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Botched DEA Raid Exposes How Militarization Terrorizes Communities Around the World

A deadly May raid brought the impact of the drug war on local communities in Honduras into the global spotlight.

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“We consider the Honduran and United States armed forces to be the only ones responsible for this incident,” continues the Declaration. “As the Territorial Council, we demand a rapid departure of armed North Americans from our communities.”

As concerns arose in the US regarding DEA operations in Honduras following the May 11 incident, a surveillance video allegedly filmed by a US Customs and Border Protection Service aircraft that night began circulating among government agencies and was shown to congressional staff. The families and legal representatives of the victims have not seen the video, nor have they been notified by US or Honduran authorities that a video of the incident exists.

The New York Times viewed the footage and reported that the video raises more questions about the operation and the different versions of the incident that have emerged from US and Honduran authorities, local residents, including those wounded, and bystanders. The video allegedly shows one boat ramming another, after the anti-narcotics team had fired on drug smugglers and intercepted their boat loaded with cocaine.

“In the seconds before contact, there were some flashes in the video, which American officials said were indications that the occupants of the larger boat had fired. After the ramming, a brief but ferocious flurry of shots from the boat carrying the agents was clearly visible,” Thom Shanker and Charlie Savage wrote in a June 22 New York Times article. “As the larger boat slid alongside and then moved away, there also appeared to be a spray of bullets across its middle, said by officials to be a volley of machine-gun fire from the Honduran door gunner aboard one of the helicopters.”

“Still, the video does not resolve the identities or motive of those aboard the boat that collided with the vessel carrying the agents, and who may have fired upon them,” wrote Shanker and Savage.

The controversy about US involvement in anti-narcotics operations in Honduras, resurfacing in the press in the wake of the video footage, also highlights the lack of clarity about the nationality and role of the various armed uniformed agents. While the State Department was quick to assert that only Hondurans fired weapons, the Honduran police agents involved are all part of a special tactical team and each individual agent has been vetted by the DEA. Some agents involved in the May 11 operation are part of a Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (FAST), but unanswered questions remain about the role of private military contractors and other foreign agents, the organizational structure of cooperation between forces and the chain of command.

At the May 27 meeting in Tegucigalpa, Kenney told North American delegation participants about the actions of “his guys” -- the vetted Honduran special police agents -- that night.

"They don’t have a chain of command like most units. They don’t have a lieutenant, captain, major. They report directly to me – the DEA,” said Kenney. He added that the Honduran agents technically report to the Honduran General Director of Police, but that information does not really get passed on to the supervising Honduran authorities. “They basically work for the DEA."

When delegation participants asked him about the details of US agents involved in the May 11 operation and whether some agents involved in the Moskitia had been previously deployed in Afghanistan, Kenney was less candid. There are three DEA agents in Honduras, and two more are expected soon, he said. But there are currently also “temporary duty” agents in Honduras, he said.

“The only thing that you need to know is that they are DEA agents. Some are part of the FAST. And FAST just happens to be guys that are trained on a unit that can deploy to different areas,” said Kenney.

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