portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reposts global

drug war | imperialism & war

guatemalan military, and private contractors involved in DEA-led massacre of honduran civi

According to the Honduran newspaper, Tiempo, as well as the Honduran human rights group, COFADEH, the agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), dressed in military uniforms, killed at least four and possibly six civilians in a raid which took place on Friday, May 11. The victims included two pregnant women and two children. The newspaper Tiempo did not pull any punches, writing that those killed "were humble and honest citizens." Apparently, the DEA agents fired from helicopter gunships upon a boat carrying civilians on the Patuca back to their community of Ahuas which itself is located in the Mosquito coast of Honduras. According to Tiempo, the DEA mistakenly fired upon the civilian boat because it was well-lit while the intended target -- a boat carrying drug traffickers -- was floating down the river without its lights on.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday that DEA agents were working with Honduran police aboard the helicopter.

"We did not use force, no U.S. personnel fired any weapons. We were involved purely supporting and advising," said Nuland.

She said the State Department has two helicopters in Honduras involved in missions carrying members of Honduras' National Police Tactical Response Team. And she said the aircraft were piloted by Guatemalan military officers and outside contractor pilots.

When asked about the shooting, U.S. Embassy official Matthias Mitman in Tegucigalpa provided a written statement saying that "the U.S. assisted Honduran forces with logistical support in this operation" as part of efforts to fight narcotics trafficking.

from npr; Hondurans Demand DEA Leave After Shooting


Hondurans Attack Government Buildings, Demand US Leave

People in Honduras have burned down government offices and demanded U.S. drug agents leave the area after news got out that American and Honduran forces shot and killed up to six innocent Hondurans.

The dead included two pregnant women and two children. The Drug Enforcement Administration agents, with their Honduran counterparts, fired from U.S. helicopter gunships at a boat carrying the civilians, mistaking it for their intended target - a boat carrying drug traffickers.

Anger is aimed at both Honduran authorities and U.S. authorities. "These innocent residents were not involved in the drug problem, were in their boat going about their daily fishing activities ... when they gunned them down from the air," Lucio Vaquedano, mayor of the coastal town of Ahuas, said Wednesday.

"For centuries we have been a peaceful people who live in harmony with nature, but today we declared these Americans to be persona non grata in our territory," the statement continued.

Honduran news media and human rights organizations began publicizing the incident, of which the American people were not informed, and claimed the DEA agents themselves did the shooting. But after news broke out, U.S. authorities started claiming the American agents merely assisted Honduran forces, without doing any of the shooting themselves and that didn't shoot first.

Honduras has become a hub of drug-trafficking, particularly cocaine, which has earned it renewed focus from Washington.

The Obama administration chose to support the illegal military coup in Honduras in 2009, which ousted democratically elected Jose Manuel Zelaya. The coup leaders continued to receive U.S. aid as American military and DEA presence in the country began to expand. This began a descent into what Dana Frank, professor of history at the University of California, called "a human rights and security abyss."

More than 600 U.S. troops are stationed in Honduras and the DEA has a Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team based there. By the end of 2011, 42 Honduran law enforcement agents were working with the DEA, despite widespread human rights abuses and forced disappearances of political opponents and journalists.

"We have seen over the years that whenever the military interfaces with the populace, incidents of human rights abuses go way up," said George Withers, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America. "We're concerned that the U.S. is encouraging the use of the military for police work."

see previous post: honduras has become a bloody hell, since June 28, 2009 coup

In a written statement, the Committee of the Families of the Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), a human rights organization, said that "a foreign army [i.e., the U.S. army] protected under the new hegemonic concept of the 'war on drugs,' legalized with reforms to the 1953 Military Treaty, violates our territorial sovereignty and kills civilians as if it was in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or Syria."

COFADEH called Honduras "a failed state" and said "the so called Honduran authorities have the ethical and political duty to demand from the U.S. Department of State an explanation and a public apology, and to punish those responsible."

by John Glaser, May 17, 2012

via Hondurans Attack Government Buildings, Demand US Leave -- News from Antiwar.com.

 link to news.antiwar.com

protecting cartels from the civilian population

Congressman Howard Berman said Thursday that if the reports that innocent people were killed are true, the U.S. should review this part of its assistance to Honduras.

"I have consistently expressed deep concerns regarding the danger of pouring U.S. security assistance into a situation where Honduran security forces are involved in serious human rights violations," said the California Democrat. "The problems are getting worse, not better, making such a review all the more urgent."

There were many versions of what happened in the early morning May 11 and by the end of the day Thursday, the DEA wouldn't confirm many details.

The DEA never fired during the operation, acting only in an advisory role, both the U.S. and Hondurans said. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said she didn't know if the DEA told the Hondurans to fire back.

"As I understand it, the Honduran authorities are doing a broad investigation of this incident to evaluate what exactly happened and how it happened," she said in a briefing Thursday. "I think we need to let that go forward."

The U.S. has assisted with drug operations in Honduras since the 1970s, but activity has increased in the last few years, officials and statistics indicate. As the Mexican government has cracked down on drug cartels, transport of cocaine has shifted to areas like Honduras' Miskito Coast, a remote jungle along the Caribbean that is isolated, hardly policed and populated with poor people willing to load and unload illicit cargo to make money.

The State Department says 79 percent of all cocaine smuggling flights leaving South America first land in Honduras.

Ramirez gave one version of the operation, saying U.S. and Honduran agents were monitoring the ground from four helicopters in a region known as Gracias a Dios, about 300 miles (500 kilometers) from the capital of Tegucigalpa along the coastal border with Nicaragua. It is known as the Mosquitia for the indigenous Miskito that have lived in the region for centuries.

Read more, from the seattle post-intelligencer; Reverberations from drug raid felt in US, Honduras

 link to www.seattlepi.com

U.S. Secret Drug War in Honduras - Democracy Now!

Dana Frank, Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of many books, including "Bananeras: Women Transforming the Banana Unions of Latin America," which examines the banana workers' unions of Honduras:

As a historian I would start by underscoring that we have to be very careful about believing what the State Department is saying at this point. They have admitted that there were four helicopters and that two of them were State Department helicopters and that there were Guatemalan military on board as well. So it is obviously getting even more complicated.

According to the Mosquito people on the ground, and the local mayor, and the Congress person that the U.S. forces—they descended from the helicopters after they had allegedly been shot upon by alleged drug traffickers in a different boat. According to people on the ground, they mistook that boat for the boat with civilians and started shooting at the civilians, killing at least four people—by some accounts five—including at least one pregnant woman, and by some accounts, children. Another woman was also shot at and lost limbs as a result, and a boy was shot in the arm from behind. U.S. troops were clearly on the helicopters but local people say U.S. troops were doing part of the shooting.

Meanwhile, the Honduran government—I do want to underscore, a week before, the day after it happened, they reported that it was drug traffickers that had been killed, and only after the civilians came forward very bravely and said, wait a minute, we're not drug traffickers, we are local people—in fact, terrified of drug traffickers. And only thanks to AP do we even have it crossing over into the U.S. press, that there was U.S. DEA agent involvement in helicopters and on the ground.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Dana Frank, Honduras is the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere after Haiti. Now suddenly we are being told that it has become the major transshipment point for drugs into Mexico and the United States? This is a recent phenomenon. Could you talk about this, what's happening with the drug war in Honduras, the context of the political troubles, and the coup that occurred in Honduras a few years back?

DANA FRANK: There has been drug trafficking in Honduras for a long, long time but it was the 2009 coup—coming up on the third anniversary on June 28th—it was the 2009 coup that opened up the door for this kind of massive drug trafficking. It's really important to know that the drug trafficking is interlaced with the post-coup government. Porfirio Pepe Lobo, from top to bottom—even the Minister of Defense has talked about the so-called Narco Congress people, the Narco judges. It is a totally corrupt regime from top to bottom.

The police regularly kill people, and they have admitted that themselves, at least 300, have been killed by state security forces since Lobo came into office a little over two years ago. None of these people have been prosecuted. There are at least ten thousand denunciations of human rights abuses by state security forces, and even the government itself admits that—no one has been prosecuted for that. So this incident is happening in the context of U.S. ongoing support and even celebration of that regime, and welcoming Lobo to the White House just two weeks ago. In October—he was certainly speaking to the government in D.C. two weeks ago. So what's going on is we have this tremendously corrupt government that's killing its own people, and the U.S. is pouring more and more money into it.

As we speak, the U.S. has just recently tried to double a key piece of funding for the U.S.-Honduran military and police. Biden was recently down there, promising a hundred and seven million dollars more. We're increasing the funding for the U.S. Air Force base at Soto Cano, and making the barracks there permanent there for the first time.

from democracy now; U.S. Secret Drug War in Honduras: Botched DEA Raid Leaves 2 Pregnant Women, 2 Men Dead

reposted from end times news;

 link to endtimesnews.wordpress.com