Honduran Air Force pilots shot down two suspected drug planes in July, provoking outrage in the U.S. and bringing an ambitious international offensives against drug traffickers to a sudden halt just months after it started, the New York Times reports. Joint operations in Honduras are suspended. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is holding up tens of millions of dollars in security assistance, not just because of the planes, but also over suspected human rights abuses by the Honduran police and three shootings in which commandos with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration led raids when they were supposed to act as advisers.
The State Department, DEA, and Pentagon rushed ahead this year with what the Times calls a muscular antidrug effort with several Latin American nations, hoping to protect Honduras and use it as a chokepoint to cut off the flow of drugs heading north. The series of fatal enforcement actions, some by the Honduran military, others involving shootings by American agents. turned the antidrug cooperation, often promoted as a model of international teamwork, into a case study of what can go wrong when the tactics of war are used to fight a crime problem that goes well beyond drugs.