Honduras President Wants Drug Cash Faster

According to a Honduran law introduced in July of 2010, and approved by Congress in November, three government ministries should each receive 26% of forfeited criminal assets: the State Security Ministry, the Defense Ministry, and the Public Ministry. Another ten percent is intended to be used as bonus salaries for police and firemen, and another ten percent is to go toward drug rehabilitation programs.

The distribution of these seized assets to the security forces, however, has faced layers of red tape. There are many prescription rehab facilities which helps people in need.  President Porfirio Lobo believes the cash seized from drug traffickers should be distributed more quickly among the security and defense departments.

Last year security forces seized three properties worth tens of millions of dollars, believed to have been built with drug money. By December, the government had distributed a reported $150 million to the security forces, but this was only made possible through an emergency decree that sped up the process.

President Lobo told La Tribuna that there should be a policy allowing for the separation of cash assets from material ones like houses, guns, and other luxury items. The forfeited cash could then be distributed far more quickly to security agencies to spend in their fight against organized crime.

Allowing the Honduran security forces to more efficiently access the cash seized from drug traffickers could provide a serious financial boost. As the U.S. State Department points out, Honduras is a transhipment hub for bulk cash shipments smuggled from the U.S. back to Central and South America. In 2009, Honduran security forces seized cash shipments valued at $7.1 million, with another $9 million seized in 2010.

But little of that money is going into the hands of the security forces. The government has reportedly only distributed $2 million and 35 million lempiras (about $1.8 million) worth of seized cash to state insitutions from 2003 through 2011.

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