Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Is it narcotrafficking season again?

You’ll know it’s summer when you hear the soothing hum of approaching CH-53s…

I was amused by this Tico Times article, “US Marines plan force in Honduras for hurricane season”:
The United States wants to deploy a force of about 250 Marines to Honduras to provide humanitarian help during the region’s hurricane season, officials said Friday. The contingent also would assist Central American forces on efforts to counter narcotics trafficking.

Honduran officials are weighing the proposed task force, which would operate out of Palmerola air base from June to November.

“We have requested that the Marines be present in Honduras from June through November 2015, during hurricane season, to support Honduras and other countries in the region in the event of a hurricane or other major disaster,” the U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa said in a statement.

…“It’s only on a temporary basis,” said Captain Armando Daviu, public affairs officer for U.S. Marine Forces South. “It’s set up to be a quick response emergency force.”

The special purpose Marine air-ground task force would be equipped with four CH-53 cargo helicopters and possibly a C-130 aircraft, he told AFP.
This doesn’t even make sense. They’re supposedly going to set up this force and then just send them back to the US for good with all of their equipment later in the year? Even aside from the problem of the militarization of humanitarian aid, they’re not even trying that hard to hide the true purpose:
The task force would also contribute troops to “security cooperation” teams already stationed in the area, which train and advise local forces battling organized crime and narcotics smuggling.
Why would they set up seasonal participation in “security cooperation” teams?
Pentagon officials insisted the proposal would not involve the permanent deployment of U.S. troops, a sensitive political issue in a region where U.S. forces historically sided with authoritarian regimes.
This claim would be misleading even if it could be believed - which it can’t - since Soto Cano currently has around 500 US troops:
The Palmerola air base, currently home to about 500 American troops, was once a major staging area in the 1980s for US military support to Contra rebels fighting the Nicaraguan government.
So it’s a planned (or is it proposed?) additional unit dedicated to humanitarian aid in response to hurricanes. And other natural disasters. And really any sort of “emergency.” In the whole region. Oh, and also fighting narcotrafficking. And organized crime. And promoting “security” generally. And all of the expertise and equipment required for these tasks is the same. And only needed during the hurricane season.* And yet Palmerola remains 100% Honduran territory.

I’ve been presenting this as almost entirely a matter of concern for Hondurans and others in the region: Honduras’ international airport is being constructed on what is partially a US military base (and we saw what happened when that was planned without US cooperation), military expansion is being packaged as humanitarian aid, a larger US military presence will enhance the power of foreign interests and of the Honduran Right and military, and the Honduran “government” evidently doesn’t deem the views of the public important enough to propose the arrangement openly or even to be forthright when the plan is discovered. But it’s also an important matter for us in the US, who should be concerned with whether our government’s policy in the Americas should continue to be one of military and corporate imperialism underwritten by public funds.

* I suppose after that they could be deployed to the US border, to keep out all of the children driven to emigrate by the impoverishment, disempowerment, and violence enabled by the US-backed post-coup regimes.

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