D.E.A. Misled Overseers on Deadly Honduras Operations, Watchdogs Say

The report focused on the first shooting, on a river near the village of Ahuas on May 11, 2012. A boat collided with a disabled vessel carrying American and Honduran agents and seized cocaine. Gunfire erupted, and four people on the boat were killed.

The D.E.A. said at the time that the victims were drug traffickers who had attacked to try to retrieve the cocaine, but villagers said they were bystanders. The inspectors general found no evidence to support the agency’s version, disputing a claim that surveillance video showed evidence that the people on the boat had fired on the disabled vessel.

“Even as information became available to D.E.A. that conflicted with its initial reporting, including that the passenger boat may have been a water taxi carrying passengers on an overnight trip,” the report said, “D.E.A. officials remained steadfast — with little credible corroborating evidence — that any individuals shot by the Hondurans were drug traffickers who were attempting to retrieve the cocaine.”

The inspectors general also rejected the D.E.A.’s insistence at the time that the operation — as well as two others, in June and July 2012 — had been led by Honduran law enforcement officials. The review “concluded this was inaccurate” and said D.E.A. agents “maintained substantial control.”

In the shooting on the river, the report said, a Honduran police officer did fire a machine gun from a helicopter at the boat, but an American agent directed him to do so. In one of the later missions, American agents shot to death smugglers they said had refused to surrender who they feared might be reaching for weapon.

Indeed, the report said, only D.E.A. agents, not the Hondurans, had the necessary equipment to command the operation and had direct access to intelligence. Rather than taking orders from Honduran police, the agents gave…

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