Washington, DC—The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Department of State misled investigations into a 2012 U.S.-led counterdrug operation in Honduras that resulted in the death of several civilians, reveals a report released today by the Offices of the Inspectors General of the State and Justice Departments.
The incriminating 424-page report details the aftermath of a May 11, 2012 shooting in which American and Honduran agents opened fire on a passenger boat carrying civilians. This was followed by more gunfire from a helicopter carrying U.S. and Honduran law enforcement agents. Four innocent civilians were killed and another four were injured in the incident.
Among the most scathing findings are that the DEA and the State Department intentionally provided “inaccurate and incomplete” information to Congress, the Department of Justice, and the American public regarding the shooting.
Despite claims from both entities that the operation was “Honduran-led” and that there was an exchange of fire, the report states that DEA personnel had “substantial control over the conduct of the operation,” and found no evidence of gunfire from the passenger boat. Furthermore, both DEA officials and senior State Department officials in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) deliberately withheld information from the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, despite repeated requests for information.
“This incident and the subsequent cover-up reveal a dangerous culture within the DEA. Those responsible for the shooting and those who misled the investigations should be held accountable, and the United States has a responsibility to provide adequate compensation to the victims. This culture of secrecy is unacceptable, and demonstrates why U.S. counternarcotics operations in the region require greater oversight and more transparency,” said Adriana Beltrán, WOLA Senior Associate for Citizen Security.