Our Men in Honduras: Losing Control of the War on Drugs
On May 11, 2012, in a joint U.S.-Honduras drug enforcement operation gone terribly awry, four Honduran civilians, including two women, a 14-year-old boy and a young man were killed as they traveled in a fishing boat along Honduras’s Patuca River. Three other passengers were seriously injured. U.S. government officials have minimized the Drug Enforcement Administration’s role in the attack, characterizing its involvement as merely supportive.
In the aftermath of the shootings, witnesses reported that English-speaking men dressed in U.S. military uniforms threatened local community members, contradicting the official U.S. position that its agents were only peripherally involved. Then a report by the Honduran National Commission for Human Rights (CONADEH) revealed that Honduran police agents who participated in the operation said they were following instructions from the DEA and reported only to its agents. Now, after much scrutiny from Congress and human rights groups, U.S. officials have acknowledged—after many initial statements to the contrary—that DEA agents led the May 11 operation because they “did not feel confident in the Hondurans’ abilities to take the lead,” according to The New York Times. Despite the DEA agents’ central role, the U.S. government has downplayed looking into the incident—the DEA is supposedly conducting an internal probe, away from public scrutiny—and has instead promoted an investigation by Honduran authorities.