Honduras approves shooting down suspected drug planes

TEGUCIGALPA Fri Jan 17, 2014 11:19pm EST

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TEGUCIGALPA Jan 17 (Reuters) - Honduran lawmakers on Friday approved legislation allowing the government to shoot down planes suspected of trafficking illegal drugs through the poor nation that has been hit by deepening gang violence.

The legislation authorizes progressive use of force to make unidentified aircraft land. Only the country's defense minister can order that a plane be shot down, the legislation said.

Most of the cocaine destined for the United States moves though Honduras, where Mexican drug gangs have moved in as they take increasing control over the drug trade from Colombian traffickers.

The Honduran military shot down two small planes in 2012 that were suspected of carrying drugs. The incident pushed the United States to suspend anti-drug radar support to Honduran authorities for about three months.

Conservative Juan Hernandez was elected president last November after promising a tough militarized response to drug gang violence that has driven Honduras' murder rate to the world's highest.

Honduras has said it will buy three radar systems from Israel that it can use to track planes suspected of carrying illegal drugs. (Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Editing by Ken Wills)

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