Moral Low Ground


DEA Accused of Role in Killing of 4 Innocent Civilians, Including 2 Pregnant Women, in Honduran Drug War

US Drug Enforcement Administration agents allegedly participated in a police action against suspected drug traffickers in Honduras that resulted in the shooting deaths of four innocent civilians, including two pregnant women.

Honduras Human Rights and Democracy Now! report that the incident occurred in the pre-dawn hours last Friday when a helicopter with Honduran police and US DEA agents fired upon a boat in the Patuca River in Paplaya, on the Mosquito Coast in the northeast. The boat that came under attack had recently passed a motorboat carrying drug traffickers which was being chased by the police. The traffickers’ boat had no lights; the vessel carrying innocent civilians was mistakenly attacked instead.

The victims were: Emerson Martínez, Chalo Brock Wood, Candelaria Tratt Nelson and Juana Banegas, the last two of whom were both pregnant. Four others were wounded.

“These raids were carried out irresponsibly because supposedly the people participating in them are specialists who are going to act against drug traffickers and not against innocent people,” Ahuas mayor Lucio Baquedano declared, adding that local residents now must live with the threat from both trigger-happy drug traffickers (Honduras has one of the highest murder rates on earth) and from anti-drug raids that kill innocent civilians.

“We request that the case be seriously investigated, because four people died, including two pregnant women,” he demanded. “It was with great indignation that I heard [director of the National Police] Commissioner José Ricardo Ramírez Del Cid say that the raid was a success because two drug traffickers died; in this attack it was humble citizens who died,” he added.

The Mosquito Coast is one of the most heavily-traveled routes for drug traffickers transporting illegal narcotics northward into the United States, the world’s largest drug consumer. The New York Times reports that as Mexico cracks down on narco-trafficking, Central America has emerged as a major drug conduit. More than 90 percent of Colombian cocaine now passes through the region, with more than a third of the drugs moving through Honduras.

The US military, as well as law enforcement agencies such as the DEA, have quietly moved into the country, with three forward operating bases having been recently established. Rules against US troops firing their weapons except in cases of self-defense did not help in the case of the four slain civilians; DEA agents are not part of the military and thus are not subject to the same rules of engagement.

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