US Drug Czar Hails Cocaine Drop in Colombia

first_img US drug czar Gil Kerlikowske hailed progress in reducing the cocaine trade during a visit to Colombia on 18 January and said a new US policy would place more focus on prevention and treatment for addicts. “We understand that the US is a very large market,” Kerlikowske, director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, said ahead of a meeting with Colombian President Juan Santos. He added that Washington recognized “its shared responsibility” with Colombia, the world’s largest cocaine producer. “Colombia’s progress in improving security, reducing the influence of drug cartels, improving the economic situation for its people and stabilizing the country is nothing short of astonishing,” Kerlikowske said after the meeting. Bogota serves “as a beacon of hope for other nations struggling with the threat to democracy posed by drug trafficking and related crime,” he added, in a statement released by the White House. US officials highlighted estimates that showed a dramatic drop in cocaine production in Colombia, from some 700 metric tons in 2001 to 270 tons in 2009. The number of American cocaine users over the age of 12 has meanwhile dropped 21 percent in three years from an estimated 2.1 million users in 2007 to an estimated 1.6 million users in 2009, according to the White House. Kerlikowske, a former police chief appointed by President Barack Obama, said he had discussed with Santos how efforts to curb consumption in the United States were helping to reduce production in Colombia. “We must work much harder to keep our young people from being involved in drugs,” he told reporters. He added that a new US approach “calls for reducing illicit drug use and its harmful consequences through prevention, early intervention, and treatment.” Washington and Bogota are key allies in the drug war, with ongoing military aid under the six-billion-dollar Plan Colombia in place since 2000. The funds help Colombia deal with drug trafficking and guerrilla violence but also includes the monitoring of human rights abuses by security forces. By Dialogo January 20, 2011last_img read more

Mullen: World Community Says Gadhafi Must Go

first_imgBy Dialogo May 03, 2011 NATO has come forward in a very positive way to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya and protect Libyan citizens from the Moammar Gadhafi regime, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said in Iraq on 22 April. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also told service members serving with U.S. Division Center in Baghdad that “the international consensus is that Gadhafi has got to go.” NATO is in charge of enforcing the U.N. Security Council resolution to protect Libyan civilians, Mullen said, adding that he is pleased the alliance stepped forward to lead the operation. Regime change is not a part of the NATO mission, and the U.N. resolution does not address it, Mullen said, but it remains to be seen whether the Libyan dictator will step down. “The long-term political end-state is to have [Gadhafi] gone,” he said. “Globally, the guy is a pariah, and every single action the vast majority of countries are taking are going to continue to put the squeeze on him until he’s gone. Is [Gadhafi] going to figure that out? I don’t know.” The NATO operation “is certainly moving toward a stalemate,” Mullen said, as neither rebel forces nor Gadhafi’s forces can win a decisive edge, and tough fighting continues in Misrata and Ajdabiyah. Not surprisingly, the chairman said, Gadhafi’s forces have adapted their tactics. They are closing with rebel forces, dispersing themselves among civilians and using civilians as a shield. “It’s a tougher fight than it was at the beginning,” the chairman said. “At the same time, we have ‘attritted’ somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of his main ground force capabilities,” Mullen said. “Those will continue to go away over time.” Mullen stressed the international focus on ousting the Gadhafi regime, noting that members of the Arab League support the military action in Libya. “This is the first time that I’m aware of where the Arab League has voted for something like a no-fly zone,” he said. But the international focus only highlights that at the end of the day, the Libyan people must decide what Libya needs, the chairman said. “In all these countries where this turmoil is taking place, what is important to remember and what is obvious is this is about the people of these countries, and we should respect that as they try to imagine their own future,” he said. Though France and Great Britain have said they are sending advisors to aid the Libyan rebels, there is no chance the United States will follow suit, Mullen said. “The president has been very clear: No boots on the ground, and I can assure you that’s where we are,” he said.last_img read more

Cheers Abound For Equestrian Fans

first_imgBy Dialogo July 23, 2011 The sport isn’t very popular and the site for the event is more than 40 miles from Rio de Janeiro. However, at least a thousand people have attended to watch the dressage, jumping and eventing for the 5th Military World Games at the National Equestrian Center in General Eloy Menezes Equestrian Park. The jumping competitions are attracting the most viewers. The audience reaction ranges from minutes of silence, in order to not disturb the athletes to waves of emotion similar to that of a sound when someone scores a goal in soccer. When Captain Claudio Gogga finished his first race on Friday, July 22, fans greeted him with an explosion of joy: the Brazilians rose from the seats, raised their arms, waved their flags and joyously applauded the Captain’s performance. “I was hoarse from supporting the swim team on Monday. Now I’m going to leave here without a voice,” said Ivone de Carvalho Reinold, a housewife of 50 years. Ivone took advantage of her children’s vacation to bring them to these Games. During the dressage category, fans remain quiet as the competitors exhibit their skills to the sounds of classical music. But at the end of each show, the fans let their voices be heard. The language that prevails, however, is Spanish. Of the 20 athletes competing in the Equestrian event, four are Brazilians, while the rest of the riders are from Argentina, Colombia, Chile and Uruguay (four each). Wearing a shirt of Uruguay, Major Mauro Sathler Gripp, 40, seems to be one of the Uruguayan fans. “I’m a fan of teams riding horses. That is the spirit of the Games of Peace: a Brazilian with a shirt of Uruguay,” he explains. Accompanied by his wife, Rita Lauren, and his sons, Peter and Bruno, 12 and 9 years respectively, Gripp came from afar to support Brazil and neighboring Uruguay. The Major serves in the Army in Três Corações, a city in Minas Gerais. “We took the kids on vacation and came to watch this important event,” said Rita.last_img read more

Peruvian Army Sergeant Dies in Confrontation against Shining Path

first_imgBy Dialogo August 14, 2012 A Peruvian Army sergeant was killed Aug. 12, during a clash with a column of Shining Path guerrillas in Junín Department (east), informed the Joint Command of the Armed Forces. The clash occurred near the town of Mazángaro in the jungle of Junín, which is located in the Apurimac and Ene rivers valley (VRAE), a coca-growing area where drug traffickers operate. The military command did not say whether the soldiers were injured or if there were casualties among the members of the Shining Path movement. According to Peruvian authorities, the Army patrols roamed the areas where Shining Path bases were operating in alliance with drug gangs. The military Joint Command attributed the attack to retaliation for the capture of a member of this group on Aug. 11, by soldiers in the same area. In May, a soldier was killed during a terrorist act against a military base in Junín Department, and earlier, on April 27, three soldiers died in a clash in the Cusco Region (southeast). The Shining Path, which dismembered around the mid-1990’s, unleashed an internal war between 1980 and 2000, leaving 69,000 people dead or missing, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. According to authorities, its top leaders are imprisoned and carrying out long sentences, but a remainder of at least 200 men is still in existence.last_img read more

Ecuador Sees Drug Seizures Rise as Traffickers Discover New Routes

first_img Cocaine confiscations up dramatically QUITO, Ecuador — In March 2008, Colombian forces bombed and raided a compound belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Ecuador’s northern region of Angostura. The attack eliminated FARC’s second-in-command and proved that traffickers had found a new area of operations in Ecuador — a country that historically has enjoyed one of the lowest rates of drug consumption in Latin America. “It was after the attacks at Angostura in 2008 that Ecuador realized the drug trade was, in fact, an imminent threat to national security,” said Bertha Garciá, director of the Observatorio de Seguridad, Defensa y Democracia, a think tank at Quito’s Universidad Central. García said that while Ecuador has never waged a “war on drugs” to the degree that Colombia or Mexico have, the country has become a victim of the “balloon effect” — a theory used to describe how the drug trade reacts to pressures. “Colombia and Peru have been able to conduct successful anti-drug campaigns and have made Ecuador an easier, more accessible habitat for the drug trade,” said Jaime Carrera, leader of the Quito economic research institution Observatorio de la Política Fiscal. Drug dealers favor Ecuador because it’s small and convenient Ecuador, which shares a border with Colombia, has been historically used by Colombian cocaine cartels as a transport point to the Pacific corridor. However, as Colombia’s three-decade long war on the FARC and cartels has begun to yield positive results, Ecuador has expanded “from being a mere trafficking route to also producing drugs and providing places for storage of illegal weapons and drugs,” García said. Fernando Carrión, an academic at the Quito headquarters of the Latin American School of Social Sciences (known by its Spanish acronym FLACSO), said this balloon effect struck Ecuador on three levels. “First it increased consumption within the country. Second, Ecuador has seen an increase in drug laboratories, and third, there’s increased use of the national territory,” he said, noting that since 2008, Mexican and Colombian cartels seem to have stepped up cooperation with their Ecuadorian counterparts. Earlier this year, a light aircraft with $1.3 million in cash aboard crashed in the northwestern Ecuadorian province of Manabí, killing its Mexican pilot and co-pilot. No official flight plan had been logged for the Mexican-registered plane, which was flying low, presumably to evade radar detection. A few days after that May 13 plane crash, troops found a drug-processing laboratory near the crash site, seized half a ton of cocaine paste and detained three people. Since coca is not cultivated in Ecuador, such labs are rare finds. In late September, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime — in its annual report on Peru — said that country had 62,500 hectares of coca under cultivation. This represented an increase of slightly more than 2 percent from the previous report and the sixth consecutive year the agency has detected an increase in coca crops. Peru remains the second largest producer of coca, following Colombia with 64,000 hectares. Bolivia has 27,200 hectares of coca. To Ecuador’s east is Brazil, from where drugs can filter into Africa and then Western Europe. To the west lies the Pacific Ocean, which offers a supply route to the United States, Eastern Europe and the new Asian markets. García said it’s clear to her that many regions within Ecuador are becoming involved in drug trafficking, “not just the traditional Putumayo region in the north.” Ecuador’s function as a regional drug hub has become even more attractive thanks to its use of the U.S. dollar as its national currency. “The drug trade carries more baggage than simply the narco-trafficking,” said Carrera. “It also brings with it money laundering” — creating a window of opportunity for money laundering operations to co-exist with drug sales, decreasing the risk and making it more convenient for drug cartels to operate within Ecuador. In addition, it seems far more dollars are circulating within Ecuador than the amount of currency which enters legally. This, said Carrera, “means there are extra dollars entering from somewhere other than through regular national income operations.” By Dialogo October 15, 2012center_img ATPDEA gives farmers an incentive not to grow coca Even so, in the last three years, the seizure of narcotics by Ecuadorian security forces has jumped significantly. The Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) reports that in 2010, confiscations came to seven tons — but that by 2011, seizures had risen to 11 tons. Also last year, authorities shut down 13 drug processing labs throughout Ecuador. So far in 2012, Ecuador has already seized more than twice as much drugs as all of 2011, reported the Quito newspaper La Hora. In addition, seven clandestine drug labs have been shut down this year. Carrera said not a week goes by without a new seizure of a cocaine shipment or the discovery of new laboratories. In March, Ecuador’s top military strategists warned of the threat posed to their country by powerful groups like Colombia’s Rastrojos crime syndicate and Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel. The warnings were contained in a 225-page review leaked to local media. Yet experts still aren’t sure what accounts for the sudden explosion in trafficking. One possibility is the country’s geography. “Ecuador’s porous borders facilitate trafficking in all directions,” said Carrión. He pointed out that to the south lies Peru, one of the world’s largest suppliers of cocaine. Use of U.S. dollar makes Ecuador attractive to smugglers At the recent Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, the region’s leaders showed a “true desire to find another approach to the drug situation,” said Carrión.” Latin America’s presidents and parliamentarians must, he said, adopt “a well-rounded strategy which encompasses many remedies.” As such, Ecuador’s National Assembly is now debating a law that would allow drug users to be treated as patients, not criminals. This would let the state invest in rehabilitation clinics — similar to what the municipality of Bogotá is doing. The country is also considering the legalization of certain drugs for medical purposes, as Uruguay has done with marijuana. Dealing with the increasing presence of drug trafficking in Ecuador also requires international cooperation. One effective tool has been the country’s traditional cooperation with the United States, which in 2002 enacted the Andean Trade Preference Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) to benefit Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Under ATPDEA — which expires on July 31, 2013, unless the U.S. Congress renews it — tariffs on Ecuadorian products entering the U.S. market have been drastically reduced or eliminated. That has created an incentive for local farmers to grow legal exports such as coffee, cocoa or flowers instead of harvesting coca leaves for a much more lucrative, but ultimately riskier, business. Meanwhile, Ecuador’s national police force has boosted its level of internal monitoring while successfully combating drug rings within the country. The military has also increased patrols along its northern border with Colombia, where trafficking routes and drug labs are most common. However, “this is not going to be enough,” states Carrera. “The drug industry is already establishing roots in this country.” I liked it, but it could have been more specific about Ecuador and its relationship with drugs. For example, it could have reported what the Ecuadorian government’s official position is on the legalization of marijuana in Uruguay (a news report could be written about this, you know).Warm regards.last_img read more

Guatemalan-Mexican Border: A Trip “in God’s Hands”

first_img In his unsuccessful search for the American dream, Wilmer had to hide from immigration agents in drainage waters, and later in a swamp, where he got infested with leeches. He also faced days of hunger, thirst and cold; nights of extreme distress, as well as a shower of stones thrown at the train by Mexican inhabitants. He did not even spend a full day in Houston, Texas, since immigration officers arrested him while he was using a pay phone. He also remembers that on another occasion, the train stopped at a station where a group of men opened a car from which dozens of immigrants came out. Men were forced to submit all their belongings under the threat of knives; women were taken away. “Later, we heard that Los Zetas [the feared drug trafficking gang] did all that,” he said. Some people pay human traffickers, so that in turn they pay the train driver to let them onboard the cars. “But then, Los Zetas give the driver even more money to give them the cars loaded with people,” Wilmen explains while maneuvering his boat in lizard-infested waters. “For a father, losing a child is hard. It is better to go with him, and not stay,” Aurelio whispers, not being able to conceal the sadness of leaving his wife behind. The end of Wilmer’s story is just the beginning of Aurelio’s, who adjusts his hat with a solemn gesture before getting off the boat and venturing into Mexican trails. A human trafficker is waiting for him in a van. “It’s all in God’s hands,” he concludes. “In my country, there is land to work, but people with money are occupying it, and we, the poor, have to watch from the sidelines. We’re forced to pay a war tax; otherwise, we get killed by the maras (gangs),” Aurelio, a 45-year-old Honduran immigrant aiming to reach Los Angeles to sow peppers, explains. “It is a really tough trip. I also met a buddy about to start this trip. I walked and I walked until I reached Los Pozos, a small town in Tabasco [in south east Mexico],” Wilmer Henríquez, a 32-year-old Guatemalan boatman who takes people to the Mexican shore near Tenosique, tells AFP. “Once there, people take out bills, show them to the driver of ‘The Beast’ – the nickname of the freight train that goes through Mexico from south to north,” he remembers, smiling. Thirteen other people with the same goal are also onboard. They are part of about 140,000 undocumented men, women and children – mainly Latin American – who try to cross Mexico heading northbound every year. At least 20,000 of them will be kidnapped, and many others will suffer robbery, rape, forced recruitment by criminal groups, even murder, according to information from Mexican authorities. Aurelio does not travel alone. He is accompanied by his nephew and his son, David, who emigrated to the U.S. last year to work as a car mechanic. However, he was kept under arrest in Houston, Texas, for several months before being deported. center_img His smile disappears when he recalls seeing a Honduran woman dismembered by the train’s wheels when she attempted to jump on it while it was already moving. “I had given her my hand and I wanted to pull her up, but she went into the wheels, where she was cut to pieces… So much blood! Really tough,” he says. “We are leaving, but who knows whether we’ll be back,” an undocumented migrant says on board a precarious speedboat that disappears into the fog of the San Pedro River at dawn. It stretches across the border between Guatemala and Mexico, where the last and most feared part of the migrant’s trip to the U.S. starts. The narrow boat penetrates the thick tropical forest of the isthmus under a suffocating sun, and then, in the distance, they see a cattle pen with dozens of white and amber cows. “That was my job, livestock. What am I going to do now?” says an immigrant wearing a cowboy hat. Departing Los Naranjos, Guatemala, travelers sink into a tense silence. Nobody wants to say their name, where they come from or where they are going. There is only one woman onboard, seven boys that appear underage and a man with a beard… all of them fear that the valuable information might reach the ears of a ”hawk”, as mafia spies are called in Spanish. “In prison, we had our hands and feet handcuffed,” the 22-year-old man recalls, while removing the water built up at the bottom of the vessel. By Dialogo April 05, 2013 The train stops and all cars are boarded with loads of people within ten seconds,” describes a man who was thrown overboard for not paying the “fee.” Trips from Guatemala to the North America countries are very common, unfortunately the road is difficult and one faces a lot of danger during the trip.last_img read more

Brazil Crowned Military Triathlon World Champion

first_img Petty Officer Second Class Wesley Matos finished in fifth place, completing the podium for the team, and Captain Edward Coelho de Oliveira was placed tenth. In the individual category, Brazil doubled up, with Petty Officer Second Class Marcus Fernandes winning first place, with 01:53:10, and Petty Officer Second Class Juraci Moreira winning second, with a time of 01:54:55. On September 4, the Brazilian military triathlon team finished in first place at the Triathlon World Championship competition of the International Military Sports Council (CISM) in Knokke, Belgium. By Dialogo September 10, 2013center_img Athletes from five countries participated in the competition: Germany, Belgium, Brazil, Holland, and Luxemburg. Brazil won both categories, and there was no competition in the female category. During the team competitions, which takes into account the sum of the top three athletes’ best times, Brazil won with a time of 5:51:27, followed by Belgium, with 6:04:32. last_img read more

Brazilian Air Force Command Officers and General School Staff Visit SOUTHCOM

first_img According to the general director of Brazil’s Air Force War College, General Dirceu Tondolo Noro, the colonels who visited SOUTHCOM, “were selected to attend the last ten-month course of their career [aerospace policy and strategy course], to enable them to perform all command, leadership and direction functions in the Aeronautics Command. [The course] is also a prerequisite to be selected to become a general of the Air Force”. For General Noro, the visit of these officers to the United States is essential in providing them an opportunity to create direct contacts and learn about the military and organizational sides of the Americans, “just as it is essential to perform joint work between the forces.” The FAB’s visit to Washington and to SOUTHCOM has occurred in previous years, and, “we will make every effort to make it happen again next year,” said Major General Waddell. Brazilian Air Force Generals Maximo Ballatorre and Rogério Veríssimo were also present among the visitors. Mister Congratulations for this publication but Fernando Pessoa is not brazilian he is portuguese. Tanks. First Sargent Hellynton “Writer Fernando Pessoa said in one of his poems that ‘sailing is necessary, living is not necessary.’ I would add that, in our case, collaboration is necessary.” This was the clear message communicated by U.S. Army Major General Ricky Waddell, to the 41 colonels and three Brazilian Air Force (FAB) generals who visited the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) on November 1. Major General Waddell, Deputy Commander for SOUTHCOM Mobilization and Reserve Affairs, lived for 17 years in South America during his career as a civil engineer, 12 of which were spent in Sao Paulo. He served as the host for the group that was briefed on important updates about SOUTHCOM activities, with a special focus on regional partnerships. During the Q and A session, Brazilian Military members obtained first-hand information on the mission that is being carried out by SOUTHCOM in Central and South America and the Caribbean. By Dialogo November 06, 2013 For Gen. Waddell, this kind of visit fits perfectly in SOUTHCOM’s mission of, among other purposes, aiming to strengthen the friendship bonds with regional partner nations. “The largest and most professional military forces in the Western Hemisphere are going to include the United States and Brazil. Our alliance with Brazil dates back to World War II, so this is a continuation of six-and-a-half decades of partnership. …We also cooperate in a range of activities based on our mutual interests as nations,” he concluded. last_img read more

Nicaraguan Army Ecological Battalion Helps Clean the Tiscapa Lagoon

first_img“We are going to clean the platform, the banks, and the slopes surrounding the lagoon,” Army Lt. Col. José Guillén, who headed the operation, told the press. “We hope that we find less amounts of trash in today’s event; otherwise it will mean that awareness in the six surrounding neighborhoods has not been effective.” The Permanent Security Plan not only calls on the Armed Forces to protect the environment, but to fight drug trafficking, poaching in protected areas, and the smuggling of wildlife, according to Rodrigues. “With the support of Army divers, we will be providing maintenance to the Tiscapa water source,” said Juan Ramon Ocampo of the mayor’s Environmental Office. “We did not have pumping system maintenance for the lagoon in 12 years. Thanks to the system that works 24 hours a day to oxygenate the lagoon, we can avoid the death of bio diversity living in the water.” By Dialogo September 01, 2015 And while they clean up the lagoon they allow the deforesting of the protected zone of Bosawas. Let us continue to hope for new goals Approximately 100 Soldiers from the Nicaraguan Army’s Ecological Battalion recently assisted the municipality of Managua, the National Recycling Forum, and the Association of Hygiene and Environmental Safety to help clean hundreds of meters of waste from the shores of the Tiscapa Lagoon, a protected area and natural reserve. The Army carried out the task under its Protection, Restoration, and Conservation Plan, which aims to protect the country’s primary sources of water and ensure their sustainable use. To that end, participating Soldiers helped clear more than 900 meters of shore by assisting in collecting 30 cubic meters of waste during the operation, which began during the early hours of July 11. “We have to preserve the Tiscapa Lagoon, which means ‘water mirror’ in Nahuatl. We really have a natural jewel in our capital,” Camilo Lara, president of the National Recycling Forum (FONARE), told La Prensa. “The Army of Nicaragua currently has a Permanent Security Plan directly focused on environmental protection and natural resources components,” Alfonso Rodrigues, a member of the Security and Defense Network of Latin America (RESDAL) in Nicaragua, said. “It also has an institutional strengthening program, which supports the mayors in the efforts to clean and transport materials to protect natural resources.” As citizens work together to keep Nicaragua’s natural resources clean, the Army will continue to lend a hand. Its Ecological Battalion operates mostly in the country’s northeast, between Jinotega, Matagalpa, the South Atlantic Autonomous Region, and the Caribbean Sea. It includes the municipalities of the North Atlantic Autonomous Region: Siuna, Rosita, Bonanza, Mulukukú, and Prinzapolka, in addition to part of Waspan and San José de Bocay (Jinotega). “For the Army of Nicaragua, the protection of our country’s natural resources is a matter of national security,” the Army stated. Prior to the Tiscapa Lagoon effort, Army Soldiers, commanded by Lt. Col. Guillén, again teamed-up with representatives from the municipality of Managua, the National Recycling Forum, and the Association of Hygiene and Environmental Safety to clear a large amount of trash in February. Meanwhile, as the Army is plans to conduct similar clean-up missions at the Xiloá, Nejapa, and Asososca lagoons, Lara has called on Managuans to care for their natural resources, urging them not to throw solid or liquid waste into bodies of water because it damages the environment. One step towards protecting those resources involved oxygenating the lagoon and cleaning its surroundings, according to the Managua Mayor’s Office. Environmental protectionlast_img read more

Honduras Destroys First Coca Crop

first_imgBy Iris Amador/Diálogo July 06, 2017 Excelente trabajo de las Fuerzas Armadas, nuestro Comandante General ha planificado un desempeño ordenado de la institucion castrense como el aparato gubernamental completo de manera que las condiciones de vida mejoren para la ciudadania. La imagen de mi nación en el mundo es diferente a los inicios de este siglo XXI, mucho esfuerzo, mucha inversión, claro siempre con una contraparte en contra, la resistencia a las mejoras es natural, han habido muchos adelantos y los seguirán habiendo, adelante soldados de mi Honduras, ni un paso atrás, el éxito es nuestro. After detecting and destroying what would turn out to be the first coca crop on Honduran soil, the nation’s authorities are conducting investigations to identify who is behind the planting. Members of the Honduran Armed Forces discovered the coca plants on April 29th in Esquipulas del Norte, a small municipality of about 10,000 residents in the north of the Olancho region, and they are on the trail of those responsible. “Special units of the Honduran Armed Forces detected the crop field and secured it. They placed it under surveillance, and the established procedures are being followed so that specialists from the Public Prosecutor’s Office can test them and do the relevant scientific analyses,” Honduran Military Justice Lieutenant Colonel Santos Nolasco, the spokesman for the National Interagency Security Force (FUSINA, per its Spanish acronym), told Diálogo. On the parcel of land, which measures about 21,000 square meters, according to estimates by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, authorities found 12,000 plants at various stages of growth. The shrubs were later identified as belonging to the genus Erythroxylum, whose dozens of species contain the main active chemical in cocaine. “An investigation is being conducted into the possible involvement of foreigners in this first attempt to produce the drug locally, given the level of experience that was required to develop these plants in soil and climate conditions that are different from those in which it naturally grows,” Lt. Col. Nolasco said. For optimum growth, the Erythroxylum coca plant must develop in a wet environment, and must also be at no less than 1,600 meters above sea level, since it needs low atmospheric pressure – a combination of conditions not easily found outside of the Andes. A rehearsal On July 7th, a little over a month after the findings, agents from the Anti-Drug Trafficking Directorate and the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Drug Trafficking (DLCN and FESSCO, respectively, per their Spanish acronyms), both under the Office of the Attorney General of Honduras, proceeded to burn the plants. Yuri Mora, a spokesman for the Public Prosecutor’s Office, told Diálogo that experts from DLCN and FESSCO concluded that the coca plants were genetically modified. In other words, they are the product of a genetic alteration, the result of introducing another species’ DNA into the plant to make it more resistant to this new environment. “We believe that this was a test to see how the plants develop and adapt to that region’s soil and climate. This might be a rehearsal because the agents found the plant in a kind of nursery: small, fertilized plants ready to be transplanted,” he said. Adjacent laboratory The coca plants were found among a crop of marijuana. During the operation, which was in a hard-to-reach area in the mountains of Olancho, authorities also dismantled an adjacent structure that functioned as a laboratory. Made of wood, the crude facility was equipped with the precursor chemicals needed to process the coca leaf. “Previously, drug labs where coca paste was processed had been dismantled. The drug-making process began in other places and ended in Honduras but this is the first coca crop that has been found in our country,” Mora stated. This discovery is meaningful because, in most cases, the Central American nation is used by organized crime groups as a transit point for moving the drug from South America to North America. This recent finding could indicate that the groups are now trying to start producing the drug in Honduras. In April, just a few days before the operation center in Olancho was discovered, authorities had dismantled another laboratory in La Arada, in the municipality of Santa Bárbara. In May, service members found and destroyed four hectares planted with marijuana in the department of Colón, to the north of Olancho. In its three years of operation, FUSINA has found and destroyed 10 drug labs and has seized more than 15,000 kilograms of cocaine, as well as 697 kilograms of the coca paste used to manufacture the drug. “Honduras has been closing off spaces to drug traffickers, and criminal gangs are experimenting new ways to commit crimes and get around the authorities. However, one of FUSINA’s strategies is to attack production centers,” Lt. Col. Nolasco said. “We’re stopping them so we don’t allow Honduras to reach the stage of a producer country, for either marijuana or cocaine,” he pointed out.last_img read more