as police corruption, and (3) the replacement of corrupt 
police are impeded by legal and administrative obstacles.

Within the current system, the police' own internal investigative arm, the DICEP (Direccion de 
Investigacion y Evaluacion de la Carrera Policial") can recommend dismissing police officers, 
but does not actually have the authority to fire them.  

Further complicating dismissing police officers suspected of involvement in corruption is a 
culture in which Honduran judges regard polygraph tests as an insufficient basis for firing 
officers. 

In part, Honduran experts interviewed for this analysis suggest that one problem slowing the 
purging of corrupt officials from the Honduran police is the "Organic Law" which defines the 
police organization, and which makes it very difficult to fire officers without a lengthy set of 
procedures and extensive proof of wrongdoing.  Although changes were made to this law in 
2012, those consulted for this study did not regard the modifications as sufficient to make a 
difference.

Even if the Organic Law could be sufficiently modified or replaced, those consulted for this 
study suggested that the extent of corruption uncovered within the police, have exceeded what 
those initiating the reforms initially expected,  making it difficult to fire all of the 
"contaminated" police without destroying the police as an institution, creating an even greater 
problem of public order.

Potential Future PMOP Corruption.  By contrast to the national police, corruption in the PMOP 
and other newly created security organizations has been limited.  Nonetheless, the scandal of the 
$1.3 million in cash stolen by members of the well trained and carefully vetted police unit, the 
"Tigres" illustrates that confidence tests do not establish absolute guarantees of future behavior, 
and highlight that publicly exposed incidents of corruption may damage the organization in ways 
that go far beyond the incident itself.  

In the case of the PMOP, although the organization generally adopts a relatively distant posture 
from the community that it protects, and is subject to frequent rotations of personnel, its 
members are not invulnerable to corruption.  PMOP units, for instance, coincidentally patrol in 
the same areas as regular police, setting the stage for the development of relationships between 
the two, and the transfer of certain improper behaviors or attitudes by the national police to their 
PMOP counterparts.

In less than two years of the existence of PMOP, according to officials from the organization, 
approximately 10% of the force have been dismissed for reasons related to failing confidence 
tests.   While such figures suggest that the system is effective in identifying and eliminating 
personnel at risk of being corrupted, it also illustrates that such risks exist, despite the disciplined 
military culture from which PMOP members are drawn.

Institutional Rivalries.  To a degree, the PMOP has generated discomfort both in the national 
police, which views the organization as a rival police force as well as within the military, which 
supports it, but reportedly has reservations about how its planned separation from the armed 
forces (pursuant to a successful national referendum in 2017 to change the constitution) would 
affect the military as an institution.  

More broadly, there are also other institutional rivalries, including competition for resources for 
investigation between the newly-created police investigative organization ATIC (the brainchild 
of Honduran Attorney General Oscar Fernandez Chinchilla), and the national counter-drug 
organization, DNIC.  Indeed, such rivalry may have played a role in the dismissal of the head of 
DNIC, Issac Santos, in December 2015. 

Intelligence.  Despite an innovative structure and the considerable progress that FUSINA has 
achieved within two years of its formation, the organization reportedly lacks effective 
intelligence capabilities at multiple levels, and the ability to integrate intelligence from the 
organizations that support it to produce complete, timely, actionable knowledge.

FUSINA's military police organization, the PMOP, with the greatest presence on the ground, is 
not only new to police-style intelligence gathering and investigation, but in order to avoid 
corruption, maintains a relative distance  from the local community, impeding the collection of 
information from them.  Although FUSINA interagency task forces at the departmental level 
generally also contain regular police units, an although these police units, experienced in the 
collection of intelligence from the local community, those police are often viewed by their 
military counterparts as unreliable, and their intelligence thus suspect.  In addition, persons 
interviewed for this study spoke of concerns within the military that police units, bitter over the 
formation of the PMOP as an affront to their own competence, may not completely share 
intelligence with the organization, potentially prejudicing FUSINA performance. 

Beyond the PMOP, FUSINA is also hampered in its intelligence capabilities by its dependence 
on multiple outside sources for its intelligence, including data obtained via national technical 
means from the only recently formed DNII, which is still in its infancy (created in 2011), as well 
as intelligence from the PMOP, police units, and investigative organizations such as the DNIC.  
In addition to being new, the fact that the organizations report to different ministries, plus have 
concerns about corruption in the other entities with which they are working, augments the their 
tendency to protect their own intelligence and sources, creating "stovepipes."

Criminal Investigation Capability.  Parallel to the problem with intelligence, Honduras currently 
has numerous parallel organizations performing law enforcement investigation and intelligence, 
including the previously mentioned organizations PMOP, ATIC, DNIC, and DNII (Dirección 
Nacional de Investigación e Inteligencia), among others, with the result that each has access to 
only a piece of relevant knowledge on the criminal activities that they are pursuing, lacks the 
ability to pool resources to meet specific needs, may engage in redundant efforts, and is of 
uneven quality.

FUSINA Interagency Coordination.  Although FUSINA is an innovative design, reflecting the 
incorporation of much thought and operational experience of its creators, the institutional 
compromises required to bring it to fruition arguably generate  problems that hamper it as an 
organization.  To accommodate both police and military organizational equities, for example, 
each FUSINA departmental "inter-agency task force" has a dual command structure, represented 
by both a military and a police official.  While the arrangement avoids placing police officers 
under the direct operational control of a military officer, or vice-versa, at the departmental level, 
it also complicates accountability, and creates ambiguity regarding the chain of command. 
In practice such issues are generally worked out without difficulty on an interpersonal basis 
between the military and police commanders in charge, with the military head of the task force 
taking orders directly from the military officer who heads FUSINA, while the police commander 
of the task force receives his orders from the deputy commander of FUSINA, who is a member 
of the police.  This arrangement reportedly works so long as there is not significant disagreement 
about the operation, either between the police and military leader at the task force level, or 
between the head of FUSINA and his police deputy commander. 

While generally police officers are not put directly under military officers, this has occurred at 
least once at the departmental level, in Olancho, where three Tigre (national police) units were 
put under control of the local military officer, due to the complete removal of the police in the 
zone because of corruption charges.  Although the arrangement was made to function, 
knowledgeable persons interviewed for this report acknowledged that it generated some tension.
FUSINA Administrative Challenges.  As with any new organization, there are a number of 
operational difficulties that have emerged within the FUSINA structure that have caused tension, 
and are still being worked out.  Regular (non-PMOP) military officers within the FUSINA 
structure, for example, do not receive additional pay or compensation for incidental expenses 
while deployed to locations far from their permanent home and family.  According to persons 
consulted for this study, the workload of local FUSINA commanders also can be onerous by 
comparison to that of regular military officers, insofar as that they are "double-hatted," with 
responsibilities for the military unit that they are head of, as well as for the inter-agency 
coordination of the FUSINA task force that they command, each of which can be a full-time 
responsibility.

Finally, the frequent rotation of personnel assigned to FUSINA, done in order to avoid the 
"corruption" of units from their prolonged exposure to the persons of one area, also has 
reportedly put a significant burden on the organization--particularly command staffs at the 
interagency task force (departmental) level.

Honduras-Guatemala Border Control.  Currently, the vast majority of drugs entering Honduras 
through the Atlantic coast cross the Honduras-Guatemala border on their journey to the north.  
The border has traditionally been difficult to control, due to the large number of informal border 
crossings ("puntos ciegos"), combined with persons owning adjoining properties on both sides of 
the border, facilitating passage from one side to the other.  Control of the border is also 
compounded by the corruption of police and the historic absence of state presence.

The Honduran government has significantly expanded its activities in the area through Task 
Force Maya-Chorti.  It has sought to close many of the informal crossings, and has arguably 
employed the PMOP in order to lessen the effects of corruption.  Yet in controlling the border, it 
continues to be challenged by the sheer volume of drugs seeking to move through the area, and 
the constantly changing, innovative tactics used by narcotraffickers to cross.

A new free trade accord signed between Honduras and Guatemala in February 2015,  and 
entering into effect December 15 of the same year,  is likely to increase the volume of 
legitimate trade crossing the border, creating more opportunities for narcotraffickers to conceal 
the flow of drugs and other illicit goods, in such flows. 

Compounding the difficulties presented by the free trade accord in controlling border traffic, the 
opening of an improved highway from Choluteca (where Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua 
converge in the Gulf of Fonseca), to Puerto Cortez, in the north,  begun in August 2015,  may 
increase further illicit shipments crossing the country from south to north toward the that border.
Money Laundering.  Money laundering by criminal organizations is a growing problem in 
Honduras.

The Honduran economy is arguably less convenient for money laundering than neighboring El 
Salvador, which uses the U.S. dollar as its currency, or Panama, with its large infrastructure for 
international finance.  Yet money laundering in Honduras, including in the remote east of the 
country, as well as urban areas such as Tegucigalpa-Comayagüela and San Pedro Sula, is 
reportedly increasing.   

 In December 2014, acknowledging the problem, the Honduran government passed an important 
new anti-laundering law.   Yet perhaps the extent of the problem was highlighted most 
dramatically in October 2015 when the Honduran government shut down Continental Bank, the 
largest financial firm in the country,  based on charges by the U.S. Treasury Department that 
the bank was involved in laundering drug money for the transportistas organization "Los 
Cachiros." 

Human Rights.  While the number of alleged human rights violations involving the Honduran 
military, to date, has been limited, the number of accusations have increased since the formation 
of the PMOP,  whose creation and role fighting crime has given it high public visibility, and 
which arguably has the greatest regular interaction with the population, although as noted 
previously, more limited than regular police units.

While the PMOP leadership appears to take its role seriously in both exerting controls and 
providing human rights training to its personnel, training courses are not always adequate to 
prevent bad actions by all personnel.  

In addition, some consulted for this study argued that the possibility for improper treatment of 
the population is increased by the military character of the organization, fueling a disposition of 
some members to view the areas to which they are assigned as "enemy territory" filled with gang 
members, narcos, and other criminals, thus setting the stage for abuses to occur.  

On the other side, it is to be expected that the criminal elements or others whose activities are 
impaired by the PMOP presence, will be tempted to leverage the "suspicion" with which some 
members of Honduran society view the organization  and file complaints or make statements to 
the media that discredit the organization, in order to hamper its freedom of action.

Leadership by Civilian Institutions.  While the innovative solutions adopted by the Hernandez 
regime are not necessarily "undemocratic," for some they generate concern regarding the 
character of democracy in the country.  A December 2014 report by the Inter-American 
Commission on Human Rights, for example, expressed concern that through the law authorizing 
PMOP, the government was assigning to the military regular citizen security tasks that were not 
necessarily appropriate to the nature of the military as an institution. 

It is of note that the PMOP oath does not begin with words regarding their protection or service 
to the citizenry of Honduras, but with the words "I am a military professional..."   

Although arguably necessary in the short term, the privileging of the military, via FUSINA and 
PMOP, as the principal tool for combatting organized crime and insecurity in the country, 
reflects a widespread belief among many in the military, the current government, and also in the 
population at large, that civilian institutions have proven themselves incapable of providing the 
basic goods required by Honduras. 

Within this framework, the success of PMOP, in conjunction with the powers conferred upon its 
members such as legal detention, arguably contributes to a pattern in which the military prefers 
to work with the organization, rather than civilian police, even elite forces, when conducting 
operations against criminal organizations, reinforcing the tendency to exclude the national police 
from key citizen security functions. 

Another troubling aspect of the FUSINA framework is the blurred line between the positive goal 
of inter-agency coordination, and the integration of separate parts of the government in the name 
of efficiency, in a manner that subtly undermines checks and balances between organs of 
government, and potentially impairs due process of law for those accused of wrongdoing.  

Although prosecutors and judges supporting FUSINA technically retain their independence from 
the military units with which they work, their co-location under the same military commander, 
and their close working relationship with and dependence on the military units to protect and 
sustain them, is a powerful if subtle inducement for those prosecutors and judges to identify with 
the perspective of those conducting the operation. Indeed, officials interviewed for this study, for 
example, characterized one benefit of FUSINA as allowing "all of the branches of government" 
to work together against the enemy.

It is also not clear, in practical terms, when and how law enforcement functions will be returned 
from the military to the police.  As noted previously, although Plan Morazán establishes a 
timetable for the transition back to civilian control, with the arrival of January 2016, which was 
supposed to have been the end of the "Domination" phase of the plan, despite notable 
improvements in public security, persisting challenges seemed to argue against moving to the 
"Consolidation" phase in which control is theoretically to be returned to civilian institutions.  For 
example, the reform of deeply corrupted police institutions, whose dysfunctionality, widely cited 
as an important justification for the PMOP, is proceeding very slowly.  Similarly, in a response 
to a public statement by U.S. Congressman Tim Kaine, following his February 2015 visit to 
Honduras, President Hernandez affirmed that, while the role of the military in Honduras would 
be slowly reduced as conditions permitted, there was no commitment to eliminate the PMOP. 
Relationship with the U.S.  While the U.S.-Honduran relationship was almost universally 
characterized as positive by Honduran officials and others interviewed for this study, the 
sometimes divergent priorities of the Honduran and U.S. government generate friction.   

On the U.S. side, the Obama administration has sought to downplay the use of military tools in its 
engagement with the country.  It has not substantially assisted or engaged with the PMOP as the 
core security initiative of the Hernandez administration.  Nor has it supported the Hernandez 
administration's "air shield" initiative, possibly out of concern that an aircraft could be downed 
with innocent passengers aboard.  Indeed, in April 2014, after Honduras passed its new law 
authorizing aerial interceptions, the U.S. suspended the providing of radar data to the country 
that might be used to support such intercepts. 

In the wake of the previously mentioned protests and allegations against the Hernandez 
administration during 2015, the U.S. has also sought to strike a balance between supporting the 
government and acknowledging the opposition.  In the official 2015 "Fourth of July" celebration 
at the U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa, for example, invitees from the Honduran government found 
the embassy compound decorated with unlit torches, of the same type as those which became the 
national symbol for protest against the Hernandez administration.  In July 2015, when the U.S. 
Senate approved funding for a Guatemalan-style foreign juridical organization to investigate 
serious crimes in the country (CICIG),  Honduran protesters took their march against the 
Hernandez administration to the U.S. embassy, where they were received by U.S. ambassador 
James Nealon, before marching on the Honduran Presidential Palace. 

While President Hernandez is widely characterized as a conservative, pro-U.S. businessman, he 
is arguably more susceptible to turn away from the U.S., if backed into a corner, than is 
commonly recognized.  The President comes from a difficult family background and has 
arguably succeeded through his own determination and skill, and through the help of key family 
members such as his brother Marco Agosto Hernandez, in rising first to the leadership of the 
Honduran Congress, and later the Presidency in a cutthroat political system.  Honduran analysts 
consulted for this study argue that while President Hernandez recognizes the importance of the 
United States as an enabler of the prosperity of the nation (and to an extent, to the success of his 
own security plan), he arguably does not identify with the more traditional Honduran elites, 
whom he sees as having long bowed to the interests of the United States.

By contrast, President Hernandez reportedly enjoys a close personal relationship with Ecuadoran 
President Rafael Correa (who himself harbors deep personal animosity toward the United 
States), and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.  Moreover, President Hernandez' political 
mentor and predecessor in the Presidential Palace, Porfirio ("Pepe") Lobo Sosa, did his 
undergraduate studies in the revolutionary, anti-U.S. Patrice Lumumba University in the former 
Soviet Union. 

Such relationships and background do not make President Hernandez anti-U.S., but serve as a 
caution that, if pushed into a difficult political position by the U.S., he could turn to a more anti 
U.S., populist path.

Replacing the Criminal Economy.  A growing concern is how the government's operations 
against criminal organizations impacts t the people employed by them. The three sources of 
employment most frequently mentioned in this regard were (1) the payment of local persons 
(principally living in impoverished areas in the east of the country) for unloading shipments of 
narcotics from boats and aircraft, and in some cases, helping to transport it overland, (2) persons 
working in the estates of narcotraffickers, or surrounding communities, left without work and 
living spaces when those residences were seized, and (3) legitimate busiensses associated with 
the activities of persons and groups involved in criminality.  The previously noted October 2015 
government move against Banco Continental and its umbrella organization, Grupo Continental 
(the largest business organization in the country) highlights the potential of the anti-crime 
campaign to produce unemployment and hardship in the short term. 

Freezing or destruction of commercial activities in the course of going after criminal groups 
could have an unintended consequence:  those losing work could turn to criminal activities 
themselves.  While there has been talk of compensating those put out of work by the seizure of 
criminal businesses,  such assistance has traditionally not been included as part of the 
government plan against criminal organizations.  Moreover, Honduran government organizations 
associated with economic and labor matters, which could help address the adverse side effects of 
the government's campaign against criminality, are not included within the national security 
cabinet, nor in the group of interagency players under the operational control of FUSINA. 
Urban Culture of Gangs, Violence, and Poverty.  The major urban areas of Honduras, 
particularly Tegucigalpa-Comayagüela, San Pedro Sula, and to some degree La Ceiba, have been 
impacted for more than a decade by not only poverty and inequality, but also by the culture of 
violent crime and gangs.  Such culture has been reinforced by the sustained emigration of 
Hondurans from the country, seeking employment and better conditions in the United States and 
elsewhere, contributing to the absence of fathers, and in many cases, mothers as well.  While the 
PMOP is making progress in restoring government presence and a sense of security in some 
urban neighborhoods such as Flor de Campo (as noted previously) it must contend with the 
corrosive effects of a society with greatly weakened family structures and few economic 
opportunities, in which violence and crime has become the norm.

Most people interviewed for the present study did not perceive social and economic development 
programs to be a significant portion of the inter-agency security plan of the Hernandez 
government, yet such programs arguably need to be instituted at some point if the peace achieved 
through the PMOP in select areas of the country is to be sustainable.
Recommendations for U.S. Policymakers

Adequate Level of U.S. Financial Support for Honduras.  During the six years prior to the 
crisis spawned in Washington D.C. in 2014 by Central American child migrants, the United 
States spent a total of $600 million on Central America as a whole, yet the Obama administration 
was forced to commit $3.7 billion within a matter of weeks to deal with the refugee crisis.  That 
crisis arguably contributed to the Administration's request of $1 billion in funding for the 
countries of the northern triangle in 2016, of which approximately $750 million was approved by 
the U.S. Congress in December 2015.   In the coming years as well, it is imperative that the 
level of assistance to the region correspond to its strategic importance and potentially adversarial 
impact on the U.S. if the economic and governance structures in the region were to degenerate.
While U.S. support for Honduras should not focus exclusively, or excessively on security 
matters, a security assistance component which corresponds to the relative needs and priorities of 
Honduras, as a U.S. partner, is a necessary part of a holistic package for a prosperous, stable, 
democratic country.

Prudent Engagement on Military Police and Air Interdiction.  While the U.S. may prefer that 
Honduras pursues an approach to organized crime that is less reliant on the military, to avoid 
supporting its government in important areas of its program against organized crime, such as the 
PMOP and aerial interdiction,  arguably undercuts the success of Honduras' security efforts, 
while also damaging the U.S.-Honduras relationship.  It also undercuts the ability to improve the 
degree to which such programs are done with maximum respect for citizen rights and civilian 
safety.

Concerns over excessive militarization of law enforcement, or possible human rights abuses by 
the newly formed PMOP force should be addressed by supporting the force in a manner that 
offers constructive recommendations and technical or educational support for avoiding problems.
Similarly, with respect to air interdiction, the U.S. should provide support, where possible, in the 
domain of radar data, intelligence, and perhaps even support for Honduras aging F-5 interceptor 
aircraft, in conjunction with working with Honduras on protocols and training to avoid shooting 
down an innocent aircraft.  While not supporting activities related to Honduras' air interdiction 
program may help the U.S. to keep its "hands clean" Active U.S. engagement with Honduras in 
this area is arguably the best way to avoid the loss of innocent lives.

Focus on Technology, Intelligence, and Training Support.  Honduran experts consulted for this 
study emphasized that the items most desired from the U.S. in terms of assistance for Honduras' 
security program include police and security technology, technical intelligence support, and 
training in a range of police and counter-organized crime matters.  
Options for U.S. support which reflect both Honduran needs and U.S. sources of comparative 
advantage include providing national technical means f intelligence support to supplement the 
abilities of Honduras new national intelligence organization, the DNII.  Other options include 
law enforcement and investigative technical training to the PMOP, real time intelligence 
coordination for Honduras' Air and Land Shield operations, as well as its maritime efforts, 
technology to support Honduran anti-money laundering and financial crimes efforts, sensors to 
augment control of the Guatemala border, and intelligence and special operations training to 
support campaigns against the leadership of both narcotrafficking organizations and maras.
With respect to communications, Hondurans with experience in patrols in the remote eastern area 
of the country mentioned the need for radios permitting coordination between air, ground, and 
maritime assets, as well as more and better Night vision goggles.

Look for Innovative Material Solutions.  With respect to material support, Honduran experts 
consulted for this study mentioned unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as a capability which could 
save money and manpower spent on naval and aircraft patrols in remote areas like la Mosquitia, 
as well as helping them to position manned patrol and interception assets more effectively.  They 
also mentioned the need for a greater number of shallow-bottomed craft for riverine patrols and 
interception, perhaps to include fan-powered "swamp boats" such as those used to navigate the 
everglades in the U.S. 

Strengthen Institutional Ties in Professional Military Education.  To both build confidence in 
the U.S.-Honduras institutional relationship, and to strengthen institutional capability in 
Honduras in support of its security program, the U.S. should expand scholarships for Hondurans 
to attend courses in U.S. Security and Defense institutions such as the Western Hemisphere 
Institute for National Security Center (WHINSEC), the U.S. Army Command and General Staff 
College, and the U.S. Army War College.  

Indeed, in addition to constructing capabilities to combat narcotrafficking and organized crime, 
and strengthening relationships of confidence with the U.S., the use of Latin America-oriented 
schoolhouses such as WHINSEC also facilitates bonds between Honduran officers, and those 
from other nations of the region, such as Guatemala.  Persons interviewed for the present study 
highlighted such ties, forges in institutions such as WHINSEC, as facilitating operational and 
intelligence cooperation on the borders, and in shared maritime domains that narcotraffickers 
seek to cross.

Support Expanded U.S. Coast Guard Ties with the Honduran Navy.  Within the framework of 
providing more effective support the Honduran "maritime shield," the U.S. should explore ways 
to strengthen education and training ties and personnel exchanges between the Honduran Navy 
and the U.S. Coast Guard, given that the Coast Guard is arguably well matched to the 
capabilities and mission set of the Honduran Navy, and already has ample experience in 
engaging with it on maritime security matters.   Indeed, in an interview with Honduran Naval 
personnel, greater interactions with the Coast Guard was uniquely singled out as an item that 
could benefit the Honduran Navy.

Work Where Possible with the Interamerican System.  As illustrated in this study, 
narcotrafficking, gangs, and other transnational crime phenomenon is a problem with sources 
and effects that go far beyond Honduras borders.  Indeed, the nation has nine distinct maritime 
borders (two in the Pacific, seven in the Caribbean).  These borders, and unresolved differences 
over them, are exploited by narcotraffickers in moving drugs through the region.  On the other 
hand, as noted in the report, Honduras' neighbors, particularly Nicaragua, as well as Colombia, 
are some of its most important sources of intelligence, as well as key to operational coordination 
in addressing the challenge.  

While the importance of a multinational approach to the challenge of organized crime in 
Honduras' is thus evident, the question of "which" multinational approach is also important.  
Honduran officials interviewed for this report noted how institutions of the Interamerican 
system, such as the Conference of Central American Armed Forces (CFAC), and the Inter-
American Defense College have helped in facilitating contacts and fluid coordination between 
their nations.  

The Inter-American system is particularly relevant in addressing Honduras' challenge because it 
contains existing structures relevant to both the security and developmental dimension of the 
Honduran challenge, while at the same time including the U.S., which is a key actor with respect 
to both the destination for narcotics and persons transiting Honduras, as well for intelligence, 
interdiction, development support, and other aspects of the solution.

Leverage CAFTA-DR for Economic Support.  As noted in the body of this report, the 
Hernandez security concept arguably needs a strong development component to succeed, in 
order to replace the money taken out of the criminal economy by successful government actions 
against the narcotraffickers, to create meaningful development in urban areas to build 
alternatives to desperation, and (with time), to chip away at the culture of violence and 
criminality in the country.  In the context of such development needs, the U.S. has an important 
vehicle in place for expanded trade an investment in Honduras, in the form of the CAFTA-DR 
Free Trade Agreement.  Within this framework, the U.S. Department of Commerce should to 
work more closely with the Hernandez administration to promote expanded U.S. investment in, 
and trade with Honduras, leveraging the tax and other advantages accruing to businesses 
investing in Honduras and producing (at least in part) for the U.S. market under CAFTA-DR, as 
well as the relative proximity of Honduras to the U.S.  The U.S. and its Honduran counterparts 
must simultaneously work to eliminate impediments to such investments, including concerns by 
U.S. and other multinational companies regarding security, investment protection, infrastructure 
and labor issues.

Conclusion
Honduras is at a pivotal moment with respect to its struggle against the transnational crime and 
insecurity that have torn the nation, and its neighbors in the region apart during the last decade.  
The crisis of 60,000 unaccompanied migrant children from Central America during the summer 
of 2014 illustrates the U.S. is connected to what happens in the country through ties of 
geography, economic relations, and family, and thus has an important stake in the country's 
success in resolving the challenges that currently confront it.  

The current Honduran approach to addressing the security challenges confronting the nation is 
creative, intelligent, and pragmatic, if imperfect, and it is producing positive results.  The success 
of the security plan of the Hernandez administration is important not only to the future of the 
country and the region, but also to the U.S., which is bound to Honduras by ties of commerce, 
geography, and family.

If the concept of the U.S. managing its relations with Latin America and the Caribbean through a 
framework of mutual respect is to have any meaning, it must have the political courage to help 
its partners in the way that they want to be helped, taking the risk that mistakes may be made 
along the way that may not paint the U.S. in a positive light, but doing everything possible to 
make sure that those efforts succeed.  

For Honduras, and for Latin America and the Caribbean more broadly, the willingness to take 
such risks, is the essence of the friendship and the posture of respect that it values.

Dr. Evan Ellis is research professor of Latin American Studies at the Strategic Studies Institute 
of the U.S. Army War College.  The views expressed in this paper are strictly his own.

This article was first published at U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute.
page3image5960
The Strategic Studies Institute publishes national security and strategic research and analysis to in uence policy debate and bridge the gap between military and academia. 



  Dana Frank, "Protests light up long Honduran night," Miami Herald, July 16, 2015, 
http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/from-our-inbox/article27393925.html.
  Gustavo Palencia, "Honduras president: graft-linked companies helped fund my campaign," 
Reuters, June 3, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-honduras-corruption-
idUSKBN0OJ26B20150603.
  David Alire Garcia, "Top Honduran court paves way for presidents to seek re-election," 
Reuters, April 23, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/23/us-honduras-reelection-
ruling-idUSKBN0NE2TA20150423.
  See "La destitución fue conversada con Rivera Avilés: Juan Orlando Hernández," La Prensa, 
December 14, 2012, http://www.laprensa.hn/especiales/377758-273/la-destitución-fue-
conversada-con-rivera-avilés-juan-orlando-hernández.
  Iris Amador, "Honduras Records Significant Decrease in Violence as Armed Forces and Police 
Remain Vigilant," Dialogo, September 21, 2015, http://dialogo-
americas.com/en_GB/articles/rmisa/features/2015/09/21/feature-05.
  "Honduras ha reducido un 98.11 % aterrizaje de avionetas con droga en 5 años," El Nuevo 
Diario, October 1, 2015, http://www.elnuevodiario.com.ni/internacionales/372236-honduras-ha-
reducido-98-11-aterrizaje-avionetas-dr/.
  David Gagne, "US Official Praises Honduras Efforts to Combat Drug Trafficking," Insight 
Crime, May 5, 2015, http://www.insightcrime.org/news-briefs/us-official-praises-honduras-anti-
drug-trafficking-efforts.
  See "Victims caught in Honduras drugs crossfire," BBC News, July 16, 2012, 
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/hardtalk/9737563.stm.
  David Nakamura and Wesley Lowery, "White House requests $3.7 billion in emergency funds 
for border crisis," Washington Post, July 8, 2014, 
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/white-house-to-seek-38-billion-for-border-control-
more-than-previously-signaled/2014/07/08/ac95a56e-06a9-11e4-bbf1-cc51275e7f8f_story.html.
  U.S. Agencies Considered Various Factors in Funding Security Activities, but Need to Assess 
Progress in Achieving Interagency Objectives, GAO-13-771, Washington DC: General 
Accounting Office, September 13, 2013, http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/658145.pdf.
  See "Cocaine from South America to the United States," United Nations Office of Drugs and 
Crime Prevention, 
http://www.unodc.org/documents/toc/Reports/TOCTASouthAmerica/English/TOCTA_CACarib
b_cocaine_SAmerica_US.pdf.
  See, for example, "Trial of Honduran Drug Kingpin Matta Opens," Los Angeles Times, 
October 6, 1990, http://articles.latimes.com/1990-10-06/local/me-1378_1_drug-kingpin.
  See, for example, "Central America after Hurricane Mitch," Inter-American Development 
Bank, February 2000, http://www.iadb.org/regions/re2/consultative_group/backgrounder2.htm.
  See, for example, Steven C. Boraz and Thomas C. Bruneau, "Are the Maras Overwhelming 
Central America," Military Review, November-December 2006, 
http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/MilitaryReview/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20061231_art0
07.pdf.
  Helene Cooper and Marc Lacey, "In a Coup in Honduras, Ghosts of Past U.S. Policies," New 
York Times, June 29, 2009, 
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/30/world/americas/30honduras.html?_r=0.
  The country was, for example, suspended from the Organization of American States.  See 
"Honduras suspended from OAS," CNN, July 5, 2009, 
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/07/05/honduras.coup.OAS/index.html.
  See, for example, Ginger Thompson, "U.S. Suspends $30 Million to Honduras," New York 
Times, September 3, 2009, 
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/04/world/americas/04honduras.html.
  These dynamics were reinforced by an increase in control over the Petén region in neighboring 
Guatemala, which had previously been used as a key stop in the movement of drugs through 
Central America.
  Hondurans consulted for this study believe that the men believed that they would have a higher 
probability of survival within the U.S. justice system, than facing justice in Honduras.
  "Honduran police detain alleged drug kingpin 'Chepe' Handal," Reuters, March 13, 2015, 
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-honduras-drugs-idUSKBN0M90HK20150313
  "Leaders of Honduran Drug Cartel Face Federal Drug and Money Laundering Charges in the 
Eastern District of Virginia," Federal Bureau of Investigation Official Website, December 19, 
2014, https://www.fbi.gov/washingtondc/press-releases/2014/leaders-of-honduran-drug-cartel-
face-federal-drug-and-money-laundering-charges-in-the-eastern-district-of-virginia.
  See, for example, Sam Tabory, "Arrests Add to Murky Picture of Crime-Politics Links in 
Honduras," Insight Crime, August 19, 2015, http://www.insightcrime.com/news-briefs/arrests-
add-murky-honduras-picture-crime-political-relationship.
  "Cabecilla del cartel de los AA está enmontañado," El Heraldo, November 5, 2015, 
http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/898146-466/cabecilla-del-cartel-de-los-aa-est%C3%A1-
enmonta%C3%B1ado.
  "Honduras Narco-Sub Caught Smuggling Cocaine," The Huffington Post, September 13, 2011, 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/14/honduras-narco-sub_n_898432.html.
  Some drug shipments are believed to have spent a year or more stored in concealed locations 
in Honduras before proceeding on the next leg of their journey.
  See, for example, Jacobo G. Garcia, "'El 'Chapo Guzmán' podría encontrarse en Honduras'," El 
Mundo, November 20, 2013, 
http://www.elmundo.es/internacional/2013/11/19/528bbd5261fd3d914e8b457a.html.
  Steven Dudley, "The Zetas in Guatemala," InsightCrime, September 8, 2011, 
http://www.insightcrime.org/images/PDFs/2016/InSight_Crime_The_Zetas_in_Guatemala.pdf.
  Jeremy McDermott, "The Zetas Set Up Shop in Honduras," InsightCrime, February 4, 2013, 
http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/zetas-set-up-in-honduras.
  "Carteles mexicanos en labores de reclutamiento en Honduras," El Heraldo, May 29, 2015, 
http://www.elheraldo.hn/alfrente/844491-209/carteles-mexicanos-en-labores-de-reclutamiento-
en-honduras.
  Such laboratories possibly using cocaine base smuggled into the country from Colombia.  
Nonetheless, other experts interviewed for this report assessed that the logic of moving cocaine 
base made such activity unlikely.
  "Hallazgo de narco laboratorio, otra puntada en el laberinto del crimen organizado en 
Honduras," El Proceso, March , 2011, http://www.proceso.hn/component/k2/item/54953.html.
  "Destruyen "narcolaboratorio" en Omoa, Cortés, Honduras," El Criterio, July 23, 2015, 
http://criterio.hn/destruyen-narco-laboratorio-en-omoa-cortes/.
  Randall C. Archibold, "Gangs' Truce Buys El Salvador a Tenuous Peace," New York Times, 
August 27, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/28/world/americas/in-el-salvador-gang-
truce-brings-tenuous-peace.html.
  "Mareros en Honduras proponen tregua, anuncia Emiliani," La Prensa, August 15, 2013, 
http://www.laprensa.hn/honduras/sanpedrosula/338500-98/mareros-en-honduras-proponen-
tregua-anuncia-emiliani.
  "No hay tregua entre pandillas de Honduras," El Heraldo, July 4, 2014, 
http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/581528-214/no-hay-tregua-entre-pandillas-de-honduras.
  "Honduras: Los Chirizos, banda heredera del "Gato Negro"," El Heraldo, April 22, 2015, 
http://www.elheraldo.hn/alfrente/833604-209/honduras-los-chirizos-banda-heredera-del-gato-
negro.
  "Entramos a la "cueva del diablo" (VIDEO)," La Tribuna, February 16, 2015, 
http://www.latribuna.hn/2015/02/16/entramos-a-la-cueva-del-diablo-video/.
  "Los Benjamins son trasladados a cárcel de máxima seguridad," La Prensa, December 19, 
2015, http://www.laprensa.hn/inicio/912710-417/los-benjamins-son-trasladados-a-c%E1rcel-de-
m%E1xima-seguridad.
  Héctor Calíx, "Honduras: Reforma a "ley antimaras" llega al CN," El Heraldo, March 17, 
2015, http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/823301-214/honduras-reforma-a-ley-antimaras-llega-al-cn.
  "Profesionales universitarios son miembros de Mara 18," El Heraldo, August 6, 2014, 
http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/735969-214/profesionales-universitarios-son-miembros-de-mara-
18.
  "Honduras: Infiltrados, el cáncer en la policía," Mafia&Co, March 7, 2011, 
https://mafiaandco.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/honduras-infiltrados-el-cancer-en-la-policia/.
  "Congreso prohíbe dos pasajeros en moto," El Heraldo, April 7, 2014, 
http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/568000-214/congreso-prohibe-dos-pasajeros-en-moto.
  "Reconciliación internacional desplazó agenda del presidente Porfirio Lobo," El Heraldo, 
April 7, 2014, http://www.elheraldo.hn/alfrente/564768-209/reconciliacion-internacional-
desplazo-agenda-del-presidente-porfirio-lobo.
  Victor Meza, Edmundo Orellana, Leticia Salomón, Thelma Mejia, and Feliz Molina, La 
Militarización de la seguridad publica en Honduras.  Tegucigalpa, Honduras: Centro de 
Documentación de Honduras, 2015, p. 39.
  Although serious allegations of corruption have been raised against President Hernandez 
himself, the consensus of those interviewed for this study is that, whether or not true, the 
President nonetheless had a serious desire to combat organized crime, and regarded the main 
body of the national police as too corrupted to be the principal tool in this activity.
  Nonetheless, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reportedly exercises a significant operational 
role in the organization, with and through its operational head, beyond the orders which may 
come down in his name.
  Indeed, FUSINA's own mission statement places its activities "in the framework of Operation 
Morazán."
  This operation, conducted in February 2013, was focused on San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa.
  Nonetheless, as of January 2016, the government had not made any public statement regarding 
the shift from the "Domination" phase to the "Consolidation" phase of Plan Morazon.
  Honduran officials consulted for this report estimated that 75% of Honduran naval assets or 
more could be rapidly assigned to FUSINA if needed for an operation.
  According to Honduran National Police officials consulted for this study, such organizations 
may potentially support, and be supported by FUSINA, but do not generally dedicate persons to 
the organization on an ongoing basis.
  At the time of this writing, the "Public Ministry" had assigned a total of 24 
investigators/prosecutors to FUSINA.
  See "Decreto No. 168-2013," Gaceta Oficial, No. 33, 211, August 24, 2013, 
http://www.tsc.gob.hn/leyes/Ley_Policia_militar_orden_publico_2013.pdf.
  See, for example, "Honduras: Dictan detención judicial a la esposa de "Chepe" Handal,"El 
Heraldo, March 21, 2015, http://www.elheraldo.hn/sucesos/824440-219/honduras-dictan-
detenci%C3%B3n-judicial-a-la-esposa-de-chepe-handal.
  "Congreso de Honduras rechaza rango constitucional para Policía Militar," Nación, January 
24, 2015, http://www.nacion.com/mundo/centroamerica/Congreso-Honduras-constitucional-
Policia-Militar_0_1465453540.html.
  "Congreso de Honduras rechaza rango constitucional para Policía Militar," Nación, January 
24, 2015, http://www.nacion.com/mundo/centroamerica/Congreso-Honduras-constitucional-
Policia-Militar_0_1465453540.html.
  Technically, the Tigres were created before the PMOP, with an enabling law in June 2012. 
"Más dudas que confianza genera creación de TIGRES: Conadeh," May 20, 2013, Honduprensa, 
https://honduprensa.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/mas-dudas-que-confianza-genera-creacion-de-
tigres-conadeh/.
  "Oficiales hondureños detrás del robo millonario a los Valle," Teleprogreso TV, December 12, 
2014, http://www.teleprogreso.tv/micanal/?p=48821.  According to one account, the amount 
seized was even greater, but the additional cash has never been uncovered and returned.
  "Honduras: Junto a su hermano capturan a líder del cartel de los Valle," El Heraldo, October 
5, 2014, http://www.elheraldo.hn/inicio/754734-331/honduras-junto-a-su-hermano-capturan-a-
l%C3%ADder-del-cartel-de-los.
  "Depuración de la Policía es una burla a la sociedad," El Heraldo, July 5, 2015, 
http://www.elheraldo.hn/alfrente/856134-331/depuraci%C3%B3n-de-la-polic%C3%ADa-es-
una-burla-a-la-sociedad.
  "Fiscal destituye al director de la DLCN," El Heraldo, December 16, 2015, 
http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/911914-466/fiscal-destituye-al-director-de-la-dlcn.
  "Honduras y Rusia firmarán convenio contra las drogas," El Heraldo, April 7, 2014, 
http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/329870-214/honduras-y-rusia-firmaran-convenio-contra-las-
drogas.
  See, for example, "FUSINA Repels Honduran Drug Gangs in Mosquito Coast Region," 
Dialogo, June 16, 2015, http://dialogo-
americas.com/en_GB/articles/rmisa/features/2015/06/16/feature-05.
  "Honduras aprueba derribar aviones sospechosos de narcotráfico," BBC, January 18, 2014, 
http://www.bbc.com/mundo/ultimas_noticias/2014/01/140118_ultnot_honduras_autoriza_derrib
o_aviones_sospechosos_drogas_lav.
  "Honduras compra radares a Israel por $30 millones," El Economista, December 19, 2013, 
http://www.eleconomista.net/2013/12/19/honduras-compra-radares-a-israel-por-30-millones.
  James Bargent, "US Halts Honduras Cooperation Over Narco-Plane Shoot Down Law," 
InsightCrime, April 1, 2014, http://www.insightcrime.org/news-briefs/us-halts-honduras-
cooperation-over-narco-plane-shoot-down-law.
  See, for example, "Honduras: Fuerza Aérea halla narcoavioneta en La Mosquitia," La Prensa, 
March 24, 2014, http://www.laprensa.hn/inicio/626506-96/honduras-fuerza-aerea-halla-
narcoavioneta-en-la-mosquitia.
  "FF AA destruyen ocho pistas de narcos," La Prensa, August 15, 2013, 
http://www.laprensa.hn/honduras/tegucigalpa/378986-98/ff-aa-destruyen-ocho-pistas-de-narcos.
  On the other hand, one tactic reportedly employed by narcotraffickers in the area is to 
"borrow" tractors from local businessmen, and later returning them to their owners, complicating 
the identification of the network of persons in the local area supporting the narcotraffickers.
  See, for example, "Coast Guard offloads 25 tons of cocaine seized in Eastern Pacific drug 
transit zone," U.S. Southern Command, Official Website, November 20, 2015, 
http://www.southcom.mil/newsroom/Pages/Coast-Guard-offloads-25-tons-of-cocaine-seized-in-
Eastern-Pacific-drug-transit-zone.aspx.
  See, for example, "Honduras y Nicaragua llaman a paz en el golfo," La Prensa Grafica, May 
10, 2014, http://www.laprensagrafica.com/2014/05/10/honduras-y-nicaragua-llaman-a-paz-en-el-
golfo.
  See, for example,"Pugna entre El Salvador y Honduras por una isla," Nacion, September 3, 
2013, http://www.nacion.com/mundo/centroamerica/Pugna-Salvador-Honduras-
isla_0_1363863632.html.
  "Fuerza Maya-Chorti en Honduras," Defensa, April 10, 2015, 
http://www.defensa.com/frontend/defensa/fuerza-maya-chorti-honduras-vn15253-vst167.
  "Ley de Inteligencia es ambigua y débil," El Heraldo, July 4, 2014, 
http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/574608-214/ley-de-inteligencia-es-ambigua-y-debil.  See also 
Thelma Mejia, "Cold War Policies Revived by Honduran Intelligence Law," Inter Press Service, 
February 2, 2013, http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/02/cold-war-policies-revived-by-honduran-
intelligence-law/.
  According to at least one source interviewed for this study, Nicaragua is one of the most 
important sources of intelligence data for FUSINA and Honduran law enforcement.
  "Honduras detains leaders of Central American drug gang," Reuters, October 5, 2014, 
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-honduras-drugs-idUSKCN0HU0WP20141005.
  See, for example, "Fusina incrementa seguridad en 15 mercados de la capital," El Heraldo, 
November 6, 2015, http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/898213-466/fusina-incrementa-seguridad-en-
15-mercados-de-la-capital.  See also "Fusina destruye puntos ciegos en frontera con Guatemala," 
El Heraldo, January 20, 2015, http://www.elheraldo.hn/sucesos/787172-219/fusina-destruye-
puntos-ciegos-en-frontera-con-guatemala.  See also "Fusina incauta 55 paquetes de droga en 
registro a bus," El Heraldo, December 3, 2015, http://www.elheraldo.hn/inicio/907921-
465/fusina-incauta-55-paquetes-de-droga-en-registro-a-bus.
  Kyra Gurney, "Is Honduras Militarizing its Prison System?," InsightCrime, September 18, 
2014, http://www.insightcrime.org/news-briefs/is-honduras-militarizing-its-prison-system.
  See, for example, Kyra Gurney, "What an Extortion Call in Honduras Sounds Like," 
InsightCrime, March 4, 2015, http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/what-an-extortion-call-
in-honduras-sounds-like.  See also Hannah Stone, "Inmates Run Honduras Prison as Micro-
State," InsightCrime, July 4, 2012, http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/inmates-run-
honduras-prison-as-micro-stat.
  Ximena Moretti, "Honduran authorities reduce extortion by blocking cell phone service at 
prisons," Dialogo, May 30, 2014, http://dialogo-
americas.com/en_GB/articles/rmisa/features/regional_news/2014/05/30/honduras-seguridad.
  Moretti.
  "Honduras: Mensajes en clave de maras salen ahora desde la PN," El Heraldo, August 26, 
2014, http://www.elheraldo.hn/sucesos/741211-219/honduras-mensajes-en-clave-de-maras-
salen-ahora-desde-la-pn.
  Jen Psaki, "Extradition of Carlos Lobo," U.S. Department of State Official Website, May 9, 
2014, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/05/225844.htm.
  See Michael Wimbush, "SOUTHCOM commander reaffirms US military support to Honduran 
fight against traffickers, organized crime," U.S. Southern Command Official Website, June 4, 
2014, http://www.southcom.mil/newsroom/Pages/Gen--Kelly-visits-Honduras.aspx.
  As of the time this report went to press, Vice Admiral Kurt Tidd had been named as successor 
to General Kelly, but had not yet assumed command.
  "Guatemala, Honduras create task force on crime, migration, following visit by US VP Joe 
Biden," Fox News, March 23, 2015,  http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/03/23/guatemala-
honduras-create-task-force-on-crime-migration-following-visit-by-us.html.
  "UNAH no puede avalar cifras de reducción de homicidios en Honduras," El Heraldo, 
October 3, 2014, http://www.elheraldo.hn/alfrente/754484-209/unah-no-puede-avalar-cifras-de-
reducci%C3%B3n-de-homicidios-en-honduras.
  "Comparativo de Homicidios de01 de enero al 14 julio 2015."  Secretaria de la Policía de 
Honduras (SEPOL).
  "John Kelly: Honduras ya no es el principal puente del narcotráfico," El Heraldo, May 3, 
2015, http://www.elheraldo.hn/inicio/836832-331/john-kelly-honduras-ya-no-es-el-principal-
puente-del-narcotr%C3%A1fico.
  See, for example, "Rendición de cuentas y logros ante el pueblo hondureño congregado," 
Presidency of the Republic of Honduras, Official Website, January 25, 2015, 
http://www.presidencia.gob.hn/?p=4730.
  Honduran officials and others interviewed for this report generally concurred that PMOP 
members enjoyed greater respect when they deployed into such neighborhoods than their 
national police predecessors-not only because they were seen as less corrupt, but also because 
they were seen by the criminals as more likely to respond effectively if challenged, with 
functional weapons and vehicles.
  Brianne Berry and Laura V. Natera, "Honduras Breaks the Silence: Protests Persist Against 
Corruption," Council on Hemispheric Affairs, May 22, 2015, http://www.coha.org/honduras-
breaks-the-silence-protests-persist-against-corruption/.
  See, for example, Victor Meza, "La oposición política y los indignados."  Boletín Especial, 
No. 9, Centro de Documentación de Honduras, Julio 2015.  P 1.
  David Gagne, "Alleged Head of Honduras Drug Cartel in US Custody," InsightCrime, 
February 5, 2015, http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/alleged-head-of-honduras-drug-
cartel-in-us-custody.
  "El lunes llega solicitud de extradición contra Jaime Rosenthal a la CSJ," El Heraldo, January 
3, 2016, http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/916202-466/el-lunes-llega-solicitud-de-extradición-
contra-jaime-rosenthal-a-la-csj.
  See, for example, Marcella Estrada, "Leaked Report: Honduran Police in the Pockets of 
Organized Crime," Panama Post, February 7, 2014, http://panampost.com/marcela-
estrada/2014/02/07/leaked-report-honduran-police-in-the-pockets-of-organized-crime/.
  Indeed, beyond PMOP itself, in 2015, two members of the FUSINA executive board were put 
on the list of personnel to be expelled for alleged corruption, illustrating the persistent risk of 
corruption at the very highest levels, even with the new FUSINA structure.
  "Fiscal destituye al director de la DLCN," 2015.
  "Honduras y Guatemala firmarán acuerdo de libre comercio," El Heraldo, February 24, 2015, 
http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/805935-214/honduras-y-guatemala-firmar%C3%A1n-acuerdo-de-
libre-comercio.
  "Unión Aduanera entre Honduras y Guatemala entra en vigencia el 15 de diciembre," El 
Heraldo, November 20, 2015, http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/903657-466/uni%C3%B3n-
aduanera-entre-honduras-y-guatemala-entra-en-vigencia-el-15-de.
  Alexis Espinal, "Socializan diseños de la nueva carretera del corredor del Pacífico," El 
Heraldo, August 9, 2015, http://www.elheraldo.hn/regionales/867195-218/socializan-
dise%C3%B1os-de-la-nueva-carretera-del-corredor-del-pac%C3%ADfico.
  "Honduras, tercer lugar en lavado de activos," El Heraldo, April 7, 2014, 
http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/581488-214/honduras-tercer-lugar-en-lavado-de-activos.
  Héctor Calix, "Honduras: Aprueban nueva Ley contra Lavado," El Heraldo, December 11, 
2014, http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/776004-214/honduras-aprueban-nueva-ley-contra-lavado.
  "Honduras: CNBS ordena liquidación forzosa de Banco Continental," El Heraldo, October 
10, 2015, http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/889226-214/honduras-cnbs-ordena-liquidaci%C3%B3n-
forzosa-de-banco-continental.
  "Honduras: Banco Continental violó normas contra el lavado de activos," El Heraldo, 
October 22, 2015, http://www.elheraldo.hn/alfrente/893397-209/honduras-banco-continental-
viol%C3%B3-normas-contra-el-lavado-de-activos.
  "Military helps cut Honduras murder rate, but abuses spike," Reuters, July 9, 2015, 
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-honduras-military-insight-idUSKCN0PJ0E920150709.
  "PMOP: Cabildeos, dudas y conjeturas," El Heraldo, January 19, 2015, 
http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/786999-214/pmop-cabildeos-dudas-y-conjeturas.
  "Observaciones Preliminares sobre la Situación de los Derechos Humanos en Honduras."  
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  December 5, 2015.  
http://www.oas.orges/cidh/prensa/comunicados/2014/146A.asp.
  According to the polling organization Latinobarometro, in 2015, 62.4% of Hondurans 
reported that they had either "little" or "no" faith in the ability of the police to protect the public 
order.  Latinobarometro 2015, Consulted January 2, 2016, 
http://www.latinobarometro.org/latOnline.jsp.
  "Militares dejarán labores de seguridad paulatinamente," El Heraldo, Accessed January 3, 
2016, http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/836865-435/militares-dejar%C3%A1n-labores-de-seguridad-
paulatinamente.
  Bargent, 2014.
  "US Senate Backs Anti-Impunity Commission for Honduras," Panama Post, July 13, 2015, 
http://panampost.com/panam-staff/2015/07/13/us-senate-backs-anti-impunity-commission-for-
honduras/.
  Whitney Eulich, "Honduras: As protests over corruption swell, many see 'positive moment'," 
The Christian Science Monitor, July 20, 2015.
  See, for example, "Incertidumbre en Honduras por acusación de EUA contra Grupo 
Continental," El Economista, October 19, 2015, 
http://www.eleconomista.net/2015/10/19/incertidumbre-en-honduras-por-acusacion-de-eua-
contra-grupo-continental.
  Steven Dudley and Mimi Yagoub, "5 Takeaways from US Congress Northern Triangle Aid 
Package," InsightCrime, December 18, 2015, http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/5-
takeaways-from-us-congress-proposed-northern-triangle-aid-package.
  See, for example, Karen Parrish, "SOUTHCOM 'Part of Solution' to Drug Crime, 
Commander Says," U.S. Southern Command Official Website, March 8, 2012, 
http://www.southcom.mil/newsroom/Pages/Southcom-'Part-of-Solution'-to-Drug-Crime,-
Commander-Says.aspx.