Deposed Honduran prez accused of drug ties
The regime that ousted Manuel Zelaya in Honduras claimed Tuesday that the deposed president allowed tons of cocaine to be flown into the Central American country on its way to the United States, reported AP.
"Every night, three or four Venezuelan-registered planes land without the permission of appropriate authorities and bring thousands of pounds ... and packages of money that are the fruit of drug trafficking," its foreign minister, Enrique Ortez, told CNN en Espanol.
"We have proof of all of this. Neighboring governments have it. The DEA has it," he added.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne in Washington said he could neither confirm nor deny a DEA investigation.
Zelaya was traveling from New York to Washington and could not immediately be reached to respond to the allegations.
In an interview Tuesday evening with The Associated Press in Tegucigalpa, interim Honduran President Roberto Micheletti was asked about Ortez's allegations and said only that it would be up to prosecutors to present any evidence.
Honduras and other Central American nations have become major transshipment points in recent years for Colombian cocaine, particularly as Mexico's government cracks down on cartels.
The drugs arrive in Honduras on noncommercial aircraft and, increasingly, in speedboats, from Venezuela and to a lesser extent Colombia, according to the Key West, Florida-based Joint Interagency Task Force-South, which coordinates drug interdiction in region. The boats tend to make short hops up Central America's coast.
In its most recent report on the illicit narcotics trade, the U.S. State Department said in February of Honduras that "official corruption continues to be an impediment to effective law enforcement and there are press reports of drug trafficking and associated criminal activity among current and former government and military officials."
The report did not name names.
Drug-related violence appears to be up in Honduras.
Homicides surged 25 percent from some 4,400 in 2007 to more than 7,000 in 2008 while more than 1,600 people were killed execution-style, suggesting drug gang involvement, according to the Central American Violence Observatory.
In October, Zelaya proposed legalizing drug use as a way of reducing the violence. He also had pledged to double the country's police force, which reached 13,500 last year, up from 7,000 in 2005, according to the State Department report.