Honduras President Condemns Botched U.S. Drug Sting Operation
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) _ President Rafael Callejas on Thursday criticized the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for bungling a sting operation intended to identify suspected drug runners.
The DEA failed to notify Honduran authorities that it had planted nearly 100 pounds of cocaine on a Miami-bound plane flying from Belize to Honduras, the U.S. Embassy said Wednesday.
Honduran arrested the five-man crew of the plane and jailed them on drug trafficking and possession charges. Authorities gave no indication the men were anything but unwitting participants in the sting, but did not release them, and arrested two other Belize Air representatives Thursday.
The judge in the case said U.S. officials would have to make statements.
The U.S. Embassy said the lack of coordination with Honduran officials was being investigated.
The DEA plan was to let the plane pass drug checkpoints in Honduras with the contraband on board, the embassy said. But Honduran authorities found it.
″It was a poorly directed and poorly executed action by U.S. institutions,″ Callejas told a news conference. ″This situation set up by the DEA has caused us consternation and surprise.″
The embassy apologized and praised Honduran authorities who detected the drugs when the plane landed in Honduras on Saturday.
″The cocaine found on the Belize Air International Limited was put there by Belize police officials with the collaboration of the DEA in a control operation destined to identify presumed drug runners without known connections to Honduras,″ an embassy statement said.
It gave no further details.
Armed forces chief Gen. Luis Alonso Discua said police seized the cocaine, which he said was worth about $1.2 million, after the plane flew into San Pedro Sula, 125 miles north of Tegucigalpa.
″I will not allow anti-drug operations that affect national sovereignty,″ Discua said in an interview.
″The police did the right thing, and we will maintain security until narcotics traffickers’ activity is eliminated in Honduras,″ Discua said.
The five crewmen held were identified as pilot Claude Hopkins Woodhull of the United States, Jean Denis Boileau of Canada, Jose Calmet Cruzado of Peru and Salvador Edgardo Moran Keydel and Leonardo Antonio Moran of Guatemala.
Arrested Thursday were Rafael Nodarse, a Cuban who is Belize Air’s representative in Honduras, and his son Tadeo.
Anthony Zus, the DEA chief in Honduras, flew to Washington for questioning in the case.
″With its action, the DEA overstepped national laws. It is an experience that should not be repeated because it has put the country in a very complicated situation,″ Callejas said.
″Honduras understands the need for an intense fight against narcotics trafficking, but that is not the way to conduct a process when excellent relations exist between the United States and Honduras.″