Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pentagon sees Honduras as a FOB

Pentagon sees Honduras as a FOB

“FOB” is military jargon for Forward Operating Base. It is a secure, forward military position that supports tactical operations and reduces the reaction time of the military forces that use it.

The Pentagon has them throughout Afghanistan and until recently had them all over Iraq. In the Pentagon’s scheme of things Honduras is a giant FOB right in the middle of Central America, with a Caribbean seacoast. This FOB carries a low profile, and most people in the U.S. do not know that it exists. For the people of Honduras it is a part of their lives 24/7.

The heart of the FOB is the José Enrique Soto Cano Air Base, located about 60 miles from the nation’s capital, Tegucigalpa. The U.S. military presence is officially known as Joint Task Force-Bravo and includes permanently assigned Army and Air Force units, including the 1st Battalion, the 228th Aviation Regiment and the 612th Air Base Squadron.

While technically considered a Honduran military base, the U.S. controls base security and all airfield functions at Soto Cano, such as air traffic control, weather forecasting and logistics. The base is ready at any time to handle the deployment of thousands of U.S. troops. That it is the main Honduran Air Force base and the location for the Honduras Air Force Academy highlights the Honduras-U.S. relationship.

This writer traveled to Honduras last month as an international observer with a delegation sponsored by the International Action Center’s Latin America-Caribbean Solidarity Committee, which attended a historic meeting of the National Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP).

I arrived at Toncontín International Airport in Tegucigalpa. Toncontín is considered one of the most dangerous commercial airports in the world with respect to landings and takeoffs because of the short length of the runway and its being situated in a valley with updrafts and downdrafts.

On my way to customs — before I even saw any “Welcome to Honduras” signs — I saw a big “Welcome Joint Task Force-Bravo” sign. The arrival area was full of U.S. military personnel in civilian clothing in a very relaxed atmosphere.

The next day — in what could only be considered an act of imperialist arrogance — a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane landed at Toncontín Airport for all in Tegucigalpa to see and especially hear. It was headline news in all the local newspapers — especially since aircraft the size of the C-17 are supposedly banned from using Toncontín Airport. The landing took place 10 days after a passenger plane crashed while landing, killing all on board!

The Honduran oligarchy — the so-called “10 families” — rules the country by force and intimidation. There is no democracy. Instead there are the local police, the national police, the military and the death squads.

The oligarchy could not stay in power for more than a few weeks without the military, political and financial support of the Obama administration. As part of this support the Pentagon has morale boosting delegations and training missions to Honduras on a virtual nonstop basis. Selected military personnel get specialized, all-expenses-paid training at the notorious Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly known as the School of the Americas), located at Fort Benning, Ga.

In September 2010 the U.S. Department of Defense Center For Hemispheric Defense Studies held a workshop that even de facto Honduran President Pepe Lobo Sosa and his top military and security advisors were required to attend. (hondurasculturepolitics.blogspot.com)

In December 2010 the Joint Task Force-Bravo assisted in training at the Honduras National Police Academy in self-defense and riot control. The national police are notorious in Honduras for acting as out-of-control thugs against nonviolent demonstrations.

This month the Southern Partnership Station 2011 — an annual deployment of U.S. Navy ships to the Caribbean and Latin America — started off in San Lorenzo, Honduras. Among the programs in SPS 2011 is the training of Honduran military and police by the Navy Criminal Investigative Service “designed to advance interoperability between the militaries and build an enduring partnership with the Honduran government.” (southcom.mil) Topics include tactical building searches and suspect apprehension.

International solidarity means calling for the complete closing down of FOB Honduras and the payment of reparations to the Honduran people for an environmentally sound cleanup of the Soto Cano Air Base and its transformation into a civilian international airport. U.S. troops out of Honduras!

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