The Supposed War on Drugs and the Demonization of the Indigenous Peoples of the Moskitia

 March 13, 2014 by OFRANEH, translation by Adrienne Pine (

The recent barrage of articles in the Honduran media, targeting [we] indigenous peoples who live in the Moskitia as accomplices in the illegal drug trade, forms part of a campaign that aims to demonize our peoples and promote militarization possibly aimed at creating a massive exodus from our communities and territories.

The article 15 communities are under the control of narcos [drug lords] in the Honduran Moskitia, published by the La Prensa newspaper (March 10, 2014), emphasizes once again the condition of an induced failed state that prevails in that part of the country, a completely militarized region with bases housing Honduran and U.S. troops.

The massacre of indigenous Miskitos in Ahuas in May 2012 can be understood as the start of the military offensive, with the aim of instigating a displacement of the population, which, to be sure, has been gradually occurring over the course of the past decade.

The joint military operation carried out on May 11, 2011 by the DEA and Honduran police used State Department helicopters flown by Guatemalan pilots culminated in the massacre of four indigenous Miskito people who were traveling in a pipante (canoe) on the Patuca River.

The presence of U.S. helicopters has been felt since early April 2012, when they began carrying out low-flying maneuvers on the Honduran North Coast, including in urban centers. Operation Anvil was the name given to the psychological terrorism and so-called anti-drug operation under the control of FAST (Foreign-Deployed Advisory Support Team). The Ahuas massacre left an indelible mark on the Miskitu people, which has been at the mercy of drug traffickers—with the complicity of the "authorities"—for the past few decades.

The Moskitia, Terra Nullius and Oil

In the year 1864, the British empire recognized the Moskitia as part of the Honduran republic with the Wiky-Cruz treaty. Nonetheless, to this date the vast territory has remained largely ignored by Tegucigalpa. The Miskito nation has been the scene of various conflicts throughout the 20th century, one of the most notorious being the Cold War struggle in the 1980s, when there was a significant U.S. presence as part of the internal war in provoked [by the United States] in Nicaragua to destabilize the Sandinista government.

The ignominious and failed War on Drugs ignored conditions in the Moskitia for decades, a situation that enabled drug traffickers to set up their networks throughout the region. It is interesting that the Unites States has taken on the "fight" against cocaine traffic in the western Caribbean region at this late date, when the drug’s consumption has gone down in that country, overtaken by synthetic and prescription drugs.

The thousands of millions of dollars spent in the supposed war on drugs by the United States has not had much effect. Nonetheless U.S. prisons are overflowing with Blacks and Latinos; and certain regions of Latin America have been converted in battlegrounds full of cadavers. Meanwhile, illegal drugs continue to circulate openly in the markets of industrialized countries.

It is an enormous contradiction that countries like Afghanistan and Colombia, suffering the intervention of the U.S. war machine, are among the highest producers of heroine and cocaine on the planet. Despite the military presence and supposed attack on illegal drugs, those drugs continue arriving on the market, and their money laundering operations remain untouchable.

Oil, hydroelectricity, forests and fishing reserves make up part of the enormous wealth of the Moskitia—a land with a very low population density, where the presence of the state, apart from "security" forces, is non-existent. The territory was handed over to organized crime as a result of the ineptitude of the central government to promote an honest policy of inclusivity within its borders.

In isolation, poverty and ungovernability have been promoted as an means to incite massive displacement of the population toward the urban centers of the country. The vision of the Moskitia as being Terra Nullius (Land of No One), persists despite the late and partial territorial recognition granted to Miskito communities.

[Not] Coincidentally, "Bent, Tuxidaxa, Usibila, Ahuas, Patuca, Jerusalem, Tocamacho, Ivans, Palacios, Wampusirpe, Plaplaya, Belén Norte and Las Icoteas in Gracias a Dios. Iriona, Sico and Limón in Colón," indicated as drug-trafficking communities [in the La Prensa article] are situated in the Tela Basin and the Moskitia, regions where enormous deposits of hydrocarbons are believed to exist.

Demonization of the peoples of the Moskitia

Tawahkas, Pech, Miskitos and Garífunas share the Moskitia territory, and face difficulties that have been intensifying in recent years; the destruction of the fisheries at the hands of industrial fishing fleets, the reduction in agricultural production, climate change and the presence of colonizing forces and armed groups related to organized crime form part of the everyday nightmare suffered by our peoples.

One indicator of the cruel reality of the Moskitia are the 400 deceased divers and more than 4,000 who have suffered [severe] injuries and live in complete neglect. The owners of lobster boats, who are responsible for ethnocide, have never been charged in Honduran courts, and state interventions have not gone beyond reprimands. The case that was initiated in the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC) has been diluted to the form of a supposed friendly agreement, without any concrete measures to prevent the exploitation of Miskito divers.

The allegation of the La Prensa article that 60% of indigenous fishermen are involved in drug trafficking lacks any evidence. And it seems to be aimed at justifying the persecution of small-scale fishermen, to close off in this way one of the few sources of income and food for Miskitos as well as Garifunas.

It is worth mentioning that in 2011 the Moskitia was the object of a geographic-military study titled Indigenous Central America, related to the Bowman Expeditions, financed by the Minerva Initiative of the U.S. Defense Department. This project takes territorial rights and stability as a starting point, pointing to collective land ownership as an incubator of violence and chaos.

The demonization of indigenous people of the Honduran Caribbean promoted by the La Prensa newspaper, is permeated with a sinister racism. To this day the national media and authorities have evaded investigation of mayors and Congress members of the north coast, who for decades that been intimately linked to organized crime.

The Southern Command of the United States has initiated a joint defense force in the Moskitia with the Honduran Naval force, along with a project to map the ocean floor on the Honduran north coast to a depth of 50 meters. Undoubtedly, the belated attention being paid to the Honduran Caribbean will simply mean that the cartels will alter their routes and tactics.

The supposed War on Drugs is full of hypocrisy, so much so that we can point to the current narco-democracy as an imperial strategy of intervention and domination. It is time to begin investigating who are the bosses and lords of drug trafficking in Honduras and to break up their empires—not to intensify the campaign against small-scale fishermen and indigenous communities on the country’s Caribbean coast.

Sambo Creek, March 12, 2014

Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña, OFRANEH