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Home About Us Equipo Sur Stories of Honduras Victims of the US Drug War in Honduras
Victims of the US Drug War in Honduras PDF Print E-mail

by Brigitte Gynther

“They seemed like victims of war,” was how Bertha Olivia, the Coordinator of COFADEH, introduced a group of Hondurans who found themselves at a press conference about 4 emblematic cases of state violence and impunity in Honduras. Several of them had traveled for two days to reach the Honduran capital all the way from Ahuas, in the Mosquitia region of Honduras, where passengers in a small boat were fired upon from a US State Department helicopter around 2am on May 11, 2012. Four people were murdered, including two mothers, a father, and a 14-year old.

Among those injured was Hilda Lezema, whose legs were pierced by bullets. She has had operations to keep her thighs together and is in constant pain. Despite the fact that she was injured by high-caliber gunfire from a US helicopter in an operation that involved at least 10 US DEA agents as well as Honduran counter-narcotics agents, Hilda has had to pay for her medical treatment herself. She explained, “I have spent all the money I had and now I have nothing, not even to eat. I have bills at the hospitals. The government has given me nothing, not even medicine. My doctor wants to operate… but if I don’t have the money, they can’t do the operation.”

Lucio Nelson, a 22-year old who was shot in the back and the arm, also traveled to COFADEH with his father. His father, who has gone into debt to pay for Lucio’s medical bills, explained that Lucio will never be the same again, as he still can’t bend over and has to live with the pain. He has had plates inserted in his body and had future medical appointments that his father isn’t sure how he will pay for.

In the midst of the pain and sorrow, there was a reunion for one family. Wilmer Morgan Lucas Walter, who is now 15 years old, was shot in the hand when the boat was fired on. Thanks to COFADEH, he was able to have surgery to save his hand from amputation and has spent the past six months undergoing almost daily physical therapy. However, this requires him to be far home and far from his family, friends, and normal life. He was thrilled to be reunited with his mother, who traveled to Tegucigalpa for the press conference. However, his ordeal now continues as he faces many more months away from home in the hospital with the hope of one day being able to use his hand again.

Indigenous villagers simply traveling in a boat, as the rivers are a primary means of transportation in the Mosquitia region of Honduras, had their lives suddenly disrupted on May 11th by the sudden appearance of helicopters and gunfire. Both the emotional pain of losing family members and the physical pain of injuries that entails the loss of the ability to support one’s family have long-lasting effects and are part of the far-reaching consequences of the US drug war on innocent civilians.

To add insult to injury for those injured or murdered by the gunfire and their family members, the US government has yet to take responsibility for what occurred on May 11. On January 30th, 58 members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Attorney General Eric Holder calling for a “thorough and credible investigation” of the May 11th killings. Unfortunately, on February 12th, the Washington Times reported that despite the request “the State and Justice departments have no intention of investigating purported human-rights violations and misconduct by Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Honduras.”

The US strategy is to shirk responsibility by diminishing the role of US agents and relying on a “deeply flawed”  investigation of the Honduran government -- which is notorious for corruption and a non-functioning justice system. An excellent report by Rights Action and the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) details the problems with the Honduran investigation, including autopsies carried out on top of an open grave long afterward and numerous contradictions between the official version of events and eye witness accounts. In fact, CEPR details how a second Honduran government report, that of the Honduras National Human Rights Ombudsman, suggests that US DEA agents led the operation and were responsible for the order for the helicopter to open fire on a passenger boat. Yet, the US continues to shirk responsibility for wrongdoing, refuses to even investigate the US role in the murder of defenseless Honduran villagers, and has completely abandoned the victims and their medical needs.

Bertha Oliva of COFADEH remarked that the victims of the Ahuas killings “seemed like victims of war” and indeed they are – victims of the $20 billion US drug war in Latin America. As Hilda Lezema and Lucio Nelson live in pain and worry whether they will find the money for necessary medical treatment, the US continues to spend millions upon millions to further militarize Honduras under the guise of the drug war. Apparently those millions don’t include anything for the care of innocent victims of the gunfire from US helicopters much less accountability for murder.


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