Honduras has been Central America’s focal point for drug trafficking towards the United States for years as the region’s main transit country. Recent court cases held in the United States have revealed the symbiotic relationship between state actors, business elites and drug trafficking organisations in contemporary Honduras, uncovering the blurred boundaries between the licit and illicit, the upper and underworld in the country. In this article, a drug-trafficking family – ‘Los Cachiros’ transportista (transport) group – is analysed as a case study with the aim of exploring state actors’ involvement in cocaine trafficking.
Drawing on publicly available official judicial documents, this article explores the interpenetrations between formal and informal institutions in the country, arguing that state actors’ involvement in the drug trade in Honduras goes far beyond protection, and has evolved into a powerful network of public, private and criminal actors that has been able to capture the state’s basic sovereign functions with the aim of protecting and promoting their own private interests. In doing so, this article takes forward the state-crime nexus literature. Building on Hall’s (2018) networked approach in the study of illicit economies, this article proposes a conceptual framework to re-theorise the state-crime nexus as a transnationally networked set of relations, which considers the role of external states as actors of power within a country’s state-crime nexus. Looking at the unique relationship between Honduras and the United States, I argue that the concept is useful to understand the role of the United States as a transnational actor of power within the Honduran state-crime nexus.