News Release

U.S. “Escalating Military Presence in Honduras”


Associated Press is reporting: “Villagers say the drug bust that left four passengers of a riverboat dead after helicopters mistakenly fired on civilians continued into the predawn hours when commandos, including some they think were Americans, raided their town. … Jose Ruiz, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees the U.S. military in Honduras, said there were no American troops there. ‘We can confirm there were no U.S. military personnel or U.S. military assets involved in any way. Our joint task force occasionally supports DEA, but they had no personnel or equipment in that particular mission,” Ruiz said. …

“Several villagers, however, told The Associated Press that some of the masked agents were gringos. ‘They spoke in English among themselves and on the radios,’ said Zavala, whose husband was held at gunpoint. ‘They had brought a computer and they put in the names of everyone and sought identification for everyone.’”

DANA FRANK, danafrank at ucsc.edu
Available for a limited number of interviews with larger media outlets, Frank is professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of several books, including “Bananeras: Women Transforming the Banana Unions of Latin America,” which examines the banana workers’ unions of Honduras. She writes in the cover article in The Nation this week: “In the early hours of the morning on May 11, a group of indigenous people traveling by canoe on a river in the northeast Mosquitia region of Honduras came under helicopter fire. When the shooting was over, at least four persons lay dead, including, by some accounts, two pregnant women. In Honduras, such grisly violence is no longer out of the ordinary. But what this incident threw into stark relief was the powerful role the United States is playing in a Honduran war.

“U.S. officials maintain that the Drug Enforcement Administration commandos on board the helicopters did not fire their weapons that morning; Honduran policemen pulled the triggers. But no one disputes that U.S. forces were heavily involved in the raid, and that the helicopters were owned by the U.S. State Department.

“The United States has, in fact, been quietly escalating its military presence in Honduras, pouring police and military funding into the regime of President Porfirio Lobo in the name of fighting drugs. The DEA is using counterinsurgency methods developed in Iraq against drug traffickers in Honduras, deploying squads of commandos with U.S. military Special Forces backgrounds to work closely with the Honduran police and military. The U.S. ambassador to Honduras, Lisa Kubiske, recently said, ‘We have an opportunity now, because the military is no longer at war in Iraq. Using the military funding that won’t be spent, we should be able to have resources to be able to work here.’”

ALEX MAIN, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net
Senior associate for international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Main said today: “The U.S. involvement in the shooting incident earlier this month on Honduras’ Patuca River, in which pregnant women and others were killed, and the subsequent commando raid on people’s homes, raises a number of troubling questions. Among these are, what are the guidelines under which U.S. DEA and other forces are operating? What kind of violence is permitted in going after drug traffickers? And is it applicable to unarmed, or just armed traffickers? And what constitutes a drug trafficker? What are the parameters for using deadly force in populated areas?

“It is also disturbing that the U.S. State Department does not appear to know whether the Leahy law, which cuts off U.S. police and military assistance to known human rights abusers, is even being applied in Honduras. If there were evidence that it is, we would probably know about it. But the fact is that the U.S. government is ramping up aid to a police force that murders civilians with impunity, and that according to credible high-level officials is tainted by corruption and drug-trafficking itself.”

See Los Angeles Times editorial: “In Honduras, U.S. should tread lightly: Military assistance to Honduras may exacerbate its drug problems rather than helping solve them.”