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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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“They took me by force in the boat, myself and three other North Americans. They took me to where the drugs were. They forced me to drive the boat to bring the drugs. When we arrived, there were two North Americans in the boat where the drugs were,” said Cruz Ulloa. “Afterwards, they put the drugs on the boat and brought the drugs to the landing.”

Cruz Ulloa and many others were not able to assist their loved ones for over three hours while they were held at gunpoint by the security forces participating in the operation.

On May 11, Lucio Adan Nelson Queen, 22, was a passenger in a pipante, the traditional dugout canoe-style boat of the Miskitu and a principal means of transportation in the region. He was injured that night, with a gunshot wound to the back. The bullet exited his body below his right arm. He spoke with the North American human rights delegation while recovering in a hospital bed in La Ceiba, a hub city on the Caribbean coast.

“I was traveling to my girlfriend’s house when this occurred. It was nighttime. They shot me from above, from a helicopter. I was sleeping in the pipante,” Nelson Queen said. “When I woke up, they were shooting. The helicopter was low overhead. I threw myself into the water.”

Hilda Lezama was also a passenger in the pipante carrying local Moskitia residents from points further down the Patuca River to Ahuas. She received gunshot wounds to both of her legs, with the gunfire leaving a deep groove across her thighs. She spoke to the delegation from her hospital bed in Ahuas, where she lives.

“We were traveling with more than thirteen people plus cargo plus a table, chairs, loads of things. The pipante was full,” said Lezama. “Then when we were coming close to the landing we saw helicopters that were hovering, hovering, hovering, hovering. I thought – well, I didn’t know what they were looking for at the time.”

“I heard shots. I do not know how but I threw myself into the water when the bullet hit me. I wanted to hide under the cargo but I couldn’t when they shot me. I had to get into the water, close to the banks of the river. I could not swim. I don’t know how I did, but I did in that moment. I got to a patch of grass at the side of the river and grabbed onto it, a tree branch. Everyone was in the river, including the injured,” she said.

When people helped her out of the water, Lezama was only partially conscious. After emergency treatment in the hospital in Ahuas, she was sent to the hospital in La Ceiba. She was recovering in Ahuas when the delegation visited the region.

Fourteen-year-old Hasked Brooks Wood; 21-year-old father of two Emerson Martinez Henriquez; 28-year-old pregnant mother of two Juana Jackson Ambrocio; and 48-year-old pregnant mother of six Candelaria Pratt died as a result of their gunshot wounds. All four were indigenous Miskitu residents of communities in the region.

The local residents who were wounded on May 11 had just begun to recover and families of the victims were mourning the loved ones they lost when militarization continued to increase in the Moskitia. Weeks before the second DEA killing in Brus Laguna on June 22, residents reported the arrival of English-speaking uniformed personnel armed with high-caliber weapons, including snipers stationed at a strategic point in the community of Brus Lagua. Community members have said that the snipers in a tower point their weapons down at residents as they walk by on the dirt roads.

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