Latin America’s Dangerous Shift to Aerial Shootdown Policies in War on Drugs

Latin America’s Dangerous Shift to Aerial Shootdown Policies in War on Drugs

Sometime after 2009 the U.S. government, concerned about the number of suspicious flights that were landing in Honduras, expanded its intelligence-sharing with the government of the Central American country to include aerial interdiction efforts. On two occasions in July 2012, however, the Honduran air force shot down planes suspected of drug trafficking. In neither case did the suspect planes’ occupants threaten Honduran air force aircraft, but all aboard died in both incidents.

As a result, in mid-August 2012, the U.S. Southern Command suspended its intelligence-sharing with the Hondurans on aerial interdiction until the following November, when strict procedures had been put in place prohibiting all but warning shots in most cases.

There have been no known shootdown incidents in Honduras since. But that could change. This month, the Honduran Congress passed a new law empowering the defense minister to order the air force to shoot down suspected smuggling planes flying over the country’s Caribbean coast. By April, Honduras will take delivery of Israeli-made radars allowing it to detect the aircraft to be targeted.

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