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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Honduran mayor accused of drug trafficking arrested

Authorities in Honduras have arrested the mayor of an indigenous Miskito community this week on charges of aggravated drug trafficking.

The mayor of Brus Laguna, Wilmer Manolo Wood, was detained along with another man named Jaime David López during operations carried out by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Wood stands accused of being part of an organized drug cartel moving cocaine through the region over the past 15 years.

According to investigators, the mayor facilitated the movement of drugs and money starting in the Gracias a Dios department, home to many Miskito people. For the last eight years, he allegedly received large cocaine shipments from Colombia, with over 30 tons trafficked since 2018 alone.

The arrests were part of a broader operation targeting three specific groups – Los Piningos, Los Yanes and Los Amador. Officials say these gangs have smuggled nearly 100 tons of cocaine over the past decade by exploiting remote indigenous areas.

Honduras has long been known as a key transit zone for South American cocaine ultimately destined for the United States. But corruption now appears to have enabled trafficking directly within indigenous communities rather than just through them.

The revelations come as newly inaugurated Honduran President Xiomara Castro has vowed to crack down on cartels that have corrupted law enforcement and politics. Last year, former president Juan Orlando Hernández was extradited to the U.S. on charges of smuggling 500 tons of cocaine with help from state institutions.

The arrest of an elected Miskito mayor shows how deeply gang influence may have penetrated. But indigenous rights groups argue authorities often unfairly criminalize these marginalized communities without providing economic alternatives. They emphasize that true change requires tackling the root causes that allow illicit economies to thrive across Honduras.

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