Deposed Honduran Prez Accused of Drug Ties

BOGOTA (AP) - The regime that ousted Manuel Zelaya in Honduras
claimed Tuesday that the deposed president allowed tons of cocaine
to be flown into the Central American country on its way to the
United States.

"Every night, three or four Venezuelan-registered planes land
without the permission of appropriate authorities and bring
thousands of pounds ... and packages of money that are the fruit of
drug trafficking," its foreign minister, Enrique Ortez, told CNN
en Espanol.

"We have proof of all of this. Neighboring governments have it.
The DEA has it," he added.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne in
Washington said he could neither confirm nor deny a DEA

Zelaya was traveling from New York to Washington and could not
immediately be reached to respond to the allegations.

Honduras and other Central American nations have become major
transshipment points in recent years for Colombian cocaine,
particularly as Mexico's government cracks down on cartels.

The drugs arrive in Honduras on non-commercial aircraft from
Venezuela and increasingly in speedboats from Colombia, according
to the Key West, Florida-based Joint Interagency Task Force-South,
which coordinates drug interdiction in region.

In its most recent report on the illicit narcotics trade, the
U.S. State Department said in February of Honduras that "official
corruption continues to be an impediment to effective law
enforcement and there are press reports of drug trafficking and
associated criminal activity among current and former government
and military officials."

The report did not name names.

Drug-related violence appears to be up in Honduras.

Homicides surged 25 percent from some 4,400 in 2007 to more than
7,000 in 2008 while more than 1,600 people were killed
execution-style, suggesting drug gang involvement, according to the
Central American Violence Observatory.

In October, Zelaya proposed legalizing drug use as a way of
reducing the violence. He also had pledgd to double the country's
police force, which reached 13,500 last year, up from 7,000 in
2005, according to the State Department report.

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