The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have to release information regarding their purchases and have been granted great leeway with regards to the weapons they can possess. As noted at the onset of this study, the police, who are tasked with registering weapons, have trouble keeping track of what they have confiscated. Police stockpiles are also vulnerable, as will be evident later in this report.
The problems extend to ammunition. Understanding and enforcement of the laws on munitions was reportedly very lackadaisical until recently. Hondurans could purchase munitions for high-powered weaponry in the country's foremost department stores. Although these loopholes appear to be closing, there remains a vibrant black market for munitions, much of which appears to be sold by active and retired members of the security forces and others who have access to large quantities of ammunition.
The military has control over many weapons, yet we know little about its regulatory system, cases of leakage, or its internal control mechanisms. While there is information on total weapons imports (see below), there is a reluctance on the part of the armed forces to release the number, type and caliber of weapons, as well as the amount of ammunition, in their possession. InSight Crime and ASJ attempted to obtain this information from the Honduran military via freedom of information requests ("derecho de peticion"), but without success. The military cited "security" reasons in its justification for withholding the information.
Military Firearms Imports (in millions of dollars)
In its report on Honduras, the ATF noted further contradictions in firearms legislation regarding control mechanisms for the military, which seems to be quite literally above the law when it comes to reporting on its stocks of munitions, explosives and weapons, among other items. "The … ballistics database does not contain information on firearms belonging to the military or security forces, but the Firearms Law does require the military to maintain a special daily register of their firearms and ammunition inventories, which is also promulgated in their organizational law," the ATF wrote. "However, the Firearms Law is silent on pertinent inventory control provisions for the public security forces … Also absent are firearms marking requirements in the aforementioned statutes."
Given this it is perhaps not surprising that there have been no broad, official investigations or oversight of the military's imports or of its weapons and munitions stocks. As noted earlier, these stocks have weapons reaching back to the 1980s, when the country received hundreds of millions of dollars worth of US military assistance and military hardware. And without any available registry of military imports or reports on its weapon stocks, it is impossible to know the extent of illegal sales of arms and munitions emanating from the armed forces. Nevertheless, the examples delineated below suggest that it is an ongoing problem.
(A weapon initialized by the Honduran Armed Forces that was seized by authorities at a crime scene. Photo credit: Steven Dudley)
The vulnerability of Honduran military stockpiles reaches back at least a decade. Of the 3,000 AK-47s handed over to the government as part of an amnesty in 2003, officials could only account for 1,615 by the year 2011, and those may have been gathered in a later amnesty.
In the biggest case of leakage from military stocks to date, police seized a cache of military weapons in Choloma, Cortés, in 2004, reportedly destined for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) guerrilla group. The cache included 163 M16s, 26 AK-47s, 11 M60s, 4 FAL, 9 grenade launchers, 5 rocket-propelled grenades, 54 crates of ammunition of different caliber, and 374 M16 and AK-47 cartridges. One of the alleged traffickers, Pedro García Montes, was assassinated in Colombia in 2004. Honduras' Minister of Security Oscar Álvarez told La Tribuna at the time that García Montes had traded weapons with the FARC for drugs. (Other sources told the press that García Montes was part of a Colombia-based drug cartel.) Álvarez added that the large numbers of US-made weapons made authorities believe that the leakage was coming from firearms stocks dating back to the 1980s.
"We know that in the country there are many weapons of Soviet origin from the time of the Cold War in the 1970s and 1980s," he said. "But in this lot were found more than 150 M16 rifles, M203 grenade launchers, M60 machineguns, and five anti-tank rocket launchers, as fresh as if they just left the factory, all US-made."
In a more recent case dating from at least 2010, the Attorney General's Office opened an investigation into the theft and resale of 22 rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). The weapons and munitions were stolen from a logistical base, a military tribunal found, although the accused sergeant denied any knowledge of the theft or resale. The grenades, or "papayas" as they are called on the black market, could have fetched as much as $7,000, according to one former military official consulted for this study. With the launcher included -- as it apparently was -- the price could have reached as high as $25,000. The records for this case were reportedly "frozen" by that tribunal, but at least one military official was sentenced to house arrest.
There have been no publicly reported cases since, but current and former military officials appear to be active in what remains a vibrant black market. The same former military official consulted for this report revealed how much of this black market works via individual connections over the telephone. The source showed InSight Crime and ASJ messages on his telephone he had exchanged with former colleagues -- retired and active -- about munitions and weapons. One message from "a friend" -- who he said was ex-military -- was selling a Glock 19. The firearm retails in the United States for about $600; the asking price in Honduras was $3,500.
Another message began, "I'm selling an AR-15"
Source: Photo and how much?
Seller: And M16 munitions [that also work for AR-15]
Seller: A full cartridge belt [1,000 bullets]
Source: Send me a photo so I can coordinate with people who might be interested
(Vender sends photograph -- see below)
The only market more vibrant than that of pistols and assault weapons may be that of munitions. The ex-military source showed InSight Crime and ASJ investigators a message from another "friend" (active military, he said) asking about possible buyers for up to 10,000 rounds of bullets used for AR-15s and M16 assault rifles, among others. The asking price was 10 lempiras (about $0.50) per bullet, giving this bundle of munitions a market value of close to $5,000. The leakage of these munitions is related in part to the lack of controls on military trainings, the source noted. There is, simply put, no regulation of munitions use at military trainings or shooting ranges.
"You sign out 10,000 rounds and use 5,000," he said. "Who is going to know what you do with the other 5,000?"
Beyond the barracks, there is the supply of weapons from the Armory. As noted previously, the Armory is the sole licensed dealer of weapons in Honduras. Exactly how many weapons the Armory sells is unknown. This is because it does not release official data on sales, and the military claimed it could not provide InSight Crime and ASJ with that information -- in response to our freedom of information request -- due to "reasons of national security."
In an interview, however, Armory officials told InSight Crime and ASJ it had sold "just under 200,000 weapons" in its 42 years of existence. This is consistent with what Armory representatives told the ATF in 2010 -- that it had sold 6,000 weapons in 2009, and about 160,000 in total at that time. The Armory imports weapons from Mexico and Brazil, among other countries, but it told the ATF in 2010 that it had not imported weapons from the European Union or the United States since 2002. Armory representatives stated that they believed this contributed to the high volume of US weapons trafficked on the black market.
This black market, Armory representatives told InSight Crime and ASJ, had cut into their bottom line with regards to weapons sales. Sales were 30 percent what they were in 2008, they said. Without showing any corroborating reports, Armory representatives insisted that the majority of weapons it sells are "revolvers," such as Taureg and Armscor, and "12-gauge shotguns," such as Remington and Mossberg, of which 70 percent are sold to private security firms. The representatives said that the Armory puts strict requirements on the private firms seeking weapons beyond what the law requires, such as requesting to see paperwork demonstrating their legal constitution as a company.
Despite prohibitions against weapons that require 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm bullets, the Armory still sells these munitions or variations of them. The .223 caliber bullets available at the Armory, for instance, work with AR-15 and M16 assault rifles, which are illegal for civilians to carry in Honduras. They come in boxes of 50, and have a retail price of 802.70 lempiras, about a 37 percent markup on the black market price mentioned earlier for 5.56 mm. Armory representatives say purchasers of the Mini-14 Ruger seek .223 caliber bullets. But when InSight Crime and ASJ visited an Armory retail outlet, the sales clerk said that the Armory no longer had these for sale. The sales clerk also said that the Armory did not sell any weapons that were compatible with 7.62 mm bullets, though he showed a box of 20 retailing for 626.75 lempiras to the investigator. Armory representatives insist that the vast majority of the munitions they sell are .22 caliber bullets, used for the hunting rifles they say they sell in large quantities.
The Armory's sales are the second most important source of income for the Military Pension Institute, IPM. On the surface, it would seem that the military's dependence on weapons sales to finance its pension system provides incentives to sell more, to increase the pension's holdings. This is particularly troubling given the lack of transparency with regards to imports, sales, and subsequent regulatory measures around the administration of weapons and munitions sales.
What's more, it is baffling that Armory representatives insist they are not required to, and do not, inform the police's National Firearms Registry of all weapons sold. This contradicts what Armory representatives told the ATF in 2010, when they claimed that the Armory reported its sales "daily and monthly" to the national registry representatives. The only time period in which they said this did not occur was when there was, according to the ATF's report, a "contractual issue with the company providing support" to the registry.
Still, Armory officials insist that they are going above and beyond the call of duty. They say they do not have to require individual buyers to provide an individual criminal background check; that they do not have to ensure, using information from their database, that no single individual owns more than five weapons; and that they do not have to control the resale of munitions by ensuring that individuals not stock up on bullets via their stores. Despite this, they say they do all of the above and more.
This effort, however, is not stopping weapons from seeping into criminal hands. Attorney General's Office representatives estimated that 20 percent of the weapons it seized from the Valle Valle group in 2014 had been purchased at the Armory. Prosecutors added that Luis Valle, one of the group's leaders, had purchased a weapon from the Armory that he had registered with the National Firearms Registry.
Police: Stocks, Seizures and Resale
The police also appear to be a source for weaponry on the black market, as the case against the Special Forces known as the Cobras illustrates below. As with the military, the problem begins with a lack of transparency. Police stocks, weapons purchases and holdings are hidden from view and not available to the public. The police registered its weapons in the precursor of the National Firearms Registry, but it has not done so since the registry was created in 2002. It has also stopped tracking the weapons that it registered in that time period.
Police-issued weapons are registered in inventories at each individual police station. However, there is no known centralized database of police weaponry, munitions or other arms. In other words, if authorities recover bullets or a weapon from a crime scene, crossing it with the IBIS database or the registry will not lead to a match. The same is true for military-issued weapons.
Moreover, the police have a very haphazard way of managing weapons they seize. According to the inspector managing the police's central confiscated weapons depository, each police command post has a place where it keeps weapons it seizes for six months before sending them to his office. This is "to give the owners a chance to reclaim it," presumably by filing the necessary paperwork. (The procedure recalls the earlier ATF observation that few people, if any, are prosecuted for carrying weapons illegally.) This management philosophy also obviously carries with it numerous issues, especially considering the accusations of corruption within the police.
(The police's main storage unit in Tegucigalpa. Weapons have sat in the unit for years. Photo credit: Steven Dudley)
The police's central warehouse has between 3,000 and 4,000 weapons, the inspector said. The police said they had destroyed about 3,155 guns in the last three years -- about 700 of which were homemade and the rest were "not functional." In 2014, the police also destroyed 20 of 1,615 AK-47s it had received during a 2010 amnesty, he said. When asked why it had not destroyed any more AK-47s, he said it was because the police did not have a clear protocol about the destruction of weapons. He also noted that the first batch of 20 weapons had been destroyed without protocol because civil society groups, Church representatives, the US ambassador and others were present. The machine, donated by the United States to destroy seized weapons, now sits in an empty room. (See below)
(A machine donated by the US to destroy seized weapons in Honduras, May 2015. Photo credits: Steven Dudley)
Even those who have asked the police to destroy weapons they no longer need have had a hard time. In 2014, a major regional chicken supply company, Pollo Rey, asked the police to destroy 52 weapons that it no longer used. But the weapons sat in an empty room for months, waiting for the police to firm up their protocol, the police inspector said.
It is little surprise, then, that many black market weapons emanate from the police. In the most recent noteworthy case, in August 2013 the Attorney General's Office opened an investigation into the police Special Forces unit known as the Cobras, regarding the disappearance of 300 FAL rifles and 300,000 rounds of 5.56 mm bullets from stockpiles in August 2011. In an investigation of the case, El Heraldo said that the weapons were transported "ant-style" ("operacion hormiga" -- divided into small batches) to Guatemala, where they were sold to the Zetas criminal organization.
Other cases show a similar modus operandi. In 2007, some 186 weapons "disappeared" from the Cobras' armory. In 2011, police reported dismantling a criminal group that was found carrying four of the same type of weapons stolen from the Cobras, but it was never confirmed whether the serial numbers matched those stolen in 2007. And in 2011, it was reported that 80 weapons had been "stolen" from the police training institute (Instituto Tecnico Policial) in the city of La Paz. It's unclear whether the Attorney General's Office investigated the case.
Private Security Companies
The private security industry has grown substantially in Latin America in recent years. The industry is notoriously opaque and unstable, making data collection difficult, but since around the 1990s the annual growth of this sector in the region has been at least 10 percent per annum. In 2007, for instance, Honduras had 116 registered security companies with 20,000 employees, and another 284 estimated unregistered companies with 60,000 estimated employees. By 2013, there were 709 registered private security companies with an estimated 70,000 employees, about twice the size of Honduras' military and police combined. By 2017, there were an estimated 1,038 companies.
For multiple reasons, the explosion in private security has opened a door for the black market weapons trade. To begin with, private security operations manage a lot of weapons. According to police, they represent as much as 20 percent of the total number of arms registered, which would put their total above 100,000 weapons. The police team monitoring this registry is made up of 23 inspectors in Tegucigalpa and another 10 in San Pedro Sula. Officials in the capital city told InSight Crime and ASJ they do inspections "every day," and that they leave Tegucigalpa every two weeks to inspect firms outside of the city. Even if true, it would be impossible for 33 inspectors to properly inspect 700 private security firms in any manageable time period.
Secondly, there is little consensus about the laws regarding what weapons the companies can possess. When InSight Crime and ASJ visited the police unit that was established to monitor private security companies' weaponry, it received three conflicting answers as to whether these companies could possess the AR-15 assault rifle: one representative said it was legal until the latest amnesty ends December 31, 2015; another said it was only legal if the company had obtained special permission from the Security Ministry or the police chief; a third said it was illegal.
The reality is that companies -- both the for-profit companies and what are called "non-profit" -- have weapons that are technically illegal. These are the result of "misunderstandings" in the law, malfeasance or corruption. One recent example of this confusion came in Olancho in May 2015, when authorities seized as many as 15 weapons, some of which were illegal under the law, a grenade and other military ordinance in the capital of the Olancho province, Juticalpa. The owners of these weapons, who included Juticalpa Mayor Ramon Sarmiento, said they had permits for the weapons.
Ramon Sarmiento is the nephew of Ulises Sarmiento, a.k.a. "Don Liche," a staunch supporter of the Libre Party, whose suspected ties to organized crime have been highlighted in the past. In 2009, following the overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya, Sarmiento's house was attacked by men wielding high-powered automatic weapons, in what many at the time described as part of an ongoing battle amongst organized criminal groups. Ulises' son Rafael Sarmiento -- who is himself a prospective congressional candidate for the Libre Party -- told InSight Crime and ASJ when we visited shortly thereafter that the attack was part of the political battle playing out in the country.
Indeed, many of these security firms are suspected fronts for organized crime groups. The Attorney General's Office said that the Valle Valle group had a private security firm, which it used to purchase weapons from the Armory. Another trafficker, José "Chepe" Handal, owned a private security firm, Honduras Security, which trafficked high-caliber weapons. The son of a powerful businessman and politician by the same name, Handal had at one point more than a dozen bodyguards armed with high-powered assault weapons.
Thirdly, these private security firms are largely run and stocked with ex-police and ex-military personnel. The former security force members have strong networks inside the active ranks that can get them weapons and munitions illegally, be they seized or legally procured. This is evident in the vibrant, close-knit person-to-person networks explored in other sections of this report. Add to this the lack of transparency on the part of the police and the military about their own procurements and stocks, as well as the lack of controls surrounding seized weapons, and the potential for leakage to the black market via this channel becomes evident.
Fourthly, despite the laws surrounding private security firms, they are often largely informal operations. In some instances, their personnel are not subject to rigorous, thorough background checks. For example, the police said that failure to report new personnel -- which would undermine the state's ability to check employee criminal records -- is one of the most common transgressions of private security firms. The police say that firms do this in order to avoid taxes and licensing fees. However, there are clearly other incentives for these companies, such as to avoid providing the criminal history of each guard.
On the other end of the spectrum, many guards do not receive proper training or pay for their work. Their lack of training, and the often poor and unsafe working conditions, makes them susceptible to pressure from criminal groups, in particular street gangs, to either give or sell their weapons to these groups. In some cases, resistance is met with violence. But given the low pay and poor training, the guards are likely to simply relinquish their weapons rather than fight for them.
In one recent example, suspected members of the Barrio 18 street gang ransacked the offices of a security company in San Pedro Sula, taking with them eleven 12-gauge rifles, seven 9 mm pistols, twenty-nine .38 caliber pistols, a .22 caliber pistol and eight radios. The suspects reportedly took advantage of the guard's lack of training or disregard for protocol. When the guard opened the entrance so other members of the security team could enter the facility, suspects slipped in as well. The newspaper report said the suspects then intimidated the guard, so that he would open the garage door and allow the suspects' accomplices to enter the facility.
Other Means: Networking, Pawn Shops, and Social Media
The resale market appears to be a popular means to circulate illegal weapons in Honduras. There are several ways these sales occur. Much of it is by word of mouth, numerous sources told InSight Crime and ASJ. As illustrated earlier, these sales can happen via text message and networking among current and former security officials. Relatives and close-knit communities can also peddle weapons through their networks at work or in social settings. Street gangs and others who control small, underground economies can also access weapons easily by networking among themselves and other small criminal groups.
These weapons also move through pawnshops in Honduras. There is little to no regulation of these establishments. Our researcher visited three pawnshops in the country, two of which said they would sell weapons to the researcher. One of these said the service was "by appointment only." In other words, the pawnshop would bring a specific weapon requested to the shop but did not keep them on the premises. The shopkeeper offered the researcher a "CZ," a Czech-made 9 mm handgun, as a starting point. The other shopkeeper said his shop had "run out" of weapons for the moment, but that it does sell them.
The latest method of selling weapons is via Facebook. Police investigators pointed one of our researchers to two such sites, which they said they were investigating. One of them, "Venta de Armas SPS," had 407 members. There was a recent post asking for a "9 mm or a 40 with papers," presumably meaning already registered with the police. One user replied that he had a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson Desert Eagle "without papers," which prompted the administrator of the page and a user to inquire about the price and number of Desert Eagle pistols available. (See below) It's not known whether any transaction occurred.
(A screenshot of a Facebook conversation about a potential weapons purchase.)
Another page was called "Compra/Venta de armas y municiones Honduras."This page can only be accessed by invitation. One of our researchers requested access, but is still waiting for permission to join. It had 281 members as of May 5, 2015. The page advertises itself as a promoter of weapons for "sporting purposes" and has a disclaimer with regards to the posts of its members.
The most active Facebook page consulted by one of our researchers was called "Compra Venta Armas en SPS y Teguz." There is a constant movement of weapons and munitions on this site, both registered and illegal. Munitions on sale included 5.56 mm and .223 caliber, both used in weapons that are illegal for civilians to possess in Honduras. There were also flak jackets and other accessories for sale, as well as services to help legalize weapons via the aforementioned amnesty.
In 2015, when our researcher first consulted the page, it had over 2,300 members. There are strict requirements about posting items (you must include a base price, use a photo and prove the weapon is in Honduras by posting the photo of a weapon with a local newspaper, for instance). The site also warns against "yellow journalists" infiltrating the site.
* The InSight Crime team for this report was led by InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley and then InSight Crime Assistant Director Elyssa Pachico. Research was led by Steven Dudley and Mario Cerna, a long-time journalist from Honduras. The report was written by Steven Dudley. Special contributions were made by Mario Cerna. Translation into Spanish by Diego García and María Luisa Valencia. Editing and fact-checking by Mike LaSusa, Felipe Puerta and Victoria Dittmar. Graphics by Elisa Roldán. Top photo by Associated Press/Rodrigo Abd. Report photos by Steven Dudley. InSight Crime would like to give special thanks to ASJ for its support and assistance.
 America Economia, "Honduras: buscan frenar el trafico de armas robadas," 2 October 2012. Available at: http://www.americaeconomia.com/politica-sociedad/politica/honduras-buscan-frenar-el-trafico-de-armas-robadas
 A police official managing the storage of AK-47s at police headquarters in Tegucigalpa cited the exact same number of this assault rifle in government custody, which he linked to an amnesty in 2010.
 El Tiempo, "Misterio del Hondureño baleado," 20 July 2004. Available at: http://www.eltiempo.com/archivo/documento/MAM-1538430
 La Tribuna, "Con dos mil kilos de 'coca' compraron armas," 17 April 2005, published by Instituto de Estudios Estrategicos y Politicas (IEEPP).
 El Heraldo, "Se roban 22 lanzacohetes RPG-7 del Comando de Apoyo Logistico," 7 February 2012. Available at: http://www.elheraldo.hn/csp/mediapool/sites/ElHeraldo/SeccionesSecundarias/UnidadInvestigativa/story.csp?cid=617346&sid=659&fid=322
 The first source of income is the stock of the Argos Cement company, Armory representatives told InSight Crime and ASJ.
 InSight Crime and ASJ interview, Attorney General's Office representatives, Tegucigalpa, 25 May 2015.
 See: "National report of the Government of Honduras on measures to prevent and combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and other security measures," UN Programme of Action National Reports, 2004. Available at: http://www.poa-iss.org/Poa13/CountryProfiles/CountryProfileInfo.aspx?CoI=86&pos=10
 Geoffrey Ramsey, "Departure of Honduras Security Minister a Victory for Corrupt Cops," InSight Crime, 12 September 2011. Available at: http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/departure-of-honduras-security-minister-a-victory-for-corrupt-cops
 El Heraldo, "Honduras destruye 12,000 armas y municiones incautadas al crimen," 3 June 2014. Available at: http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/715567-364/honduras-destruye-12000-armas-y-municiones-incautadas-al-crimen
 La Prensa, "MP investiga en sede de los Cobras depositos de armas," 15 August 2013. Available at: http://www.laprensa.hn/honduras/apertura/328658-98/mp-investiga-en-sede-de-los-cobras-dep%C3%B3sitos-de-armas
El Heraldo, "Armas de los Cobras, vendidas en Guatemala," 7 November 2011. Available at: http://www.elheraldo.hn/alfrente/564390-209/armas-de-los-cobras-vendidas-en-guatemala
El Heraldo, "Desaparece un lote de armas asignado al ITP," 21 November 2011. Available at: http://www.elheraldo.hn/csp/mediapool/sites/ElHeraldo/SeccionesSecundarias/UnidadInvestigativa/story.csp?cid=617340&sid=659&fid=322
 Mark Unger, "Securing the Imperium: Criminal Justice, Privatization & Neoliberal Globalization (2007-08)," Social Justice, vol. 34, no. 3/4 (109-110), pp. 20-37.
 La Prensa, "Agencias de seguridad, bajo la mira del crimen organizado," 15 August 2013. Available at: http://www.laprensa.hn/content/view/full/171886?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+laprensa_titulares+%28La+Prensa+-+Titulares%29#.UVBVQRysiSq
 El Heraldo, "En Honduras hay 31,387 guardias privados en posesión de 28,464 armas," 23 July 2017. Available at: http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/1092223-466/en-honduras-hay-31387-guardias-privados-en-posesi%C3%B3n-de-28464-armas
 InSight Crime and ASJ interview, head of the National Firearms Registry, Tegucigalpa, 20 May 2015.
 El Heraldo, "Armas e indumentaria militar decomisan en operativo en Olancho," 18 May 2015. Available at: http://www.elheraldo.hn/sucesos/841201-219/fusina-realiza-operativo-masivo-en-olancho
 Zelaya was holed up at the Brazilian embassy at the time. Sources told researchers that Sarmiento not only bankrolled Zelaya but facilitated his clandestine return to the country. Sarmiento's son smiled when asked about this rumor but did not comment.
 Interview, Honduran prosecutor who wished to remain anonymous, Tegucigalpa, June 2015.
 The government breaks down the taxes of these firms by number of guards, and there is a licensing fee per guard on the payroll.
 El Heraldo, "Supuestos pandilleros roban armas de empresa de seguridad," 5 May 2014. Available at: http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/705630-364/supuestos-pandilleros-roban-armas-de-empresa-de-seguridad-en-san-pedro-sula
 Facebook, "Venta de Armas SPS." Accessed March 2017, at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Venta-de-Armas-SPS/686976961387071?fref=ts
 The page is not accessible to the general public. One of our researchers gained access via a police investigator who has become active as part of an ongoing investigation of the site.