Entradas etiquetadas como Bases militares
“Today a new political force of transformation is born!” As former president Manuel “Mel” Zelaya’s speech on June 26, 2011 reached its crescendo, hundreds of delegates from every corner of Honduras roared. After a short but heated debate that day, the 1,500-member assembly of the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP) approved resolutions paving the way for a new political party: Libertad y Refundación (Liberty and Refoundation), or LIBRE (“FREE” in Spanish). Those supporting the resolutions wanted the party to serve as an instrument of systemic change. With it they’d win the 2013 general elections and, once in power, convene a constituyente, a constituent assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution for Honduras.
The decision to create LIBRE came nearly two years after the June 28, 2009 coup d’état that forced Zelaya into exile and sparked a mass movement of civil resistance throughout Honduras. In the days, weeks, and months that followed the coup, hundreds of thousands of Hondurans, many entirely new to activism, took to the streets nearly every day to demand the immediate restoration of Zelaya’s presidency and democracy. Their peaceful demonstrations were met with brutal repression, and the few media outlets that relayed their demands were frequently shut down by state security forces.
The FNRP emerged out of the opposition to the coup and quickly developed into the largest social movement in Honduran history. Loosely organized into collectives at the local and regional level, the resistance includes a rainbow of movements: union activists, teachers, lawyers, artists, indigenous and Afro-indigenous villagers, small farmers, LGBT activists, and human rights defenders, with ideological tendencies ranging from the center left to the far left. United in their opposition to the coup, resistance members also oppose Honduras’s corrupt and deeply conservative political system, which is tightly controlled by the country’s wealthiest families in tandem with the leadership of the nearly indistinguishable Liberal and National parties.
Elections were not initially on the FNRP’s agenda. Many grassroots leaders felt that the movement should maintain autonomy from party politics and refrain from participating in elections widely seen as rigged. Instead, they favored broadening the resistance and intensifying peaceful mobilizations against the coup government’s most retrograde policies and in support of a constituyente. But when Zelaya began playing a more direct leadership role in the resistance after he returned from exile in May 2011, he pushed it toward electoral politics. By the time the FNRP’s June national assembly took place, the membership favored creating a new party that would compete in the 2013 presidential, legislative, and municipal elections.
In the months that followed, dissenting voices were submerged in a tidal wave of support for LIBRE. Bright red LIBRE caps, T-shirts, and banners were on display in communities all over the country. Hundreds of thousands of LIBRE supporters participated in party primaries in November 2012 and elected Xiomara Castro, wife of Zelaya and prominent resistance figure, as their presidential candidate. Major media overwhelmingly favored the National Party candidate, Juan Orlando Hernández, and dozens of LIBRE candidates and activists were killed or injured in violent attacks by unidentified gunmen. Yet as the electoral campaign hit full swing, it seemed that victory was inevitable, with nearly all major pollsters putting Xiomara in the lead.
The Honduran resistance movement and LIBRE can only be understood in the context of political developments in other parts of Latin America. Over the last fifteen years, much of the region has experienced a steady chain of political eruptions as a number of left movements have come to power through the ballot box. Once in office, they have radically revised their countries’ domestic and foreign policy agendas and, in several cases, their nations’ constitutional frameworks.
In the late 1980s, as the Cold War era of U.S.-backed military dictatorships came to an end, many of the region’s traditional left parties were in disarray or had veered to the right, while conservative governments had increasingly adopted neoliberal economic “reforms” promoted and often imposed by the United States and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These policies included the privatization of state enterprises, the deregulation of labor and financial markets, and the removal of trade barriers. The reforms failed to have the positive, “trickle-down” effects that policymakers promised and instead resulted in a dramatic decline in economic growth throughout the region and increased poverty and income inequality.
By the mid-1990s a grassroots rebellion had begun to swell throughout the region. A first eruption broke out in Chiapas in southern Mexico, where an armed indigenous “Zapatista” movement declared its autonomy from the Mexican state in dozens of communities on January 1, 1994, the day that the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect. Another upheaval took place in 1999, when a former lieutenant colonel who had led a failed military coup seven years earlier was elected president of Venezuela on a platform of opposition to neoliberalism and the country’s corrupt and deeply unpopular two-party system. Once in power, Hugo Chávez declared the country’s 1958 constitution “moribund” and organized elections for a constituent assembly.
Venezuela’s “Bolivarian Revolution” emboldened left movements throughout the region and was followed by a wave of left-wing electoral victories in neighboring countries.
Venezuela’s “Bolivarian Revolution” emboldened left movements throughout the region and was followed by a wave of left-wing electoral victories in neighboring countries. In Bolivia, social movements that had coalesced during the anti-neoliberal water and gas wars of the early 2000s helped bring Aymara coca grower leader Evo Morales to power in the country’s 2005 elections. Left-wing economist Rafael Correa was elected president of Ecuador in 2006. In Nicaragua, Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega was reelected president seventeen years after being voted out of office, while in El Salvador the former leftist guerilla group FMLN won the country’s 2009 and 2014 presidential elections. Left candidates also won decisively in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay.
Like Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador both convened constituyentes that drafted progressive constitutions approved by voters in national referenda. Under its 2009 constitution, Bolivia became a plurinational, secular state with firm public control over natural resources and some measure of legal and political autonomy for indigenous communities. Ecuador’s constitution established the “rights of nature”—protecting fragile ecosystems—and the principle of food sovereignty: the obligation of the state to guarantee its people “self-sufficiency in healthy food.” Brazil, where former steelworker Lula da Silva ascended to the presidency in 2003, has offered a more moderate example. Though they have implemented popular anti-poverty policies, Lula and his successor Dilma Roussef haven’t sought to restructure the political system or pushed for a much greater state role in the economy.
Despite clear policy differences between the region’s left governments, there is still a tangible sense of community that unites them. Over the last decade or so, they have worked collectively to deepen Latin American integration through the creation of the new regional groups Unasur—the Union of South American Nations—and CELAC—the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Nations. These organizations promote a common social agenda and adopt foreign policy positions often at odds with those of the United States.
Many Latin American leaders have referred to the region’s profound political shift as a “second independence,” a movement striving to fulfill the promise of emancipation that was never truly achieved during the independence struggles of the early nineteenth century. The focus of this movement, at the rhetorical level if not always in practice, is twofold: empowering the marginalized in the face of the traditional domination of conservative elites, and promoting greater unity to better counter U.S. economic and political dominance.
Honduras has for decades experienced the worst poverty and inequality in Latin America. Neoliberal policies first implemented there in the late 1980s have had a devastating impact, particularly on small farmer (campesino) and indigenous communities. Under the direction of the IMF, the government lowered tariffs and drastically cut public sector spending. A 1992 agricultural “modernization” law led to the concentration of land in the hands of agribusiness corporations and the displacement of thousands of campesinos. By the early 2000s Honduran civil society groups were working together to oppose the continuing neoliberal agenda of the country’s National and Liberal governments.
On August 26, 2003, the growing force of Honduras’s anti-neoliberal movement became apparent when thousands of demonstrators blocked all of the major roads into Tegucigalpa to protest the latest series of neoliberal measures. The massive demonstration marked the beginning of the National Popular Resistance Coordinator (CNRP), which included unions and indigenous and campesino movements. The CNRP continued to take its demands to the street over the following years, notably through its support for teachers opposing pension cuts, and quickly became the largest left-leaning movement in Honduras. Its leaders debated at length whether to participate in the country’s 2005 general elections but decided against it.
The winner of those elections was Liberal candidate Manuel Zelaya. Though his cabinet included a few left-wingers, few expected him to adopt policies that would diverge from those of his predecessors. But a year or so after taking office, Zelaya began to make unexpected moves. To the disenchantment of Honduras’s business leaders, he significantly raised the country’s minimum wage. He opened up negotiations with teachers unions and began a process for reviewing property titles in the Bajo Aguán, a fertile region where a land conflict between small farmers and corporations has raged for two decades. On the international front, he signed the Petrocaribe regional energy agreement with Venezuela and brought Honduras into the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA), a bloc of governments including Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua that openly opposed the U.S. “free trade” and neoliberal agenda in the region.
As he shifted further to the left, Zelaya began discussions with the CNRP and other social movements and agreed to support one of their most ambitious projects: a constituyente tasked with drafting a new, progressive charter to replace the rigid, conservative 1981 constitution, which was drafted during the final days of the last military dictatorship. In early 2009 Zelaya called for a cuarta urna—a fourth ballot—in that year’s November elections to allow voters to decide whether or not to convene a constituyente. When the National Party and conservative sectors of the Liberal Party prevented the proposal from advancing in the Honduran Congress, Zelaya began organizing a non-binding national poll to measure the popular support for the cuarta urna.
Zelaya’s opponents claimed that his real goal was to extend his term in office, but this charge held little water because the November elections, with or without a cuarta urna, would include a vote for a new president, and Zelaya wasn’t on the list of candidates. In reality, Honduran elites were increasingly riled by Zelaya’s leftward turn and looking for any excuse to remove him from power.
In the pre-dawn hours of June 28, 2009, the day the national poll was to take place, Zelaya was kidnapped at gunpoint by the military and put on a plane to Costa Rica. Governments throughout Latin America and the Caribbean were aghast that a blatant military coup could be carried off so easily. In contrast, the United States dragged its feet in condemning the coup and balked at other governments’ demand for Zelaya’s immediate return.
U.S. relations with Latin America’s new left-leaning governments have been rocky from the start. The George W. Bush administration supported a short-lived military coup against Hugo Chávez in 2002 and later backed coup supporters’ attempt to force Chávez out of office by shutting down Venezuela’s vital oil industry. In Bolivia, the U.S. Embassy and USAID worked to keep Evo Morales’s leftist MAS party from gaining power in the early 2000s and later supported right-wing secessionist movements opposed to Morales’s rule. In 2008 the U.S. Embassy in La Paz offered gestures of support to the Bolivian opposition at a time when it was engaged in a violent destabilization campaign condemned by every other country in South America.
U.S. diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks indicate that the State Department has for years been obsessed with countering the influence of ALBA, depicted in cables as a “dependable political tool for Chávez.” Even non-members with good relations with ALBA countries, like Brazil, have been viewed with suspicion. But the Bush administration’s opposition to Venezuela and ALBA only succeeded in fostering a deeper sense of solidarity among Latin America’s left governments. The region breathed a collective sigh of relief when Obama, shortly after taking office, promised “equal partnerships” and a “new chapter of engagement” with Latin America.
The Honduran coup was Obama’s first big regional test. The country had long served as the most dependable U.S. strategic outpost in Central America. In the 1980s it provided cover and a logistical base for the CIA-backed Contras in Nicaragua. Since 1983 the Soto Cano base has housed U.S. Army troops and aircraft even though the Honduran constitution prohibits a “permanent foreign presence.” Until Zelaya, U.S. interests in Honduras had been secure under the National and Liberal Party governments that together ruled the country since 1983.
“President Zelaya strikes us as a well-meaning populist, but susceptible to leftist influences,” wrote former U.S. ambassador Charles Ford in June 2006, at the beginning of Zelaya’s term. “Zelaya does not appear to grasp the larger geo-political threat posed by Chavez,” Ford added. Two years later, after Honduras had joined Petrocaribe and ALBA, the United States had all but given up on Zelaya. “With only 16 months before he leaves office, our goal is to get Zelaya through his term without causing any irreparable damage to bilateral relations . . . and to minimize further expansion of relations with Chavez,” wrote the new U.S. ambassador, Hugo Llorens, in September 2008.
On the day of the coup, the White House released an ambivalent statement that failed to acknowledge that a coup had taken place. The following day President Obama made a clearer statement: “We believe that the coup was not legal. . . .” Military assistance was partially suspended. Yet the administration was reluctant to pursue more forceful measures against the coup regime. It refused to use the term “military coup,” which, by law, would have triggered immediate suspension of all non-humanitarian aid to Honduras.
Then, at the beginning of November 2009, the U.S. government unilaterally announced that it would recognize the legitimacy of elections in Honduras later that month whether or not democracy had been restored. Shortly afterward, the Río Group—which included nearly every country in Latin America—issued a statement strongly rejecting this position, but the damage was done: the coup regime understood that the region’s dominant power would help it whitewash the coup by recognizing deeply flawed, illegitimate elections. The United States was nearly alone in endorsing the 2009 elections, which took place in a context of heavy repression and were boycotted by the FNRP.
Over the last four years, over 100 campesino activists have been killed in the heavily militarized Bajo Aguán.
U.S. military assistance to Honduras quickly increased under the election’s victor, National Party leader Porfirio Lobo Sosa. Indeed, in the name of the “war on drugs,” U.S. assistance to armies and police forces throughout Central America and Mexico has increased enormously since 2008. During the same period, human rights crimes perpetrated by state security forces have also risen significantly in these countries, but nowhere as dramatically as in Honduras, which has been the homicide capital of the world since 2011 and has one of the highest rates of judicial impunity.
Honduran state security forces executed the 2009 coup and carried out the violent repression that followed. Though a U.S.-sponsored “Truth Commission” identified a number of murders committed by police and military in the wake of the coup, no judicial action was taken, and the victims’ families received no compensation. After Lobo took office the repression continued in a more insidious form, with countless targeted killings and violent attacks against campesino leaders, journalists, LGBT activists (a significant resistance and LIBRE constituency), lawyers, and labor activists. Human rights groups noted the resurgence of widespread paramilitary activity for the first time since the 1980s. Over the last four years, over 100 campesino activists have been killed in the heavily militarized Bajo Aguán. Twenty-four LIBRE candidates and activists have been killed in the last two years, and many more have endured violent attacks and death threats.
Almost a hundred Democratic members of the U.S. Congress have called on the Obama administration to suspend all U.S. security assistance to Honduras while attacks on civil society activists continue with impunity. Senior Honduran security officials have denounced rampant corruption and organized crime throughout the police and military, and in some cases ended up dead. But U.S. funds have kept flowing.
On November 24, 2013, Hondurans showed up at the polls in record numbers. Reports of irregularities documented by Honduran and international civil society groups rapidly began to circulate. Poll workers were threatened; living voters were listed as dead on registries and denied access to the polls; National Party members engaged in extensive vote-buying outside voting centers. As the polls closed, both LIBRE and another new party—the Anti-Corruption Party, or PAC—reported discrepancies between original voting tally sheets and the electronic results posted on the website of Honduras’s electoral authority, the Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE).
When the TSE announced that Hernández was winning, both LIBRE and PAC immediately contested the results. But electoral monitoring missions from the Organization of American States and the European Union made little mention of the many irregularities reported by hundreds of independent electoral monitors and declared the elections “free and fair.” That same night U.S. ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske said that she “recognized and respected” the election results. On December 12 the TSE, after rejecting LIBRE and PAC demands for a recount, announced the final official election numbers: Hernández won the election with 36.9 percent of the vote. Xiomara came in second with 28.8 percent, the Liberal candidate had rallied 20.3 percent, and PAC came in fourth with 13.4 percent.
Well ahead of his January 27 inauguration, Hernández began plowing ahead with a two-pronged agenda of militarization and neoliberalism. Anticipating stalemate in the next congress, Hernández, president of the outgoing congress, worked with the National Party majority to pass over a hundred legislative measures in December and January—more laws than were passed during the previous two years combined.
Hernández’s neoliberal package included a regressive 15 percent tax increase on consumer articles, the freezing of public sector wages, the privatization of telecommunications company Hondutel, and the reduction of electricity subsidies. He also pushed forward a plan to establish “charter” or “model” cities in Honduras—development zones exempt from normal Honduran law and subject to tax and legal codes drawn up by foreign governments and corporations.
The outgoing congress also voted to enshrine Honduras’s military police in the constitution. The MP program, created in September 2013 and featured prominently in Hernández’s “law and order” campaign ads, puts thousands of soldiers on the streets. Although their alleged purpose is to crack down on gang activity, MP units have already raided the home of a prominent resistance activist, and human rights defenders and activists fear that efforts to criminalize and repress Honduras’s social movements will only grow.
Though the future may appear bleak for LIBRE and the broader resistance movement, it isn’t devoid of hope. Activists from campesino groups, teachers unions, and other grassroots organizations now belong to the second biggest political bloc in the Honduran Congress. The new government’s aggressive neoliberal agenda will doubtless make life harder for the average Honduran, but it will also reinvigorate the country’s social movements.
After two years of electoral campaigning, it is a time of reckoning and reflection within the FNRP. Should congressional activity be a priority? Or should the movement focus more on supporting campesino struggles and the defense of indigenous communities whose lands and livelihoods are threatened by multinational industrial projects?
The United States would also do well to step back and take stock of what its policies have achieved. The Lobo government, which received significant U.S. diplomatic and financial backing, oversaw a steady rise in poverty and inequality following a period of significantly improved social and economic indicators under Zelaya. Increased U.S. security assistance has coincided with a dramatic increase in violence and reports of killings and abuses involving security forces. At the regional level, the administration’s support for the Honduran coup regime further isolated the United States and fueled integration initiatives in which it plays no part.
Washington policymakers fail to see that social movements, rather than individual leaders like Zelaya, Chávez, or Morales, are the most enduring and potent force of change in Latin America today. These movements were spurred by the very economic policies that the United States has promoted in the region, and repression won’t make them go away. Whether the U.S. government likes it or not, the Honduran resistance and a multitude of similar people’s movements throughout Latin America are here to stay.
Alexander Main is Senior Associate for International Policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
“Private Morales” was immersed in morning prayers when an officer rushed him outside and into a convoy of four pickup trucks with no license plates. The army had received a tip about a drug and weapons cache inside a house in Nueva Suyapa, a gang-filled neighborhood in Honduras’s capital city, Tegucigalpa.
Morales and more than two dozen other soldiers sped away, moving islands of bodies in ski masks snaking through morning rush-hour traffic. Finally, with the target in sight, Morales, who requested that his name be kept confidential to protect both him and his family, jumped out of the truck and dashed off to his look-out position. There, the 22-year-old stood alert, his delicate hands gripping his rifle, his long eyelashes batting against the dusty wind. Tucked under his unit’s logo on his left sleeve was an “O+” patch – his blood type.
An hour went by and the team, which included two sniffer dogs and three public prosecutors carrying copies of the penal code, found neither drugs nor weapons in the house. It is “very likely” that the suspects were tipped off, said one of the officers in charge of the mission. “They have more informants than all of us.”
As the soldiers were preparing to get back onto the trucks and return to their barracks, balaclavas damp with sweat under the hot Caribbean sun, a brooding young man with thick eyebrows approached an officer and pointed to a house down the ravine. He said the men living there stored drugs and frequently terrorized residents.
The military squad walked quietly down the unpaved road in a single file. A couple of soldiers pulled aside the dirty fabric serving as a door and entered the single-room, dirt-floored dwelling while the public prosecutor asked a woman inside the house if she was the owner. A prepubescent boy walked around with a towel wrapped around his thin waist, otherwise naked, looking dazed.
The soldiers turned the house upside down, emptying trash bins and searching inside an old oven stuffed with clothes. They found a package resembling a drug parcel and cut it open, struggling through layers of newspaper with a dull knife. Through the gash, nails spilled out onto the floor. A soldier, looking disappointed, continued searching under a pile of rocks outside.
The search turned up nothing, but one of the officers predicted that the snitch who had led them to this house would get picado – chopped up – in the next couple of weeks for daring to speak to them. Morales muttered that he was glad he was wearing a ski mask and was thus unrecognizable, as his family lives nearby.
In the middle of the swarm of soldiers, a toddler and a 5-year-old boy ran around each other in circles, shooting imaginary bullets from plastic assault rifles and piercing the tense air with their sound effects.
A soldier watches a protest rally held by members of the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP) outside the Presidential House in Tegucigalpa June 27, 2010. The rally was held to commemorate the anniversary of former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya’s ouster on June 28, 2009. A coup deposed Zelaya amid accusations by his opponents that he was trying to change the constitution to stay in power.
Bodies Hanging Off Bridges
For decades, Mexico has been the drug war’s main battleground, but the police and army there have slowly been wearing down the criminal syndicates, forcing them to develop new transport routes. Drug traffickers, adaptable and enduring, have been shifting toward Central America. According to the U.S. State Department, “as much as 87 percent of all cocaine smuggling flights departing South America first land in Honduras.” In fact, analysts and military officials have begun calling the current situation in Honduras a “Mexicanization,” pointing to the influx of Mexican drug kingpins, the increasingly grotesque crime scenes – including hacked-up victims and bodies hanging off bridges – and the growing presence of the military on the streets. The country now has one of the highest homicide rates in the world and one of the poorest scores for corruption from Transparency International, which studies government officials.
The war on drugs in this country of 8.5 million people is leaving a trail of death and trauma, aggravated by weak and corrupt government institutions and an employment crisis affecting nearly 50 percent of working-age Hondurans.
The military is involved in this sordid war because the Honduran police are outgunned and corrupt. “Those people are very clever, and they have a lot of money and ways of getting their way,” says Miguel Facussé, one of the wealthiest, most powerful businessmen in the country, referring to drug traffickers. At least one of Facussé’s airstrips, which he uses to reach his properties near the Caribbean coast, has been used by drug traffickers. He told Newsweek that this was done without his permission or knowledge and said that his private security guards had probably been bought off.
But even soldiers are not much of a deterrent to the drug cartels, which are, “in many cases, equally or better equipped than the Honduran Armed Forces, [and represent] a threat to the existence of the state,” says a recently passed law that created a new military police unit to fight organized crime.
And as Honduras descends into chaos, its once close relationship with the United States, a strong ally that has been expanding its military presence here in recent years, is beginning to fray. “It is a double standard: while we are providing the deaths and fighting with scant resources of our own, for North America the drug issue is merely a health matter,” said newly elected, conservative president Juan Orlando Hernández during his inaugural address in January. “For Hondurans and the rest of our Central American brothers, it is a matter of life and death.”
A soldier searches for drugs and weapons inside a house in Nueva Suyapa on February 5th after getting a tip. The operation was part of a new Honduran offensive against organized crime called “Operation Morazán”. The army did not find anything illegal inside the house.
The Lily Pad Strategy
“Nothing gets done without the U.S. ambassador’s seal of approval,” is accepted as gospel in Tegucigalpa.
Ties between Honduras and the United States run deep. In the 1980s, the U.S. based its clandestine war against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua and the leftist rebels in El Salvador out of Honduras. It set up the Soto Cano Air Base, a large military outpost from which it runs its regional operations. In recent years, the number of U.S. bases or installations in Honduras has grown considerably, albeit quietly, according to military analysts. David Vine, a professor of anthropology at American University who has written extensively about U.S. military bases abroad, has counted 13. “A million dollars here, $2 million there, $500,000 there for a firing range,” he says, explaining that these expenditures are part of a “lily pad strategy,” in which the U.S. dots the globe with small facilities in order to maintain its global presence while using minimal resources.
But those ties are loosening. Honduran military officials, in recent private talks with Newsweek, revealed profound resentment toward American involvement and interference in their battles with the drug cartels. “The interrelation has decreased with each passing day,” says Fredy Santiago Díaz Zelaya, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Honduran Armed Forces. “Honduras has its own capacity, and we will depend less every day on other countries to do our job.”
In November 2011, the Honduran Congress – then helmed by now-president Hernández – approved an emergency decree calling on the military to carry out police duties, including taking on organized crime directly. Morales joined the army shortly after that, and since then, his life has blurred into one big olive green-colored, drug-hunting nightmare.
Private Morales stands in his lookout position outside the house in Nueva Suyapa while his comrades search for drugs and weapons. The 22-year-old soldier said he was relieved that his face was concealed because his family lives in a nearby neighborhood.
A Cloud of Gunfire Smoke
A self-described “bad student,” Morales says he loved watching action shows growing up and decided early on that he wanted to emulate his beloved TV icons. He quit middle school to take on odd jobs painting houses until he made his way into the army.
He admits that he does not know much about the war on drugs, but says Americans who consume drugs are just as oblivious to the mayhem they leave behind. “What they are doing, consuming drugs, sometimes it doesn’t harm them as much, but those drugs carry many consequences,” says Morales. “Maybe along the way they leave behind innocent deaths, maybe incarcerations.”
“The road is full of injustice for, maybe, a brief moment of fun.”
The slum where Morales grew up is one of the most dangerous in Tegucigalpa. It is a labyrinth of steep dirt roads and single-story houses made of exposed bricks and cinder block that has made headlines for the many massacres carried out there; last year, several men were slain in broad daylight by people in a pickup truck. Witnesses told local reporters that a cloud of smoke, most likely from the gunfire, could be seen from afar.
Some of the houses seem to be trying to skulk behind tall, concrete walls. Others can’t hide their decay behind thin, metal bars on windows.
Every three weeks or so, Morales gets released from his barracks to spend time with his mother and siblings. As he hops on a public bus down the road from the military quarters, his brown crew-cut gelled back, a collared T-shirt tucked into his snug jeans, Morales looks youthful – two deep dimples puncture his cheeks when he smiles, a couple of pimples frame his lips.
His mother’s house is stark but impeccably clean (their father left when Morales was young and the family recoils when asked about him). A hanging sheet separates his bedroom from the living room, which is barely big enough for an old cloth-covered beige couch and two armchairs. A single light bulb illuminates the religious memorabilia on the walls and the soccer trophies on the shelf.
The shower is outside, a roofless, doorless area enclosed by brick and a yellow plastic tarp. Morales’s oldest brother, who spent time in the United States working at a supermarket stockroom, lives in a room behind the house with his wife and daughter.
For a few minutes, Morales plays with his daughter, in the living room as his mother, who asked to remain anonymous, moves around the tiny kitchen, seasoning a pot of rice and heating up a stack of tortillas.
She remembers more desperate times for her family, when she had to send her young children out into the streets to sell bags of water. But what her family has gained in financial stability – Morales’s mother started out as a janitor but worked her way up the chain to become a clerk at the juvenile court, doubling her salary – she believes the country has taken away in personal safety.
She says thieves have broken into the house several times. Once, they went through the neatly folded clothes, picked out the best pieces and packed them into a suitcase. They even took a few pairs of shoes. The police told her “that if I didn’t see them or know who they were, it was a waste of time” to file a complaint.
It is a story that repeats itself across Honduras: crimes small and large everywhere, but 80 percent of them go unreported, according to the National Human Rights Commission. The homicide rate, which hit a high of 86.5 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2011, has decreased slightly but the number of massacres (two or more deaths in a single crime scene) has increased, says Julieta Castellanos, the rector of the National Autonomous University of Honduras.
In 2011, Congress passed a law banning two men from traveling on a motorcycle after several prominent Hondurans were gunned down by passengers on scooters. But like many laws in this country, it is little more than a meek suggestion. In 2012, the Peace Corps paused its operations in Honduras in order to conduct an assessment of safety and security conditions. In September of that year, it suspended its program in the country.
Congress approved a law in December forcing telephone companies to block cellular signals inside prisons, where hits are masterminded, extortion calls are made and kidnappings are coordinated. In the latest effort to reduce crime, the government announced earlier this month that the sale of alcohol would be prohibited on Sunday afternoons and nights, when the most murders occur.
An already overwhelming sense of danger is exacerbated by a police force widely perceived to be corrupt and often criminal. Last year, the Associated Press reported on death squad-style killings in Tegucigalpa carried out by the police. “Even the country’s top police chief has been charged with being complicit,” wrote Alberto Arce, the reporter who investigated the story.
Under the guise of a “social-cleansing” policy, the police have been taking people associated with gangs into custody, sometimes never to be seen again. Often, Arce wrote, police pick up their targets in vehicles with no plates – much like the army trucks.
In 2012, former president Porfirio Lobo Sosa created the Public Security Reform Commission, tasked with pushing out corrupt policemen, public prosecutors and judges. It was made up of several international experts, including Adam Blackwell, the Organization of American States’s secretary for multidimensional security.
But last month, the Honduran Congress dissolved the commission, as reports emerged that several dozen police officials who had been under investigation had been honorably discharged.
There was outrage but no surprise. Honduras, is, after all, a country where crimes are rarely prosecuted and a “blame the victim” mentality reigns supreme. Women are killed because they cavort with cartel operatives or sell drugs, lawyers are murdered because they represent drug traffickers and journalists are slain because they have links to, or have written about, people involved in the drug trade, says a spokesman for the armed forces.
Castellanos knows about police brutality too well. In 2011, her 22-year-old son and a friend were driving away from a party when they ignored a group of police demanding that they stop. Shortly after, the two young men were found dead, their bodies riddled with bullets. Within days, Castellanos was able to prove that the police had killed her son. In December, four policemen were convicted of murder and sentenced to 66 years in prison.
Her case was extraordinary, for only a handful of murders are properly investigated or prosecuted. Why was this case different? Castellanos says she was able to “snatch away the investigation monopoly” from the police, allowing a team of friends, colleagues and investigators to gather and safeguard evidence, interview witnesses and piece the night together.
The repercussions of this institutional corruption and abuse have reverberated back to Washington. When the United States reinstated aid to Honduras after it had briefly suspended it following a military coup in 2009, it unleashed controversy within the U.S. Capitol. In June, a group of 21 U.S. senators sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, expressing “their concern regarding the grave human rights situation and deterioration of the rule of law” and urging him to review aid to Honduras, which last year included $16 million for police units.
“If we do not send a strong message to the government of Honduras, then they are going to think we are a cheap date,” said James P. McGovern, co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission during a July congressional hearing. “They are going to think the money will keep coming no matter what they do.”
The 2014 appropriations bill included stronger restrictions on U.S. assistance to Honduras, including withholding 35 percent of the funds allocated for the police and military until the Secretary of State certifies that corrupt officials are being prosecuted, freedom of expression and due process are protected and human rights conditions are being met.
A Soldier in Every Corner
With pomp and ceremony, Juan Orlando Hernández was sworn in as president last month at the national stadium. Feathers protruded from military hats, decorative red smoke enveloped the assembled army units and a young, indigenous girl read a poem to a tearful Hernández. The climax of the event came when Hernández launched Operation Morazán, the latest strategy to tackle petty and organized crime. “On every corner, at every fork, there has to be a soldier of the armed forces and a policeman who has gone through the process of certification,” said Hernández during a campaign speech in Olanchito, a town near the Caribbean Sea.
The operation, named after Francisco Morazán, one of the most widely respected 19th century liberal leaders in the region and former president of the Federal Republic of Central America, is coordinating the army, police, and public prosecutor’s office to work together during special operations, like the one Morales was recently assigned to in Nueva Suyapa.
Central to Operation Morazán and the Honduran fight against drugs is the Military Police of Public Order, a revamped elite military unit which Hernández launched last year during his presidential campaign. Like Morales, the 1,000 or so military police recruits (two of them are women) receive military training but operate as police.
Hernández’s growing dependence on the army has become highly controversial in a country still haunted by a history of military brutality. A wave of political uprisings and civil wars swept over Central America during the 1980s, ripping through Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. In Honduras, the military – which had close ties to the CIA – tortured and executed guerrilla sympathizers. Hundreds of dissidents disappeared.
Now, analysts and activists are calling the military surge on the streets a step backward and warn of impending human rights violations. In the military quarters in Tegucigalpa, Morales recently attended a class on human rights and due process. The teacher, public prosecutor Ricardo Núñez, spoke about these issues in broad terms and then showed a staged video in which two guards viciously beat a supposed delinquent.
After class, Morales hopped on a military truck and went, along with several dozen other military police soldiers to a checkpoint at Flor de Campo, a crime-ridden neighborhood of about 60,000 residents. There, he and his fellow soldiers stopped and boarded public buses, plucked young men out and had them lean against a wall, arms and legs spread, while he patted them down. Then, he went through their bags and asked to see their IDs.
Officials involved in Operation Morazán, of course, appear optimistic about the potential of this newest offensive. But privately, they express skepticism about their mission because of its dependence on the police.
Santos Torres Galeas, a military police officer, says “the police, from top to bottom,” would have to be replaced for there to be progress.
Two young children who reside in Nueva Suyapa play with their plastic guns while soldiers carry out an operation in the slum. At times the soldiers worked quietly, searching for drugs and weapons, but the children pierced the air with their firing sound effects.
Five Security Guards for Every Policeman
Morales’s younger brother, a quiet boy who avoids eye contact, has set up a makeshift pulperia – small convenience store – by the side of the road near his mother’s house. He sits next to the rickety table during the day, waiting for children to come by and purchase candy or, his best-seller, oranges. It isn’t much, but it helps supplement his family’s income.
Despite the rampant crime in Honduras, the most pressing worry is the economic crisis. A 2013 poll revealed that 57.5 percent of Hondurans believe job creation should be the new administration’s priority, followed by 17.1 percent who cited fighting crime.
And it is no surprise, with nearly 50 percent of those looking for jobs unemployed or underemployed. A drive around Tegucigalpa provides haunting evidence of this: hordes of young men loiter, observe traffic or wash car windshields during much of the day and part of the night.
The 2009 global recession hit Honduras hard. External demand fell and remittances, which Honduras is heavily dependent on, dropped. Rising crime, too, has fed into the deteriorating economy. The World Economic Forum’s 2013-2014 Global Competitiveness Report ranked Honduras last of 148 countries for business costs of crime and violence.
Private security is one of the few robust industries here. According to a 2013 United Nations report, there are close to five private security guards for every police officer in Honduras. These mercenaries are highly visible throughout Tegucigalpa: in the entrance to shopping malls, universities and restaurants, and in the middle of public roads which have been gated by local residents.
Analysts say another sign of financial upheaval was the military coup that deposed former president Manuel Zelaya in 2009. Average annual gross domestic product growth in Honduras during the two years prior to the coup was 5.7 percent; since the coup, it has slumped to 3.5 percent. “In the two years after the coup, Honduras had the most rapid rise in inequality in Latin America and now stands as the country with the most unequal distribution of income in the region,” said a 2013 report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which indicated that all real income gains went to the wealthiest 10 percent of Hondurans.
Seven out of 10 Hondurans currently live in poverty; 46 percent live in extreme poverty. In such dire circumstances, a stable job is increasingly attractive, even if it means you are likely to be pulled out of church and thrust into a gun battle with drug traffickers. Many of these soldiers come from working class or peasant families. Recruits must be at least 18 years old, have completed sixth grade, not have tattoos or piercings, and have a clean criminal record. Young soldiers earn around $280 a month, well below the average minimum wage, $380, but for them, stability trumps a low salary.
Because he is part of the military police and is therefore exposed to more risk, Morales earns approximately $470 a month. He spends some of that on clothes for himself, gifts for his daughter, food for his family, his cellphone – which he uses frequently to listen to music, browse Facebook and text his friends – and his girlfriend. The young soldier boasts that he saves, on average, $100 per month.
His mother would like her son to stay in the army, become a colonel and have a stable life near her. But Morales has other plans. He says he wants to move to the United States.
US Pours Millions into Building New Honduran Navy Bases while Victims Shot by Navy Officer are Abandoned
|One Saturday morning, Wilmer Gerardo Sabillón and Julio César Pineda got up early to go fishing. They headed to the Yojoa Lake near their house and had not been in the water long when they were almost murdered by the Honduran Armed Forces. “Suddenly two members of the Navy came out of the bushes and right away started verbally assaulting us, saying to us ‘hey sons of b***, I’m telling you to stop.’ Right away we stopped the boat, and they said ‘Come here I tell you.’ I asked them ‘why?’ and he repeated to me two times, “I’m telling you to come.”
“At that moment they shot two shots, in the air and in the water. The one who shot in the air used a 9mm gun; the one who shot in the water used a M-16 weapon.”
Then “he told me ‘if you don’t come here, I’ll kill you.’ Julio told them they didn’t have the right to kill anyone… One of the police told me again ‘I’m going to kill you’ and suddenly loaded his weapon and shot at me, injuring me in the left arm, which exploded. I didn’t realize it but my right arm was also injured and I fell in the water. This same bullet injured Julio’s left arm.”
Julio was able to get Wilmer out of the water and they fled, with blood flowing, toward’s Wilmer’s house. Wilmer recalls that the officer who shot them came with them, telling them, “hurry up, be thankful that I didn’t kill you” and that “I had ruined his life and I should walk because what he had done to me ‘was nothing’ while my arm was almost hanging off my body, I thought I had lost my extremity.”
Second Lt. José Arnaldo Amaya followed Wilmer and Julio all the way to Wilmer’s house, where he told Wilmer that the injury wasn’t much and that he just needed to go to a clinic. In unbearable pain, Wilmer knew that wasn’t true, and his family took both young men to the Red Cross, which sent them to a hospital in San Pedro Sula, which then sent them to the San Pedro Sula military hospital, where they finally had surgery.
However, surgery cannot fully repair the permanent damage caused by the Navy’s bullets to Wilmer and Julio’s arms. Both worked in jobs which require use of their arms, made difficult by the injuries. 27-year old Julio, a carpenter, continues to have bullet embedded in his arm and can’t use his arm normally. 23-year old Wilmer, a refridgerator technician, can no longer work because of the injuries and has no way of supporting his wife and two year old son. His left arm is still in a sling and he can’t move his fingers. His right arm is also injured.
According to Honduras’ El Heraldo Newspaper, Naval Officer Jose Arnoldo Amaya was the officer in charge of the Yojoa Lake Naval Station when he shot Julio and Wilmer on Saturday, April 6, 2013. During Fiscal Year 2011, the last year for which State Department reports are available, 26 members of the Honduran Navy, whether part of a Navy Unit or attending a Navy Academy, were trained at the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in Ft. Benning, formerly known as the School of the Americas. Since 2006 the US government has refused to release the names of those trained at WHINSEC so we can’t know if Officer Amaya was trained at Ft. Benning. The US has also provided and paid for other training for the Honduran Navy in both Honduras and the US.
The US is pouring millions into the construction of Navy Bases in Honduras. Two US-funded Navy Bases have recently been built under the guise of fighting drug trafficking and a third is in the works. In January 2012, a $2 million US-funded Navy Base opened in Guanaja, on the Bay Islands and there are plans to build a $1.5 million dock and special operations center. In April 2010, a US funded Navy Base was opened at Caratasca in the Mosquitia and plans were recently announced for expansion. On September 1, 2013, EFE reported on the construction of US funded Navy Bases, including a third base in Puerto Castillo, in the already extremely militarized department of Colon. The stated rationale for the US spending millions on Navy Bases and Navy expansion is supposed to be drug trafficking, but it can also be seen as an exercise in controlling territory and the natural resources along Honduras’ coast.
Despite having their lives destroyed by a Honduran Navy Officer, Wilmer and Julio have been abandoned to struggle to survive. They have medical bills as a result of being shot and no way to pay them. Due to the injuries, Wilmer is unable to work to support his family and like many victims of state sponsored violence in Honduras, is abandoned to live in pain and poverty.
Julio and Wilmer sought help from the Committee of the Family Members of the Detained-Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), which is now representing them. On Monday, August 5, an initial hearing in the case was held. Despite shooting directly at two unarmed people for no reason, Officer Amaya was granted alternative measures to imprisonment meaning that he is free while he awaits trial. Additionally, Wilmer and Julio have medical bills with no way to pay them and Wilmer is unable to work to support his family, but like many victims of state sponsored violence in Honduras, they have been abandoned to live in pain and poverty.
What may seem like a random shooting of two young men out fishing, is far from random. Instead it is part of the system of impunity in which the military, police, and soon to be created military police, can shoot, murder, and violate human rights of whoever crosses their path. And this state violence is funded by the US in the form of millions of dollars in military aid. Julio and Wilmer are just two of the many Hondurans who have been shot at by the Armed Forces, which now patrols much of the country. However, they are different from many of the victims in that they lived to tell their story.
Day after day, people walk into COFADEH because they have lost family members or been injured by the Honduran state security forces. The judicial system is inept and if charges are presented, cases can be delayed for years and years. Sometimes the judge doesn’t show up, abnormal appeals are granted, and charges are conveniently reduced or dismissed. In the case of the August 5th initial hearing against Officer Amaya for shooting Julio and Wilmer, the electricity went out and what the secretary had typed up was lost. There were extensive notes of the defense’s position but few of COFADEH’s accusations against the military officer.
Systemic impunity in the justice system is a key element to militarization and control of the country’s resources by the economic and military elite. As Bertha Oliva of COFADEH explains, “To carry out the strategy of terror, they have not only been killing, detaining, and torturing people, but they have approved laws that truly restrict rights, such as putting the military on the street and giving the military functions that don’t correspond to them.”
“We live in a state without laws and we live in a dictatorship that pretends there is interest in respecting the laws but they legislate and accommodate the laws as they fancy, for their benefit, and then tell us they are acting legally and properly. An example is the military in the street. Militarization in Honduras is a product of a criminal state policy. The military is present almost on a national level and this presence has much to do with the decisions that they have been taking to sell the country, to turn it over to multinational mining companies or to Honduran businessmen with international associates.”
César André Panting. Redacción La Prensa email@example.com
Solo la Operación Martillo ha incautado “más de 300,000 libras de droga valorada en unos 40 billones de dólares”.
Un 25% de todo el movimiento de droga que sale de Sudamérica a Estados Unidos y al mercado mundial es interceptado y de ese porcentaje, en el 90% de los casos, los responsables van presos y la cocaína es incautada.
El resultado se debe al trabajo conjunto del Comando Sur del Departamento de Defensa de Estados Unidos y los países de la región centroamericana, entre ellos Honduras, gracias a la Operación Martillo.
Sin embargo, aún queda mucho por hacer en la lucha por frenar el tráfico ilícito de drogas. Por ello, las autoridades del Comando Sur apoyan a Honduras con logística y trabajo coordinado por medio de la Operación Martillo, pues enfatizan en que el país es un punto vital para tener éxito contra el crimen organizado transnacional.
Durante una visita de Diario LA PRENSA al cuartel del Comando Sur en Miami, Florida, Estados Unidos, Greg Julian, director de asuntos públicos del Comando Sur, habló de la relevancia de Honduras en “la guerra” contra el tráfico ilícito de estupefacientes.
“Honduras es clave en la lucha contra el narcotráfico por su ubicación y por el trabajo conjunto que hacemos. Sabemos que los vuelos que dejaron de llegar a República Dominicana encontraron una nueva ruta dirigiéndose a suelo hondureño, pero estamos convencidos de que luchando unidos podremos contrarrestar este fenómeno”.
Agregó: “La colaboración de las autoridades hondureñas ha sido fantástica y, aunque sabemos que tanto ellos como nosotros tenemos limitaciones de presupuesto, ponemos todo nuestro empeño en aprovechar al máximo lo que tenemos disponible. Honduras tiene un papel superimportante en la lucha contra el narcotráfico porque la mayoría del tráfico pasa por Centroamérica y, por lo tanto, mientras más podamos trabajar juntos, mejor será”.
El representante del Comando Sur también se refirió a la base aérea hondureña José Enrique Soto Cano, en Palmerola, Comayagua, la cual está en proceso de pasar de terminal aérea militar a aeropuerto internacional, según el Gobierno de Honduras.
“La base Soto Cano es muy importante porque está en el corazón del área de acción del narcotráfico y sería negativo para los esfuerzos contra el crimen organizado que cerrara o fuera reemplazada. Es nuestra intención continuar utilizando la base aérea Soto Cano tanto como sea posible. No creo que haya intención de cerrarla. Queremos dejar claro que la base pertenece al Gobierno hondureño y si ellos deciden darle otro destino, simplemente respetaremos cualquiera que sea la decisión”.
Puntos de intercepción
Julian reveló que los tres centros antidrogas que se están construyendo en puntos estratégicos de Honduras: Puerto Castilla, Trujillo, Colón; Caratasca, Gracias a Dios; y Guanaja, Islas de la Bahía, crearán una red en la cual esperan que queden atrapados quienes traten de transportar droga ilícitamente por las vías aérea o marítima.
“Cuando vemos en los mapas las rutas marítimas y aéreas que siguen los traficantes de droga, la mayoría va directamente a Honduras y por ello tenemos puntos de intercepción desde la fuente de origen en Sudamérica hasta su punto de destino, pero nuestro mayor enfoque está en las rutas de tránsito que se encuentran en Centroamérica”.
El director de asuntos públicos del Comando Sur indicó que mientras más se intensifiquen las líneas de cooperación, será más difícil para los narcotraficantes operar en el área.
“Ahora utilizan incluso los narcosubmarinos o semisumergibles para transportar su droga y eso nos dice la gran cantidad de recursos que tienen, pero ya con las autoridades hondureñas se han logrado capturar y estamos seguros de que con los centros antidrogas el éxito será mayor en esta lucha en todo sentido”.
Julian expresó que la lucha contra el narcotráfico cada vez es más compleja, pues estas organizaciones ahora tienen más recursos, mientras que la recesión afecta el presupuesto estadounidense de seguridad y el de los países socios. “Hay un estimado de 65 mil millones de dólares de ganancia por el narcotráfico y desafortunadamente el presupuesto con que contamos en esta lucha se está reduciendo y el número de embarcaciones y aeronaves está disminuyendo, hasta que Estados Unidos puedan resolver su situación económica. Tal vez mejore el próximo año, pero lo importante es que trabajamos juntos de una manera más eficiente”, agregó.
El experto aclaró que estos recortes son generales en el Gobierno estadounidense, no específicamente para la Operación Martillo, pero dijo que es afectada por las reducciones, “lo que sí está claro es que la Operación Martillo continuará indefinidamente en Honduras y en toda el área. No vamos a detenernos en este esfuerzo por erradicar el narcotráfico”.
El director de asuntos públicos del Comando Sur consideró fundamental el trabajo conjunto entre naciones para cubrir la falta de recursos económicos.
Greg Julian detalló que, pese a la limitación de recursos en las naciones, con la Operación Martillo se ha podido eliminar y obstaculizar el tránsito de muchos estupefacientes y prevenir que se sigan perdiendo vidas por su consumo o tráfico”.
Desde que la Operación Martillo comenzó sus operaciones en enero de 2012 “se han decomisado más de 300 mil libras de cocaína y más de 25 mil libras de marihuana con un valor estimado de 40 billones de dólares”, según los reportes oficiales del Comando Sur.
La Operación Martillo también ha dejado 159 buques y aeronaves confiscados o destruidos y 10.7 millones de dólares en dinero ilegal recuperado y se interrumpió el tráfico de 222 toneladas métricas de cocaína y 41,606 libras de marihuana. Además se ha detenido a 507 personas durante los operativos.
El oficial Jaime Collazo, del Comando Sur, explicó que la comunicación fluida entre ellos y los países del área es una de las más fuertes armas contra el crimen organizado. “Tenemos un sistema de inteligencia que recopila la información sobre el narcotráfico. Se filtran los datos y enviamos la información a las agencias del orden público de nuestros países socios. Ellos interceptan y capturan a los traficantes”.
Las funciones del Comando Sur en el área que comprende Centro y Sudamérica y el Caribe incluyen interceptar y vigilar la actividad sospechosa, pero no pueden hacer arrestos.
Collazo expresó que, además del apoyo en la lucha contra el narcotráfico, el Comando Sur brinda ayuda humanitaria.
“Trabajamos con múltiples socios para garantizar la seguridad en el área. En particular combatimos todo lo que tenga que ver con el tráfico ilícito y humano. Ofrecemos apoyo logístico, pero también asistencia humanitaria y ayuda en caso de desastres y somos responsables de la detención de prisioneros en la base de Guantánamo, los cuales son clasificados como terroristas internacionales. Entre nuestras responsabilidades también está el desarrollo de capacidades de cooperación con nuestro socios, como Honduras”.
En ese orden, Estados Unidos apoya la infraestructura que dará vida, en poco tiempo, a una base de operaciones en Caratasca, en la selvática zona de La Mosquitia, dotada de lanchas rápidas, equipo de comunicación y logística para el combate del crimen. Otras unidades de operaciones se fortalecen en Puerto Castilla, en el Caribe de este país centroamericano, mientras que un tercer punto es construido en Guanaja, en las paradisiacas Islas de la Bahía.
Como la mayor parte de la narcoactividad que, se inicia en América del Sur y recorre la ruta de Centro hasta llegar a Norteamérica, envía droga transportada básicamente por los litorales y solo un 20 por ciento por aire, en la magnífica bahía de Puerto Castilla, en Colón, la construcción de una rampa nueva para botes es fundamental, justifican sus impulsores estadounidenses. La obra es un hecho. Allí se dispondrá también de equipo especial para reparar botes y naves marítimas.
Mientras que en la insular Guanaja, Islas de la Bahía, un centro operacional para fuerzas especiales, dotado de lanchas rápidas se incorpora como herramienta de primer orden en la lucha antidrogas, aluden los especialistas de la unidad J3 de apoyo a operaciones anticrimen del CS de los EEUU.
Las explicaciones fueron ofrecidas por un alto miembro de operaciones de la Unidad J3, Mathew Spencer, involucrado directo en la lucha antidrogas en la región.
Y es que mientras el coronel Greg Julián, jefe de Asuntos Públicos del Comando Sur, junto al teniente coronel Jaime Coyaso rememoraban las realidades y debilidades de los países afectados por el narco y aludían la corrupción, la impunidad, la pobreza, la debilidad de los gobiernos y lo que calificaban como “fronteras porosas”, Mathew Spencer, sentado en la misma rueda de conversaciones, escuchaba con los ojos cerrados, como para interiorizar las ideas.
Para este funcionario del J3 lo vital de fortalecer la infraestructura, equipamiento y el personal en Caratasca, Puerto Castilla y Guanaja no es más que un paso significativo.
Los trabajos han avanzado en un 50 por ciento, informa al Congreso el comandante del Ejército, general Fredy Díaz.
Una pista de aterrizaje que en el futuro se convertirá en una base militar en el occidente de Honduras es construida en esta ciudad por las Fuerzas Armadas, con el apoyo del Congreso Nacional.
En el aeródromo, que tendrá categoría 2B, aterrizarán aeronaves con capacidad de entre 50 y 60 pasajeros, informó el comandante del Ejército, general Fredy Díaz Zelaya.
En una exposición que hizo ante los diputados que sesionan en Gracias, Díaz Zelaya ilustró que el proyecto fue iniciado hace tres meses y medio.
Actualmente puede operar en un 50 por ciento de su capacidad. Entre el 12 y el 15 de julio se realizaron los primeros vuelos de prueba, citó.
La pista, que es construida por soldados del Primer Batallón de Ingenieros, está ubicada a unos 3,400 metros al este de la ciudad de Gracias.
Tiene una longitud de 1,200 metros de largo por 80 de ancho. Hasta ahora se han removido 1.2 millones de metros cúbicos de tierra y restan por removerse 500 metros, se dijo.
Según el general Díaz Zelaya, la pista servirá para propósitos estratégicos de defensa militar, protección del medio ambiente y proyección social de las Fuerzas Armadas en Lempira, Copán y Ocotepeque.
De acuerdo con las explicaciones del comandante del Ejército, la pista servirá para vuelos civiles en apoyo del turismo de la región.
En términos de distancia, está ubicada a 45 minutos de Tegucigalpa, 38 minutos desde Comayagua; una hora desde el puerto de La Ceiba; a 90 minutos desde Roatán, Islas de la Bahía, y a 33 minutos de San Pedro Sula.
El general Díaz Zelaya destacó que el lugar donde se construye la pista aérea tiene características para una base militar.
Está planificado que una vez terminada la obra se instalará una unidad militar de protección.
Aeródromo de Copán
Asimismo, el Congreso aprobó el contrato para la construcción del aeródromo Río Amarillo mediante un fideicomiso para el financiamiento, construcción, operación y mantenimiento del aeropuerto, suscrito por Coalianza, Soptravi y Banco Continental, por 90 millones de lempiras.
En el decreto se instruye al Poder Ejecutivo para que el ministerio de Finanzas haga las reservas presupuestarias de Soptravi a razón de seis cuotas anuales de 15 millones de lempiras cada una, para un total de 90 millones de lempiras.
lunes, 10 de junio de 2013
Publicado el 10/06/2013 • en el tema ESTADOS UNIDOS
En declaraciones para La Radio del Sur, la Coordinadora del Comité Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH), Berta Cáceres indicó que el gobierno de los Estados Unidos planea instalar la mayor base militar de toda América Latina en el país.
Durante el programa Mientras Tanto y por si Acaso Cáceres afirmó que está nueva instalación trata de un proyecto de dominación con el propósito saquear los recursos de los bienes comunes de la naturaleza en la nación centroamericana.
Agregó que no es la primera instalación militar norteamericana en territorio hondureño, ya que en los años 80 se desplegó en Palmerola y la segunda se erigió en la región de la mosquitia, en el norte del país, en 2010 bajo el propósito de frenar el narcotráfico.
Señaló que en la región de la mosquitia, hace una semana se firmó la entrega del país a la transnacional British Gas Group, donde se les entregaron 3 millones de hectáreas terrestres y marítimas para explotación y exploración petrolera, “esto no es casual, ya que esta zona es muy rica en recursos hídricos, EEUU su objetivo es saquear y militarizar la región”.
“Nosotros hemos denunciado que esta base también amenaza a los pueblos hermanos, hay que recordar que siempre se ha utilizado a Honduras como laboratorio para el avance de la ocupación militar, el intervencionismo y la militarización, así como sucedió en los años 80 contra Nicaragua y Centroamérica. Esta vez podría ser contra Venezuela y Cuba”, expresa Cáceres.
Así mismo, aseguró que las bases militares simplemente significa la violación de los derechos humanos.
La Coordinadora del Comité Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas detalló que en nación centroamericana actualmente existen seis bases militares estadounidenses.
De igual manera, aseguró que las autoridades hondureñas ya se han apresurado a desmentir la información sobre la apertura de una nueva base en su territorio y califican de meras especulaciones estos rumores.
Bases militares extranjeras en América Latina
Argentina: (2) en el archipiélago de Malvinas ocupado colonialmente por Gran Bretaña, la Fortaleza de la OTAN en Mount Pleasant, Isla Soledad, cuya pista mayor tiene una longitud de 2.600 metros. La actual dinamización de la militarización en el Atlántico Sur posiciona a la Fortaleza Malvinas como la fuerza más importante de la OTAN en esa región.
Existe además un terreno autorizado para el uso de Estados Unidos por el ex gobernador de Tierra del Fuego, en la localidad de Tolhuin. Y en febrero de 2012 se hace pública en Resistencia, Prov. del Chaco, la instalación de un Centro Anti catástrofes y Ayuda Humanitaria, financiado por el Comando Sur del Pentágono a inaugurarse en el Aeropuerto Internacional de Resistencia. El Centro dispone de un radar y equipos de comunicación que habilitan a esta construcción como un centro de control y espionaje al servicio de los proyectos imperiales. Su instalación responde a un programa impulsado por la Junta Interamericana de Defensa (JID) que incluye en sus planes la coordinación e implementación de centros similares en otros países del continente y ha sido objetado por el gobierno nacional argentino que cuestiona el papel de la JID en estos temas.
Aruba: (1) base aérea Reina Beatriz, de EEUU.
Belice: (1) un espacio para entrenamiento de efectivos de Gran Bretaña (OTAN)
Bolivia: No hay bases militares extranjeras. La constitución Política del Estado aprobada durante el gobierno de Evo Morales lo prohibe expresamente.
Colombia: (8) Con fecha 30 de octubre de 2010, el gobierno de Colombia suscribe con los Estados Unidos un convenio de cooperación militar en el cual se señalan las siguientes bases militares colombianas para que sean usadas por los EEUU: la base Aérea de Apiay, en el Departamento del Meta; la base Aérea de Malambo, ubicada en el área metropolitana de Barranquilla; la base Aérea de Palanquero, situada en Puerto Salgar, en el departamento (provincia) de Cundinamarca, que cuenta con una pista de aterrizaje de 3500 metros; la base Aérea de Tolemaida, en Melgar, Tolima, es el fuerte militar mas grande de Latinoamérica y tiene una importante fuerza de despliegue rápido; la base Naval de Bahía Málaga , en el Pacifico colombiano, cerca de Buenaventura; la base Naval de Cartagena, en la costa del mar Caribe.
A ellas se suman las que ya venían siendo utilizadas por soldados de Estados Unidos: la Base aérea deTres Esquinas ubicada en el Departamento de Caquetá y la base Aérea Larandia, en el mismo Departamento. Y se agrega el uso del puerto de Turbo (muy cercano a la frontera con Panamá) para aprovisionamiento de la IV Flota, así como muchas otras instalaciones de las fuerzas armadas colombianas.
Costa Rica: (2) Existe una base de EEUU en Liberia. Hay que tener en cuenta además la “invasión” de buques y miles de soldados USA autorizada por el gobierno y el Parlamento nacional en 2010. Es necesario investigar qué ha quedado como remanente de esa movida.
En el último tiempo aparecen menciones sobre otra base cercana a la costa del Pacífico costarricense. Concretamente, la Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados denuncia que en Liberia, EEUU reactivará y financiará un radar. La nota está fechada el 9 de octubre de 2009. La ANEP menciona además que en una entrevista al diario La Nación, el subcomandante del Comando Sur del Ejército norteamericano Paul Trivelli informó sobre la inversión de 15 millones de dólares en una base naval que se estaría construyendo en la localidad de Caldera, provincia de Puntarenas, y que allí funcionará, además, una escuela para el adiestramiento de oficiales de guardacostas. Una información proveniente de EEUU confirma que el Comando Sur, en agosto de 2009, aportó 1.5 millones de dólares para iniciar la construcción de un muelle e instalaciones como parte del cumplimiento de ese contrato.
Cuba: (1) Base usurpada por EEUU en Guantánamo
Curazao: (1) Base de EEUU Hato Rey
Chile: (1) Con autorización del gobierno de Sebastián Piñera se ha instalado en el Fuerte Aguayo, en Concón, cerca de Valparaíso, una base militar de los EE UU. El emplazamiento “imita una zona urbana, con 8 modelos de edificios, fue construido con un aporte de casi 500 mil dólares proporcionados por el Comando Sur de las Fuerzas Armadas de los Estados Unidos bajo la denominación de que sirve para “ejecutar operaciones de mantención de la paz o de estabilidad civil”, según indica la misma Embajada norteamericana. El acuerdo insiste en la lógica de que las Fuerzas Armadas deben intervenir en conflictos sociales o “estabilidad civil” lo que renueva la práctica de la Doctrina de la Seguridad Nacional.
Ecuador: con la retirada de EEUU de la Base de Manta, no existirían bases militares extranjeras en el país.
Sin embargo circula una información que no hemos podido confirmar respecto a que el Comando Sur tiene previsto financiar con una suma 600.000 dólares “instalaciones para cuarteles contra el narco terrorismo” que se construirían en Lita, Carchi, en la segunda mitad del año 2011.
El Salvador: (1) Una base en Comalapa, muy próxima al Aeropuerto internacional de San Salvador.
Guadalupe: (2) Registramos por lo menos dos bases militares de Francia (OTAN) en este pequeño archipiélago de las Antillas, en el mar Caribe que forma un departamento de ultramar de Francia y una región ultraperiférica de la Unión Europea.[ ] En Guadalupe, a 600 km al norte de las costas de América del Sur y al sureste de la República Dominicana, se encuentra el 41º Batallón francés de la Infantería de Marina, además de aviones, helicópteros y efectivos de la Fuerza Aérea.
Guatemala: no hay información sobre bases militares extranjeras pero sabemos que se ha extendido a este país la militarización del combate anti drogas (Iniciativa Mérida) que se viene aplicando en México, con una presencia constante de tropas USA.
Guayana Francesa: (3) En este territorio (remanente colonial francés en América del Sur) se concentran tropas principalmente en Cayena, San Juan de Maroni y otros lugares. Pero la más importante es la Base Aeroespacial francesa en Kourou, ahora gestionada por la Agencia Espacial Europea. Sus instalaciones son de las más avanzadas del mundo en la función que desempeña. Está preparada para el lanzamiento de satélites con objetivos diversos. El radar ubicado en Troubiran y la Base Aeroespacial permiten la observación y el control de todos los países de la región. Con la llegada del satélite militar Galileo, Francia cuenta en Guayana con 40.000 barbouzes (agentes no oficiales), jubilados en actividad bajo el comando del Estado Mayor de las fuerzas armadas y los servicios de inteligencia destacados en Guayana, en capacidad de intervenir contra independentistas guayaneses, y también contra otros pueblos en lucha contra el imperialismo en el continente.
Haití: (1) Además de la presencia, desde 2004, de la MINUSTAH, se registra una presencia de tropas de EEUU cuyo número no se ha podido determinar, así como el atraque de naves de la IV Flota. Desde la invasión de más de 20.000 efectivos USA con motivo del terremoto de enero de 2010, organizaciones de Haití vienen denunciando que han quedado remanentes de esas tropas y que todo su territorio puede considerarse una gran base militar extranjera.
Honduras: (6) Base Aérea estadounidense Soto Cano, en Palmerola, con una pista de 2.600 metros; otra más nueva en Puerto Lempira, sobre la laguna Caratasca, en el Departamento Gracias a Dios, territorio de la Mosquitia, próxima a la costa del Mar Caribe; y una más en construcción, en Guanaja, Departamento Islas de la Bahía, en el Caribe hondureño.
Martinica: (2) El caso de Martinica es similar al de Guadalupe, con por lo menos dos bases francesas (OTAN). En el lugar, el Ejército francés cuenta con más de 1.000 efectivos permanentes, incluyendo el 33º Regimiento de Infantería con sede en la capital Fort de France. Allí además se encuentra estacionada la Marina de Guerra con 500 efectivos y los equipos necesarios. El país es una base de apoyo de la mayor importancia para la vigilancia, la inteligencia y las intervenciones militares en la región, (junto con Guadalupe, Martinica ha servido como escala durante la Guerra de las Malvinas y la invasión de Granada; además, Francia y EE.UU. organizan regularmente maniobras militares conjuntas).
México: (2) La militarización de la lucha anti drogas con la intervención directa de los Estados Unidos ha dejado en los últimos años en este país decenas de miles de muertos.
Panamá: (12) Son doce bases aeronavales en ambas costas.
sobre el Pacífico:
1) Isla de Chapera
2) Bahía o Puerto Piña en Darién
3) Quebrada de Piedra, en Chiriquí
4) Rambala, en provincia Bocas del Toro
5) Punta Coco, en Archipiélago de las Perlas;
6) Isla Galera;
7) Mensabé, en Los Santos;
Coiba, en Veraguas.
Sobre el Caribe:
9) Sherman, en Colón
10) El Porvenir, en Kuna Yala
11) Puerto Obaldía, en Kuna Yala
12) San Vicente, en Metetí, Prov. de Darién, cercana a la frontera con Colombia.
Paraguay: (2) Base en Mariscal Estigarribia, en el Chaco paraguayo, con instalaciones para albergar a varios miles de soldados y una pista de 3.800 metros de longitud. Otra base en Pedro Juan Caballero (Base de la DEA estadounidense) en la frontera con Brasil. En ambos casos hemos comprobado la existencia de estas bases durante la Misión Internacional a Paraguay en el año 2006.
Perú: (3) En distintas publicaciones se menciona desde hace varios años la existencia de tres bases militares de EEUU en Perú: Iquitos, Nanay y Santa Lucía. Sobre esta última ubicada sobre el Río Huallaga (Alto Huallaga) faltan precisiones e información reciente. Se sabe además que el gobierno peruano ha autorizado a EEUU el uso de instalaciones portuarias para aprovisionamiento de la IV Flota en cercanías del puerto de El Callao.
República Dominicana: (1) Desde hace varios años se habla del traslado de tropas USA antes estacionadas en Puerto Rico a la República Dominicana. Nunca pudimos confirmar esa noticia.
Pero recientemente (febrero 2012) recibimos y confirmamos lo siguiente: Organizaciones progresistas y de izquierda de la República Dominicana llaman a impedir la construcción de una base naval patrocinada por el Gobierno de EE.UU. en la isla de Saona, en el extremo sureste del país. El proyecto prevé la construcción de un muelle, unos cuarteles y otras instalaciones del complejo. La obra será ejecutada por el Comando Sur de EE.UU. que invertirá alrededor de 1,5 millones de dólares, según anunció el jefe de la Marina de Guerra dominicana, el vicealmirante Nicolás Cabrera Arias. La construcción de la nueva base naval forma parte de la Iniciativa de Seguridad de la Cuenca del Caribe, promovida por Washington.
Publicado por Américo Roca Dalton en 15:37
How the Pentagon is quietly transforming its overseas base empire and creating a dangerous new way of war.
—By David Vine
The first thing I saw last month when I walked into the belly of the dark grey C-17 Air Force cargo plane was a void—something missing. A missing left arm, to be exact, severed at the shoulder, temporarily patched and held together. Thick, pale flesh, flecked with bright red at the edges. It looked like meat sliced open. The face and what remained of the rest of the man were obscured by blankets, an American flag quilt, and a jumble of tubes and tape, wires, drip bags, and medical monitors.
That man and two other critically wounded soldiers—one with two stumps where legs had been, the other missing a leg below the thigh— were intubated, unconscious, and lying on stretchers hooked to the walls of the plane that had just landed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. A tattoo on the soldier’s remaining arm read, “DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR.”
I asked a member of the Air Force medical team about the casualties they see like these. Many, as with this flight, were coming from Afghanistan, he told me. “A lot from the Horn of Africa,” he added. “You don’t really hear about that in the media.”