- - Monday, June 25, 2012

TEGUCIGALPA — A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent who killed a suspected drug trafficker during a raid in a remote region of Honduras was part of an aggressive new enforcement strategy that has sharply increased the interception of drug flights.

The mission, called Operation Anvil, is run with six U.S. State Department helicopters, as well as a special team of DEA agents who work with Honduran police to move more quickly and pursue suspicious flights, according to a U.S. official in Honduras who could not be named for security reasons.

In little more than two months since the operation started, it has intercepted four flights. That compares to only seven from mid-2010 to the end of 2011 - less than one every two months.

The U.S. official said about 100 flights of suspicious origin come into Honduras every year.

With the new operation, Honduran and U.S. drug agents follow every flight they detect of unknown origin and work with non-U.S. contract pilots who don’t have the restrictive rules of engagement that the U.S. military do.

The area of Burs Laguna, where the DEA says an agent shot a drug suspect as he was reaching for his gun Saturday, is part of the remote Mosquito region that is dotted with clandestine airstrips and a vast network of rivers for carrying drugs to the coast.

Saturday’s incident marked the first time that a DEA agent has killed someone in Central America since the agency began deploying specially trained agents several years ago to accompany local law enforcement personnel on all types of drug raids, DEA spokeswoman Dawn Deaden said.

A May 11 raid by Honduran police with DEA advisers, also under Operation Anvil, left four people dead and four others wounded. Locals said they were innocent civilians traveling the river at night. Honduran and DEA officials have said people on the boat fired first and the lawmen were acting in self-defense.

The DEA said none of its agents fired their guns in that incident.

Operation Anvil also netted cocaine shipments May 6 in the Mosquito and June 13 in Olancho state, totaling more three quarters of a ton of cocaine in about two months.

The weekend raid was a “great example of positive U.S.-Honduran cooperation,” U.S. Embassy spokesman Stephen Plosive said in Tegucigalpa.

But the aggressive tactics have come under fire from human rights groups and some political interests in Washington, especially since the May 11 attack.


Shadow government aims to regain power

ASUNCION — Ousted Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo says the parallel government he is launching aims to restore him to power.

Mr. Lugo said he intends to plead his case on the international stage at this week’s Mercosur summit of South American nations in Argentina. He said he regards the impeachment trial that removed him an institutional coup.

Meanwhile, the man who replaced Mr. Lugo rejected a Mercosur resolution suspending Paraguay and preventing his new government from participating at the gathering.

Federico Franco’s foreign minister said early Monday that Paraguay has not been removed from the regional trade bloc, just suspended from one meeting.


Workers search for victims of roof collapse at mall

ELLIOT LAKE, Ontario — Rescuers worked Monday to stabilize the structure of a shopping mall in order to send in teams following a roof collapse that left at least one person feared dead and another trapped inside the rubble, officials said Monday.

Elliott Lake Mayor Rick Hamilton said workers were still removing the debris. Officials were using two cranes in the stabilization efforts, more than 40 hours after the collapse occurred.

Workers were unable to reach anyone Sunday because the structure was too unstable.

“Nobody has given me an indication on when it’s too late,” Mr. Hamilton said. “We’re working under the premise that it is a rescue. They are going to work as diligently as they can and as carefully as they can.”

Police compiled a list of nine people missing since the collapse Saturday, but the names were being crossed off as members of the community accounted for their loved ones.


Hundreds protest plan to destroy slum

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Hundreds marched in the suburbs of Haiti’s capital Monday to protest a government plan to destroy their shantytown homes on the side of a hill.

The protesters snaked through the gridlike streets of Petionville as they chanted threats to burn down the relatively affluent city if authorities flatten their nearby homes.

An official with the Ministry of Environment said on local radio last week that the government wants to tear down several hundred homes surrounding Petionville because it needs to install channels to curb flooding.

Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince is filled with some 3 million people and the mountains have been covered over the years with concrete homes and hovels that collapse in heavy rains.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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