Monday, November 07, 2011

Honduras in the news

I have been away from Honduras for more than 5 weeks and so feel a bit out of contact with the events. 

View from Cerro Negro, near Delicias, Concepción, Copán

There were major floods and landslides after torrential rains. (I saw one landslide that blocked half the highway on the trip from San Pedro Sula to Santa Rosa on Friday.) 

The son of the director of the National University and his friend were killed by police who were picked up, released, and then fled. A major police official in Tegucigalpa (who used to be here in Copán) has been accused of  corruption by another official. A major shake up of the police is occurring, but it is unclear whether this will really change things.

And there is more.

But one item I just read struck me as a little strange – but revealing.

In a report on her website, Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachman stated that after the proposed pullout of troops from Iraq, “We will now have fewer troops in Iraq than we have in Honduras…”

First of all, I must state that I am in favor of a US withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan.  I have been against these wars from the beginning. For an interesting perspective on these wars from a different perspective, read the article from Catholic News Services on Republican Representative Walter Jones.

I have no idea if the figures that Bachman gives are the facts, but I do know that US troops are present here. There are at least 550 US troops on Honduran soil, at the Soto Cano air-force base near Comayagua.

In addition, the US has been involved in several major military construction projects totally more than 11.1 million dollars in 2010 and 2011, according to a report from the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Soto Cano, also called Palmerola, is the home of Joint Task Force Bravo. The supposed reason for this presence and for the new construction is to counter drug-trafficking and to be available for emergency situations. The base was founded in the 1980s when the US was supporting the Salvadoran military as well as the Nicaraguan contras, both of which were repressive groups and responsible for massacres of civilians.

Now there are times when the US forces, either with or without Honduran military forces, goes into communities to provide humanitarian assistance. Some of this appears harmless, though I remember how the Salvadoran army used all sorts of humanitarian assistance activities as part of a psychological warfare.

At least one case I have read about here really troubles me. In August 2010 a Honduran military Medical and Civic Assistance Program or MEDCAP mission worked with a group of U.S. Army Civil Affairs Soldiers in Chacalapa and Guadalupe Carney.

Honduran Col. Wilfredo Efruhin Oliva, the director of Plans and Civil Affairs for the Estado Mayor Conjunto in Tegucigalpa. "Along with helping the people, we are working to combat narco-trafficking in this area," said Oliva. "In order for us to do that, we have to gain the trust of the people and talk to them. Today was a good start, and they are grateful but it is not enough."

Since so many campesinos have been killed in that area, I really wonder if the real reason of choosing the Guadalupe Carney community was to check them out. The community Guadalupe Carney is a group that is in the midst of the land struggles in the Baja Aguan. The leaders of that community have continually demanded that the military leave them alone.  In addition on November 2010 five members of  that community were killed.

Many Hondurans I know resent the continuing presence of the US military on Honduran soil and US police and military support of the Honduran police and military. They see it as support for a repressive political and military structure that really does not bring security to the people here.

The US presence has become more complicated with a recent report in the New York Times. Commando style squads of the US Drug Enforcement Agency are cooperating with Honduras authorities.

All of this is problematic because of the corruption with drug trafficking in Honduras that reaches not only the police and military but also government and business leaders.

Where is the way out?

Please pray for us.


John (Juan) Donaghy said...

I would also add that you might tell US officials to stop the military, DEA, and police aid to Honduras that is not helping solve our problems here.

RNS said...

Just a few days ago there was press coverage of a further 550 US troops coming from Iraq to train Honduran forces. General Rene Osorio made the announcement but said he had not been officially told anything about them coming or their mission, yet. That's an odd statement coming from the head of the Honduran Armed Forces.

As for the visit to Guadalupe Carney, yes it was a military intelligence project. They said as much on the JTFB website at the time of the medical mission. They hoped that the people would tell them about drug running in the area.

And now there's a DEA team of 5 agents jointly participating in anti-narcotics operations in Honduras.

phoenixwoman said...

You have my prayers, John.