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But they have also imported their ruthless rivalries.
Mexico's feared Zeta and Sinaloa cartels have teamed up with local drug-lords to run the multi-billion dollar smuggling operation.Last week, The Telegraph obtained photographs from a recent military operation in La Mosquitia that illustrate the scale of that challenge.The pictures show airstrips cut out of the jungle by bulldozer and the lights and lamps used for night-time landings.The average payload is worth much more than the plane itself.While the drug dealers get rich, ordinary Hondurans suffer - not that many of those in the areas plagued by gangs are willing to speak out."These areas were in the hands of the gangs," said Col Jose Lopez Raudales, a veteran army commander whose men were given a crash course in policing strategy before their deployment last month.
The maze of shanty homes - where dirt tracks pass for roads and open sewers run along walls daubed with gang graffiti and threats to kill informants - used to be a no-go zone for the security forces.
The police were too scared, too ill-equipped, too inefficient and often too complicit in gang crime to venture there.
Col Raudales has 100 troops under his command at the school, part of 1,000 military police involved in the crackdown.
Speaking anonymously for fear of retribution, the school's headteacher welcomed their arrival in her classrooms, recounting how her pupils used to have to take shelter under their desks when gun battles erupted outside.
One of the unit's first tasks upon being deployed to the district last month was to remove the corpse of a man shot 12 times in the head, but Col Raudales said there had been no deaths there since their deployment.
As US-led counter-trafficking operations have squeezed cartels to the south in Colombia and the north in Mexico, the drug gangs have turned to the country as an alternative staging post.