DEA-Backed Honduran Drug Raid Turns Violent
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New allegations suggest that US DEA agents participated in police brutality during a violent drug raid in the tiny village of Ahuas, Honduras on May 11 that resulted in a number of civilian casualties. Police arrived by helicopter while following a load of cocaine on a riverboat and shot at the boat in the dark—they claim in self-defense—wounding four civilians and leaving four others dead. The agents also reportedly broke into houses and "terrorized" local villagers in their hunt for a drug trafficker called "El Rencko"—and villagers say some of those responsible were English-speaking "gringos." The DEA claims that its agents were on the helicopter mission as advisers for the Honduran National Police, and didn't use their weapons. The shoot-out is the latest bout of violence in the Mosquitia, an area of northern Honduras that has been rife with drug-running for decades. In the last few years—with authorities cracking down on other major drug pathways between South America and the US (mainly in Mexico)—cocaine shipments in to Honduras have increased. According to the state department, 79% of all cocaine smuggling flights from South America first stop in Honduras—a small country of 8 million people, with one of the highest murder rates in the world. Many ordinary Hondurans have become tangled in the drug war, with impoverished families hired to load and unload cocaine.