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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
03TEGUCIGALPA1109 2003-05-12 23:19:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tegucigalpa
Cable title:  

TROUBLE IN PARADISE: HONDURAN BAY ISLAND OF

Tags:   SNAR PGOV KCRM KJUS PHUM ECON HO 
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					  UNCLAS TEGUCIGALPA 001109 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT. FOR INL/LP, DRL/PHD, AND WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR PGOV KCRM KJUS PHUM ECON HO
SUBJECT: TROUBLE IN PARADISE: HONDURAN BAY ISLAND OF
GUANAJA A HOT-SPOT FOR NARCOTRAFFICKING




1. (U) SUMMARY: The Honduran Bay Islands of Roatan, Utila,
and Guanaja are well known narcotrafficking transit points
and home to countless other illicit activities. Due to the
large tourism industry on Roatan and Utila, the GOH has
chosen to focus its limited counternarcotics resources
primarily on these two islands. Guanaja, however, has not
received the much needed resources to combat its ever-growing
narcotics problem. The least developed of the Bay Islands,
Guanaja's limited infrastructure and services have served to
be a deterrent to tourism. Additionally, unemployment is
widespread, creating a safehaven on Guanaja for
narcotraffickers and organized crime families. Drug abuse
among the 6,000 islanders has greatly increased and all
indications suggest that this trend will continue. END SUMMARY



2. (U) The Honduran Bay Islands of Roatan, Utila, and
Guanaja are well known narcotrafficking transit points and
home to countless other illicit activities. Roughly 85
percent of Guanaja's adult population uses crack, cocaine, or
marijuana according to a recent El Heraldo newspaper report.
Casual drug use can be observed openly in public, and even
children as young as 8 years old are known to be regular drug
users. The widespread usage of illegal substances may be due
to the high unemployment rate on the island. Tourism also
remains depressed and the fishing industry is not at a
sustainable level for many families to subsist on. Thus,
some people have found employment with the narcotraffickers
and are often paid in the form of drugs rather than cash,
creating a cycle of drug abuse.



3. (U) Honduras is not usually the ultimate destination for
narcotrafficking transactions, but rather a transit point.
Much of the product that transits through Guanaja originates
in South America and is destined for the Cayman Islands and
the United States. The most common means of transportation
in the area of Guanaja is maritime, although planes are also
used. Drug runners use 200 horsepower boats that easily
surpass the 100 horsepower boats used by the Honduran police
and Navy. It is common for abandoned packages and boats to
be found near Guanaja when the traffickers are alerted of the
presence of authorities. This in turn makes prosecution
highly difficult and unlikely.



4. (U) The narcotraffickers are protected by the inhabitants
of Guanaja through methods of terror and assault. Also, the
undersupported police authorities of the island do not have
the manpower to patrol, capture, and prosecute known
traffickers. According to the Director of National Police,
Coralia Rivera, the effectiveness of the police force is
minimized because they need boats, planes, and helicopters to
enforce narcotrafficking laws, and these resources are just
not available.



5. (SBU) COMMENT: In a recent letter to the Ambassador, the
Mayor of Guanaja pleaded for some form of direct U.S.
counternarcotics assistance to combat the presence of drug
traffickers. There are recent reports that a fed-up local
population, acting in a vigilante-style campaign, attacked
and destroyed the house of a well known drug trafficker.
Until more resources become available to law enforcement
agencies in Guanaja, the island will remain very vulnerable
to the corruption of crime bosses and influential
narcotraffickers. Furthermore, much of its population will
continue to support such activities both through the use of
narcotics and the protection they provide to the traffickers.
This problem is not just that of a small island of 6,000
inhabitants, but indicative of the larger problem Honduras
faces as more and more of its territory is compromised by the
drug trade. Post believes that additional USG
counternarcotics resources should be directed at areas like
Guanaja in order to fight the larger war on drugs. END
COMMENT

Palmer