November 13, 2012
(photo by Karen Spring July 2012)
A US Forward Operating Base (FOB) or a temporary military outpost outside of Puerto Lempira, La Moskitia, Honduras. Locals and communities have repeatedly reported that US soldiers come and go and are present on the base that housed a large rotating satellite, various military tents and vehicles.
Within one day of arriving in Tegucigalpa, members of the Honduras Solidarity Network human rights delegation were instantly reminded of the strong US military presence and authority in the country. Upon stopping at the Soto Canal Air Base in Comayagua on November 13, 2012 (day one of the delegation), two US military soldiers – one identified as a US Joint Task Force Bravo soldier – came out accompanied by two Honduran soldiers and threaten to arrest us for taking pictures in the visitor parking lot outside the base.
US soldier Matos with his hand on his gun strapped to his leg wearing a uniform with a US flag on his shoulder walked over to the delegation and aggressively ordered us to stop taking pictures and that we would be arrested if we did not delete them from our cameras.
Within five minutes of our exchange with soldier Matos, US soldier Gonzalez with a leather armband with ‘JTF-B US’ on his arm and a Honduran soldier asked our contracted driver for his identification, vehicle registration, name and phone number of the transportation company for which he works. There was no identification of the US soldiers’ rank on the uniform.
The delegation is concerned about the role of the United States government and military in Honduras. During a delegation in June2011 at the entrance of Palmerola, a human rights delegation, upon requesting a meeting with an US officer in charge, was told that US soldiers are invited guests by the Honduran government and that Palmerola is not a US military base (1). We are unclear why US soldiers were enforcing Honduran law at the entrance of a Honduran military base despite having Honduran soldiers at their side. For many members of the delegation that have visited Honduras consistently for the last five years, it is the first time they have been confronted in such an aggressive manner by US soldiers.
The US military presence and authority in Honduras has previously been questioned particularly since the participation in the deaths of four indigenous Miskito peoples in La Moskitia on May 11, 2012 in a ‘drug interdiction mission’. Despite the role of US personnel and US State Department helicopters in the mission, no US investigation has been conducted to clarify US participation in the mission or why four innocent Hondurans were killed (2).
Indeed, the growing US presence in Honduras is concerning to us. Since the June 28, 2009 military coup in Honduras, the US has increased its presence in Honduras including funding the expansion or construction of two new military bases in Caratasca (in Puerto Lempira, Gracias a Dios) and Guanaja (Honduran island off the Caribbean coast); the establishment of three Forward Operating Bases in the country; and the reported citing of heavily armed US soldiers accompanying Honduran soldiers in communities in La Moskitia.
- Group exchange with Honduran soldier outside the Soto Canal Air Base, Comayagua, Honduras. June 28, 2011. The same statement has also been repeated by various US officials when question about US bases in Honduras.
- Bird, Annie and Main, Alex. Collateral Damage. Available at: www.cepr.com