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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
03TEGUCIGALPA1253 2003-06-02 22:20:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tegucigalpa
Cable title:  

JOINT TASK FORCE BRAVO - U.S. MILITARY PRESENCE IN

Tags:   MOPS SNAR PREL PGOV PHUM EAID KCRM HO 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TEGUCIGALPA 001253 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT. FOR PM, INL/LP, WHA/PPC, WHA/CEN, AND DRL/PHD
STATE PASS AID FOR LAC/CEN AND OFDA
SAN JOSE FOR OFDA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MOPS SNAR PREL PGOV PHUM EAID KCRM HO
SUBJECT: JOINT TASK FORCE BRAVO - U.S. MILITARY PRESENCE IN
HONDURAS APPLAUDED AND CRITICIZED

REF: 02 TEGUCIGALPA 2444



1. (U) SUMMARY: Since 1982 the U.S. military has maintained
a presence at the Honduran Armed Forces (HOAF) airbase at
Soto Cano (commonly known by Hondurans as Palmerola). The
base is also the site of the Honduran Air Force Academy.
Currently, Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-B) houses more than
600 U.S. troops and employs more than 700 Hondurans. Through
salaries, contracts, tourism and donations, JTF-B contributes
approximately USD 30 million annually to the Honduran
economy. The initial mission of JTF-B was to deter
aggression from the Nicaraguan National Sandinista Liberation
Front (FSLN). Today, U.S. forces train the HOAF; conduct
bilateral operations in counternarcotics; and provide
humanitarian assistance, medical emergencies, and disaster
relief. JTF-B is also a first responder for natural disaster
crises for the entire Central American region. Now some 20
years later, with the threat of communism gone, some
Hondurans continue to question the validity of the U.S.
presence at Soto Cano. END SUMMARY



--------------------------


U.S. PRESENCE BENEFICIAL


--------------------------





2. (SBU) Since 1982 the U.S. military has maintained a
presence at the Honduran Armed Forces (HOAF) airbase at Soto
Cano (commonly known by Hondurans as Palmerola). For the
HOAF, the base, also the site of the Honduran Air Force
Academy, represents a strategic relationship with the U.S.
military. With the U.S. Southern Command departure from
Panama in 1999, JTF-B now serves as the principal military
presence for the U.S. in Central America. JTF-B is the first
responder to crises in the region, and supports
counternarcotics and counterterrorism missions when directed
from Southern Command. Moreover, it conducts and supports
recovery and evacuation operations in all of the Central
American (CENTAM) region. Additionally, the task force
maintains and jointly operates the only C-5 capable airfield
base in the region. It provides support for joint combined
exercises and unit training, theater deployable surgical
team, all-source intelligence, an operational footprint for
immediate reaction forces, and maintains pre-positioned
stocks for theater-wide military operations. Secondarily,
JTF-Bravo conducts and supports humanitarian civic assistance
and military civic action operations, and supports USAID
disaster relief programs.



--------------------------


HONDURAN PERSPECTIVE VARIES


--------------------------





3. (SBU) Hondurans find themselves sitting on both sides of
the fence in regards to the U.S. presence at Soto Cano. On
the one hand, many recognize the strategic bilateral
relationship that is maintained between the two countries.
The training and operation resources provided to the HOAF are
also recognizably important beneficial aspects of the base.
Furthermore, the more than USD 30 million in economic
activity generated by the base makes a direct and significant
economic impact on the surrounding Comayagua Valley. On the
other hand, Honduran critics of the base voice several
concerns over the JTF-B mission. First, some knee-jerk
critics say that the U.S. uses the base more for selfish
unilateral motives rather than with the intention of helping
the HOAF and the people of CENTAM in general. This view
unfortunately also generates the belief that the U.S. should
provide Honduras with greater monetary compensation for use
of the land, above and beyond the rent the USG currently
pays. Another criticism is over JTF-B's missions. The
Committee of Families of the Detained and Disappeared in
Honduras (COFADEH), a Honduran NGO that focuses on alleged
human rights abuses from the 1980s and is skeptical of a U.S.
military role in Honduras, recently criticized JTF-B for
possible violations of Honduran sovereignty in
counternarcotics operations. Often, this type of criticism
reflects a lack of knowledge of what the base does. PolOff
met May 19 with Bertha Oliva de Nativi, the COFADEH General
Coordinator, to answer her questions and allay her concerns.
PolOff emphasized that JTF-B undertakes all actions working
in cooperation with the GOH and referred her to the Ministry
of Defense if she had more questions about Soto Cano. PolOff
is also providing Oliva with public relations information
from JTF-B.



--------------------------


COMMERCIAL AIRPORT?


--------------------------





4. (U) In August of 2002, President Ricardo Maduro announced
that he was considering the possibility of converting the
airstrip at Soto Cano for use by commercial airlines.
Currently, the small size of the Toncontin airport in
Tegucigalpa severely limits the type of aircraft that can
safely land there (reftel). This primarily affects cargo
planes used for exportation of Honduran products. A joint
commercial-military airport at Soto Cano could mean greater
commercialization and revenue possibilities for Comayagua and
the surrounding area, especially for the development of
textile factories (maquilas). However, such a project would
necessitate very careful planning so as not to compromise the
security and safety of military operations that currently
take place at the base. To date, no official plans for a
civilian airport project have been developed.



5. (SBU) COMMENT: While a small minority of outspoken
critics question the motive of a U.S. military presence in
Honduras, many understand the benefits of having JTF-B
stationed at Soto Cano. JTF-B was instrumental in providing
disaster relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, and
continues to provide tangible benefits to the host country
through medical visits and other humanitarian missions. The
GOH is also grateful for the monetary contribution JTF-B
provides to the domestic economy and the stabilizing effect a
U.S. military presence provides to regional security. END
COMMENT.
Pierce