Monday, July 9, 2012

DEA kills another in Honduras

The DEA has shot to death another alleged drug runner in Honduras, the second this month. The latest incident happened a week ago.

If you live in Honduras and rely on the Honduran media, you probably didn't know that until now.

On July 3 a small plane crashed or was forced down (depending on the news source) near Catacamas in Olancho.  In the plane were 954 kilograms of cocaine.  The original Honduran press reports stated that one pilot, a Brazilian, was badly injured in the crash and surrendered to the police and DEA agents present. The other pilot, also Brazilian, was said to have been killed in the crash. The news of the two Brazilians was reported to their embassy according to statements by the Honduran police spokesperson.

Except that the pilot wasn't killed in the crash.

According to DEA spokesperson Dawn Dearden, two DEA agents shot the second Brazilian when he refused to surrender "and made a threatening gesture."  He died from his wounds. 

The New York Times coverage notes that "[Honduran authorities] did not disclose that the pilot had been shot by American agents." 

None of the press reports tell us the context in which the DEA spokesperson revealed DEA responsibility for the death of this suspect, or why it was revealed.

The DEA agents in question are members of a FAST team deployed in Honduras to help Honduran authorities stop drugs before they get to the United States.  Their rules of engagement allow them to fire on suspects if they are threatened or fired on. 

This is the second person they've killed in Honduras.

There will be no inquiry.

It's understandable that Honduran authorities kept quiet about DEA responsibility for shooting the suspect, given Honduran reactions to DEA agent participation in the Ahuas shootings of 4 people, and their killing of another suspect in Olancho in June.


Unknown said...

Great blog post!

An AP article by Alberto Arce quotes Dearden, attributing her remarks to an interview with AP yesterday.

DEA agents killed pilot of drug flight in Honduras. Alberto Arce, AP.

Sandra Cuffe

RAJ said...

Alberto Arce's AP story provides important context and we hope will be widely read:

"It is quite impressive that the DEA is directly involved in the killing of alleged traffickers in Honduras and as it is a repeating incident it looks like an escalation with a sense of lack of accountability and over stepping their boundaries in Honduras. We are just getting the DEA account of events and it looks like there is no real inquiry," said Alex Main, a senior associate in the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Unknown said...

AlterNet just posted an article by Karen Spring and I today: Botched DEA Raid Exposes How Militarization Terrorizes Communities...

It has some testimony from survivors of the May 11 op, but also has some context provided by US Embassy DEA attache in Honduras James Kenney at a meeting with a human rights delegation. I'd hazard a guess that it's pretty rare to get the candid views of a DEA official, as opposed to scripted statements and answers by spokespeople. Some highlights:

“These people out in Gracias a Dios or other departments, they aren’t doing what they used to do. They aren’t growing corn, and piƱa or pineapple and other products,” Kenney told the North American human rights delegation. “They are waiting for a narcotics plane or boat to come in.”

“So they are waiting more now for when is the next airplane to come in – ‘When am I going to get another shot at this?’ – and unfortunately it is really destroying these communities out there,” said Kenney, seated in the Marriott hotel coffee shop, where the meeting took place.


At the May 27 meeting in Tegucigalpa, Kenney told North American delegation participants about the actions of “his guys” -- the vetted Honduran special police agents -- that night.

"They don’t have a chain of command like most units. They don’t have a lieutenant, captain, major. They report directly to me – the DEA,” said Kenney. He added that the Honduran agents technically report to the Honduran General Director of Police, but that information does not really get passed on to the supervising Honduran authorities. “They basically work for the DEA."

When delegation participants asked him about the details of US agents involved in the May 11 operation and whether some agents involved in the Moskitia had been previously deployed in Afghanistan, Kenney was less candid. There are three DEA agents in Honduras, and two more are expected soon, he said. But there are currently also “temporary duty” agents in Honduras, he said.

“The only thing that you need to know is that they are DEA agents. Some are part of the FAST. And FAST just happens to be guys that are trained on a unit that can deploy to different areas,” said Kenney.

“So yes, they were in Afghanistan, but this doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s not an issue where they were. They aren’t military.”


I'm really hoping that someone in DC can pick up those comments and ask some tough questions at a State Dept briefing or something...

Sandra Cuffe

RAJ said...

The first set of comments is breath-taking. While it is undeniable that some people in remote areas of Honduras have seen drug trafficking as an economic alternative in a place and time when there are few alternatives, to generalize this to all the residents of the region ("these people") is part of the way you make victims of violence the guilty parties. And it ignores the fact that other residents are not actively engaged in these activities, but suffer the consequences. In the May incident, this led to the community burning houses of those known or suspected of involvement in drug trafficking, blamed for the disaster the community experienced.

The lack of candor about the militarization of policing is unfortunately no surprise. Globally, this seems to be a line that many governments would be happy to blur into non-existence.

Unknown said...

Agreed regarding the militarization of policing, but I was referring to his comments about the roles of Hondurans vs US.

I think the comments are interesting in light of the fact that the US government has consistently emphasized the distinction between US and Honduran agents in the joint operations, how only Hondurans fired weapons in the May 11 raid, how US DEA agents are only involved in advisory roles, etc. Scripted comments have been repeated over and over again by US government spokespeople.

But then the head of the DEA in Honduras says that the Hondurans all report directly to him and "basically work for the DEA."

That blurs a line that the US has been attempting to make very clear.