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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
With respect to gangs, as in other northern triangle countries, the two principle groups in
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
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
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.
The elite national police unit called the Tigres ("Tigers" in Spanish), like the PMOP,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
Beyond improved coordination between military, law enforcement, and judicial organizations,
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
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
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
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"
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.
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.
This article was first published at U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute.
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,
Gustavo Palencia, "Honduras president: graft-linked companies helped fund my campaign,"
Reuters, June 3, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-honduras-corruption-
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-
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-
Iris Amador, "Honduras Records Significant Decrease in Violence as Armed Forces and Police
Remain Vigilant," Dialogo, September 21, 2015, http://dialogo-
"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-
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-
See "Victims caught in Honduras drugs crossfire," BBC News, July 16, 2012,
David Nakamura and Wesley Lowery, "White House requests $3.7 billion in emergency funds
for border crisis," Washington Post, July 8, 2014,
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
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,
Helene Cooper and Marc Lacey, "In a Coup in Honduras, Ghosts of Past U.S. Policies," New
York Times, June 29, 2009,
The country was, for example, suspended from the Organization of American States. See
"Honduras suspended from OAS," CNN, July 5, 2009,
See, for example, Ginger Thompson, "U.S. Suspends $30 Million to Honduras," New York
Times, September 3, 2009,
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
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,
"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,
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-
"Cabecilla del cartel de los AA está enmontañado," El Heraldo, November 5, 2015,
"Honduras Narco-Sub Caught Smuggling Cocaine," The Huffington Post, September 13, 2011,
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,
Steven Dudley, "The Zetas in Guatemala," InsightCrime, September 8, 2011,
Jeremy McDermott, "The Zetas Set Up Shop in Honduras," InsightCrime, February 4, 2013,
"Carteles mexicanos en labores de reclutamiento en Honduras," El Heraldo, May 29, 2015,
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,
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-
"Mareros en Honduras proponen tregua, anuncia Emiliani," La Prensa, August 15, 2013,
"No hay tregua entre pandillas de Honduras," El Heraldo, July 4, 2014,
"Honduras: Los Chirizos, banda heredera del "Gato Negro"," El Heraldo, April 22, 2015,
"Entramos a la "cueva del diablo" (VIDEO)," La Tribuna, February 16, 2015,
"Los Benjamins son trasladados a cárcel de máxima seguridad," La Prensa, December 19,
Héctor Calíx, "Honduras: Reforma a "ley antimaras" llega al CN," El Heraldo, March 17,
"Profesionales universitarios son miembros de Mara 18," El Heraldo, August 6, 2014,
"Honduras: Infiltrados, el cáncer en la policía," Mafia&Co, March 7, 2011,
"Congreso prohíbe dos pasajeros en moto," El Heraldo, April 7, 2014,
"Reconciliación internacional desplazó agenda del presidente Porfirio Lobo," El Heraldo,
April 7, 2014, http://www.elheraldo.hn/alfrente/564768-209/reconciliacion-internacional-
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
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,
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-
"Congreso de Honduras rechaza rango constitucional para Policía Militar," Nación, January
24, 2015, http://www.nacion.com/mundo/centroamerica/Congreso-Honduras-constitucional-
"Congreso de Honduras rechaza rango constitucional para Policía Militar," Nación, January
24, 2015, http://www.nacion.com/mundo/centroamerica/Congreso-Honduras-constitucional-
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,
"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-
"Depuración de la Policía es una burla a la sociedad," El Heraldo, July 5, 2015,
"Fiscal destituye al director de la DLCN," El Heraldo, December 16, 2015,
"Honduras y Rusia firmarán convenio contra las drogas," El Heraldo, April 7, 2014,
See, for example, "FUSINA Repels Honduran Drug Gangs in Mosquito Coast Region,"
Dialogo, June 16, 2015, http://dialogo-
"Honduras aprueba derribar aviones sospechosos de narcotráfico," BBC, January 18, 2014,
"Honduras compra radares a Israel por $30 millones," El Economista, December 19, 2013,
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-
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-
"FF AA destruyen ocho pistas de narcos," La Prensa, August 15, 2013,
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,
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-
See, for example,"Pugna entre El Salvador y Honduras por una isla," Nacion, September 3,
"Fuerza Maya-Chorti en Honduras," Defensa, April 10, 2015,
"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-
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,
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-
Kyra Gurney, "Is Honduras Militarizing its Prison System?," InsightCrime, September 18,
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-
Ximena Moretti, "Honduran authorities reduce extortion by blocking cell phone service at
prisons," Dialogo, May 30, 2014, http://dialogo-
"Honduras: Mensajes en clave de maras salen ahora desde la PN," El Heraldo, August 26,
Jen Psaki, "Extradition of Carlos Lobo," U.S. Department of State Official Website, May 9,
See Michael Wimbush, "SOUTHCOM commander reaffirms US military support to Honduran
fight against traffickers, organized crime," U.S. Southern Command Official Website, June 4,
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-
"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-
"Comparativo de Homicidios de01 de enero al 14 julio 2015." Secretaria de la Policía de
"John Kelly: Honduras ya no es el principal puente del narcotráfico," El Heraldo, May 3,
See, for example, "Rendición de cuentas y logros ante el pueblo hondureño congregado,"
Presidency of the Republic of Honduras, Official Website, January 25, 2015,
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-
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-
"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-
See, for example, Marcella Estrada, "Leaked Report: Honduran Police in the Pockets of
Organized Crime," Panama Post, February 7, 2014, http://panampost.com/marcela-
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,
"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-
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-
"Honduras, tercer lugar en lavado de activos," El Heraldo, April 7, 2014,
Héctor Calix, "Honduras: Aprueban nueva Ley contra Lavado," El Heraldo, December 11,
"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-
"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-
"Military helps cut Honduras murder rate, but abuses spike," Reuters, July 9, 2015,
"PMOP: Cabildeos, dudas y conjeturas," El Heraldo, January 19, 2015,
"Observaciones Preliminares sobre la Situación de los Derechos Humanos en Honduras."
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. December 5, 2015.
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,
"Militares dejarán labores de seguridad paulatinamente," El Heraldo, Accessed January 3,
"US Senate Backs Anti-Impunity Commission for Honduras," Panama Post, July 13, 2015,
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,
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-
See, for example, Karen Parrish, "SOUTHCOM 'Part of Solution' to Drug Crime,
Commander Says," U.S. Southern Command Official Website, March 8, 2012,