HONDURAS BECOMES NEW COCAINE HUB FOR WEST

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Honduras Cocaine.jpgAlmost half of the cocaine that reaches the United States is now offloaded somewhere along the coast of Honduras and its heavily forested interior — a total of 20 to 25 tons each month, according to U.S. and Honduran estimates. Authorities intercept perhaps 5 percent of that, according to calculations by The Associated Press based on official estimates of flow and seizures.

On Honduras’ swampy Mosquitia coast, entire villages have made a way of life off the country’s massive cocaine transshipment trade. In broad daylight, men, women and children descend on passing go-fast boats to offload bales of cocaine destined for the United States.

Along the Atlantic coast, the wealthy elite have accumulated dozens of ranches, yachts and mansions from the drug trade.

And in San Pedro Sula, local gangs moving drugs north have spawned armies of street-level dealers whose violence has given the rougher neighborhoods of the northern industrial city a homicide rate that is only comparable to Kabul, Afghanistan.

Long an impoverished backwater in Central America, Honduras has become a main transit route for South American cocaine.

“Honduras is the number one offload point for traffickers to take cocaine through Mexico to the U.S.,” said a U.S. law enforcement official who could not be quoted by name for security reasons. A U.S. State Department report released in March called Honduras “one of the primary landing points for South American cocaine.”

The flow is hard to stem, said Alfredo Landaverde, a former adviser to the Honduran security ministry, because there are few other sources of cash income here.

“We have to recognize that this society is very vulnerable,” Landaverde said. “This is a country permeated by corruption, among police commanders, businessmen, politicians.”

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