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Alternative facts: A tale of two countries - Antigua-Barbuda and Honduras
Published on April 3, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

suspect_air_activity.jpg
Image above depicts a recent relocatable over the horizon radar (ROTHR) mapping of drugs flights. With the demise of the flights from Colombia to The Bahamas due to a very strict airspace control and more grip on the airstrips in Northern Colombia, this map illustrates the new approach of the drug cartels. The start of most drug flights has been relocated very clearly to Western Venezuela, close to the river Orinoco marking the border between both countries. Conspicuous by their absence from detected suspicious flights on this map are Antigua and Barbuda and the rest of the Eastern Caribbean.

By Caribbean News Now contributor

WASHINGTON, USA -- As reported on Saturday, a report released last month by the US Department of State credits the Honduras government with battling crime and drug trafficking, while being sharply critical of Eastern Caribbean islands, Antigua and Barbuda in particular, for failing to curb drug trafficking and money laundering.

According to the State Department’s 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), the Eastern Caribbean hosts abundant transshipment points for illicit narcotics, primarily from Venezuela destined for North American, European and domestic Caribbean markets.

Specifically, the report claims that Antigua and Barbuda is a transit point for illegal drugs going to the United States and Europe. However, no evidence was provided or any sources given for these assertions.

In fact, an online interactive map of major drug interdictions in the Caribbean for the period January 2015 through March 2017 shows just one such incident in Antigua and Barbuda and that was perpetrated by two Jamaicans.

major_drug_interdictions.jpg
Major drug interdictions in the Caribbean for the period January 2015 through March 2017. Image: drugs.globalincidentmap.com

On the other hand, Honduras has entire “boneyards” of crashed, burned and abandoned drug-smuggling aircraft. The flights are usually one-way trips from Venezuela, ending in deliberate crash landings with the mission accomplished. The average payload is worth much more than the plane itself.

roatan-jet.jpg
Abandoned aircraft at Roatan Airport, Honduras, in February 2016, including a mysterious Gulfstream II business jet with registration number N707KD. Photo: Tom Demerly

The Caribbean island of Utila is another remote part of Honduras that has a boneyard of aircraft that have been abandoned and believed to be used by drug smugglers, since the registration numbers are generally scraped off the planes and no crew are to be found.

Nevertheless, the State Department report detailed the efforts of the Honduras government to battle drug trafficking.

"The results are visible," the INCSR concluded, perhaps an unintentional allusion to the many pictures of crashed and abandoned drug smuggling aircraft.

burned_drug_plane.jpg
Small planes are routinely burned and abandoned by drug smugglers

Christa Castro, minister advisor for strategy and communications for the government of Honduras, said that her government has taken concrete steps to combat organized crime and drug trafficking.

"The State Department report highlights the fruits of our labour,” she noted.

In fact, her government was apparently so pleased with the INCSR that it issued a press release on Friday entitled: “Honduran government receives praise from US State Department for reducing crime and corruption rates”.

In contrast, the government of Antigua and Barbuda has roundly condemned the report, accusing the State Department of misrepresenting the situation in the country, something that has attracted the attention of officials in other US government departments and agencies, who have expressed serious concern that, if the State Department’s assertions of fact are shown to be baseless and/or unsupported by other government departments and agencies that should have been consulted, the inescapable implication is that US foreign policy is flawed because it is being driven by flawed or false intelligence and reporting.

According to the INCSR, the 2017 report “is based upon the contributions of numerous US government agencies and international sources”. A non-exclusive list of such department and/or their subsidiary agencies included the Treasury Department, Homeland Security and Department of Justice.

Although not mentioned in the INCSR, according to other government officials, it would have made sense for the Commerce Department to have been asked to provide input on certain aspects of the report, including, but not limited to, in relation to Antigua and Barbuda.

However, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Caribbean News Now, for records of any information sought by and/or provided to the Department of State by the Department of Commerce in connection with the INCSR 2017 and any requests for such information, the International Trade Administration (ITA) of the Commerce Department stated, “After a thorough search, ITA has found no records responsive to your request.”

Similar FOIA submissions to other US government departments are still pending; however, no early reaction is expected from the State Department itself since we have been waiting some two years for a substantive response to an earlier request on another unrelated matter.
 
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