DEA Ordered Out of Honduras After 4 Innocent Civilians Die in Wild Shootout
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Bullets flew as U.S. helicopters swooped toward a river boat. Honduran national police rappelled to the ground and locals scattered after loading close to 1,000 pounds of cocaine. Now reverberations from a drug raid that locals say killed four innocent people are being felt from the sultry jungles of Central America to Capitol Hill.
Last week’s DEA-supported predawn raid on the banks of a remote Honduran river began when U.S. drug agents and Honduran national police tracked an airplane loaded with cocaine as it entered the country from South America, Honduras National Police Chief Ricardo Ramirez del Cid said in an interview Thursday.
Ramirez said his officers were in four helicopters when they came under fire from the boat. They fired back and then descended on ropes to the river after the shooting stopped. By the time they got there, they only found a boat full of cocaine. He said they didn’t know if anyone died. There were no people, dead, alive or injured.
Numerous local officials, including Mayor Lucio Vaquedano of the coastal town of Ahuas, said four people, including two pregnant women, were killed. He insisted they were diving for lobster and shellfish when were killed and that they were not involved with drug trafficking.
Congressman Howard Berman said Thursday that if the reports that innocent people were killed are true, the U.S. should review this part of its assistance to Honduras.
“I have consistently expressed deep concerns regarding the danger of pouring U.S. security assistance into a situation where Honduran security forces are involved in serious human rights violations,” said the California Democrat. “The problems are getting worse, not better, making such a review all the more urgent.”
There were many versions of what happened in the early morning May 11 and by the end of the day Thursday, the DEA wouldn’t confirm many details.