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03TEGUCIGALPA626 2003-03-10 13:37:00 SECRET Embassy Tegucigalpa
Cable title:  

TRANSFORMING CENTRAL AMERICA,S SECURITY PARADIGM:

Tags:   PREL OVIP PGOV SNAR ETRD ECON MOPS KJUS HO 
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					  S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 TEGUCIGALPA 000626 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA DAS FISK, WHA/CEN, AND WHA/EPSC
STATE FOR PM, INL, EB, AND CA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/21/2013
TAGS: PREL OVIP PGOV SNAR ETRD ECON MOPS KJUS HO
SUBJECT: TRANSFORMING CENTRAL AMERICA,S SECURITY PARADIGM:
NEW MISSIONS, MORE APPROPRIATE WEAPONS, BUT LINGERING
DOUBTS

Classified By: Ambassador Larry Palmer, Reasons 1.5(b) and (d)



1. (C) SUMMARY: President Maduro reiterated his personal
commitment to regional disarmament and expressed his
willingness to move forward on this issue. He also asked for
U.S. support, mentioning directly the possible need for a
multilateral security guarantee and asked whether the U.S.
could provide transition assistance for demobilized soldiers.
Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) Deputy Assistant Secretary
(DAS) Dan Fisk informed Maduro that the U.S. does not see
threats to any Central American country coming from their
regional neighbors. Fisk commented that he had delivered
similar messages in San Salvador and Managua over the last
month and said that the U.S. wanted to understand how
Honduras was restructuring to meet the new threats to
national and international security. He encouraged Maduro to
take bold steps to rationalize the region's military forces.
Fisk stressed that better regional security relationships
would help Central American countries realize the full
benefits of a Central American integration, including a
Central American Free Trade agreement with the United States.
END SUMMARY



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


U.S. Interest In Regional Security


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





2. (C) During WHA DAS Dan Fisk's February 5-8 visit he
discussed Central American disarmament efforts, regional
military arrangements, and ongoing border disputes with
President Ricardo Maduro, Minister of Defense Frederico
"Fred" Breve, and Foreign Minister Guillermo Perez-Cadalso
Arias. DAS Fisk conveyed the U.S. view that Honduras had
nothing to fear from its two neighbors, El Salvador and
Nicaragua. He added further that the U.S. does not see
threats to any Central American country coming from their
regional neighbors, commenting that he had delivered similar
messages in San Salvador and Managua over the last month. He
said the U.S. welcomed the Honduran perspective on regional
security issues and was interested in understanding how
Honduras is restructuring its military to meet the new
threats to national and international security. He
encouraged President Maduro to take bold steps to rationalize
Honduras' military and to pursue similar initiatives
regarding a new regional security framework. He
underscored to the Hondurans that better regional security
relationships would help the region realize the full benefits
of Central American integration, including a U.S-Central
America Free Trade agreement.



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


Maduro Still Willing To Pursue Disarmament


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





3. (C) President Maduro reiterated his personal commitment to
regional disarmament during his February 7 meeting with WHA
DAS Fisk. He told Fisk that he wants to reduce the amount of
money spent on weapons in Honduras. Maduro emphasized that
he is willing to move forward on this issue and that his
government has a proposal to do so. (COMMENT: We are not
aware of, and doubt there is, any concrete proposal prepared
by the Government of Honduras (GOH) at this time. END
COMMENT.) Noting that the militaries in El Salvador and
Honduras were more subordinate to civilian authority than
were those in Guatemala and Nicaragua, he commented that his
fellow Central American presidents have favorably received
his suggestions on this topic. However, Maduro asked for
U.S. support, mentioning directly the possible need for a
multilateral security guarantee and whether the U.S. could
provide economic assistance for demobilized soldiers to be
integrated into local economies.



4. (S) DAS Fisk said Washington recognized President Maduro's
leadership and reiterated the U.S. assessment that most of
the weapons in Central American military inventories
represented a Cold War security frame of reference and are
not the most effective means to address current threats. He
urged President Maduro to take advantage of this historic
moment and the good will of his fellow presidents to
rearrange Central American security arrangements in a manner
that addressed the current threats. Fisk also urged Maduro
to consider a dramatic gesture to seize the moral authority
to lead this process. He then suggested that Honduras' F-5
aircraft did not enhance Honduras' ability to confront these
new emerging security threats and that the costs of the
logistical support for them crowded out other more pressing
Honduran military needs. Fisk continued by saying that the
Bush Administration was willing to engage on this issue,
including noting, for example, that the idea had been raised
of U.S. engagement through such regional mechanisms as the
Central American Armed Forces Conference (CFAC). He also
offered his view that whichever Central American country took
the first concrete steps towards transforming its
security/military framework would be in a strong position to
define the process for the region and would bring positive
attention to its actions from Washington.



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


MOD Outlines New Regional Military Missions


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





5. (C) In DAS Fisk's first meeting in Honduras on February 6,
Defense Minister Fred Breve said that his country's and the
region's military are preparing themselves for the new
transnational threats to their sovereignty and that his
President, Ricardo Maduro, is ready to pursue regional
disarmament in order to better align the types of weapons and
size of the region's militaries to these new threats. As an
example, Breve pointed to the Central American Armed Forces
Conference (CFAC) declaration in December that calls on the
Central American militaries to prepare a common plan to
combat terrorism. In addition to this recognition of new
threats, Breve said that CFAC is also working to downgrade
their concern about the old threats (i.e. invasion by one
country in the region against the other). He said CFAC knows
it must now unify in order to act against the new common
enemy. As an important first step, the CFAC agreed to new
intelligence sharing on organized crime, with specific
cooperation in the areas of d
rug trafficking, narcoterrorism, and Arab alien smuggling.
Breve also added that the countries agreed to work toward
establishing a "true" regional inter-agency military
taskforce. (COMMENT: He did not elaborate on what its mission
would be. END COMMENT.) He admitted it will take the
countries time to identify first the units for the force and
then the resources to support it.



6. (C) Breve specifically stated that, given his reduced
military budget, regionalization of Central American military
efforts presented an opportunity for more effective use of
the limited resources available. He assured Fisk that the
Honduran Armed Forces (HOAF) were aware that it was a
different world. Breve wants the HOAF to participate in the
CFAC counterterrorism unit. He added that the HOAF mindset
was changing, noting that he was reorienting Honduran forces
to the new missions by reducing the number of bases and
battalions and deploying forces in the prime drug trafficking
areas of the North Coast. The Maduro administration also has
involved the HOAF in the effort to combat the growing crime
problem in Honduras and the military itself was more involved
with the community via civic action, responding to natural
disasters, and helping to address health programs. He
assured Fisk that Honduras was adapting to the new threat
environment.



7. (C) Fisk responded that the U.S. wanted Honduras to think
about new missions in exactly this way. He told Breve that
CFAC was the right mechanism to pursue this kind of
regionalization of militaries and informed the Minister that
the idea of U.S. engagement, through the U.S. Southern
Command, with CFAC had recently been raised. Fisk made
specific reference to the expanded HOAF engagement in the
counternarcotics effort and expressed Washington's
appreciation.



8. (C) Breve said he saw military regionalization as directly
linked to greater regional economic integration. However, he
said Honduras felt there were still some considerable
challenges to overcome. He cited the glacial progress toward
actual land border demarcation with El Salvador and the
continuing Nicaraguan tariff as impediments. He cautioned
that Presidential-level commitments to integration were not
being translated into action. He also voiced concern about
Salvadoran small arms and military transport acquisitions and
renewed U.S. interest in military-to-military relations with
Nicaragua, which he imagined would eventually include new
U.S. military equipment. Noting the smaller size of the
Honduras armed forces, he opined that the Honduran Air Force
provided equilibrium for the Hondurans, even while he
acknowledged at the same time that the Air Force's F-5s were
more of a symbolic, rather than an effective, deterrent
force.



9. (C) Fisk, noting that he had met two days before with the
Salvadoran MOD, said it is the U.S. conclusion that El
Salvador's military sees its missions being in such areas as
humanitarian/disaster response, and also that it wants to
cooperate with its neighbors. Its defense modernization is
designed to help it move troops to respond to these new
missions. He said he was impressed with the Salvadoran
military's professionalization and added that he did not see
any evidence of expansionist tendencies. After reassuring
Breve about U.S. views and efforts on the Nicaraguan tariff,
Fisk agreed that the U.S. has sought a new relationship with
the Nicaraguan military. He told Breve that the U.S. effort
was very respectful of Nicaraguan civilian authority over the
military and our support would be primarily in logistical
areas and designed to help transform the Nicaraguan armed
forces to meet their new missions.



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



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


MOD Views Disarmament Favorably But Asks For U.S. Help


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



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





10. (S) Fisk called Breve's attention to Nicaraguan Foreign
Minister Norman Caldera's statement on weapons at the OAS
counterterrorism meeting in El Salvador two weeks earlier.
He characterized it as very forward learning and stated that
the U.S. supported Caldera and the GON efforts to control its
weapon inventories, including surface-to-air missiles. Breve
felt that Caldera's statement had been made in response to
OAS pressure regarding Nicaraguan arms smuggling to
terrorists in Colombia. Fisk then stated that there was
interest and enthusiasm in the U.S. for disarmament
initiatives emanating from the region. He commented that any
such effort would have to take into account defense needs to
protect against new threats and the resources needed to
address them. He told Breve that the U.S. was looking to the
region's leaders to grasp this opportunity and that
leadership would be needed on these issues. Fisk underscored
that the U.S. was open to Central American ideas on this
issue and needed the regio
n to let us know where it wanted to go on this issue so that
the U.S. could engage. He noted that all sides had weapons
that did not meet their needs against the current threats
that they confront.



11. (C) Breve outlined talks between President Maduro and
Salvadoran President Francisco Flores on disarmament. He
said the two had agreed and presented the issue to their
fellow Central American presidents. The two presidents were
working on how to present such ideas to their militaries.
Breve said that initial discussions also had identified broad
regional concern about the need to address the implications
of the demobilization of forces. The leaders felt that such
decommissioned forces would represent a target of opportunity
for organized crime. Without some sort of jobs program,
organized crime could use its resources to recruit
well-trained military to support their ends. Breve affirmed
Honduran willingness to start a disarmament process but he
believed it would be a long process. As much as he would
like to see early agreement, Breve's honest assessment is
that it will take some time. He noted that all sides may
have the intent but may not be willing to act.



12. (C) Fisk said that he understood the historical
challenges confronting the region and that demobilization was
a real concern. He said the U.S. did not seek to minimize
the challenges but hoped for a start in the short term. He
urged that all sides consider bold steps. He stressed that
whomever "gambled" first would have the moral high ground and
could use it to move the others. He suggested that another
way to approach the issue was to view it as a rationalization
of arms inventories rather than disarmament of militaries.
He highlighted that the U.S. goal was a better framework for
overall regional security. Breve thanked Fisk for this
encouragement and closed by mentioning the need to consider a
multilateral security guarantee or body with oversight
authority.



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



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


Foreign Minister Concerned About El Salvador and Nicaragua


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



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




13. (C) In DAS Fisk's meeting with Foreign Minister
Perez-Cadalso later in the day, the FM reiterated Honduran
concerns and suspicions about its neighbors' intentions.
(COMMENT: Interestingly, MOD Breve made a similar comment,
saying that suspicions would continue to exist in the
short-term. END COMMENT.) Two issues stood out: Honduran
concern about Nicaragua's 35 per cent tariff and deep
frustration over the slow, practically non-existent pace of
land border demarcation with El Salvador. Perez-Cadalso
stated that both problems were frustrating to the GOH because
Presidential-level agreements were not being followed through
on at the working level by its neighbors. However, in both
cases, Perez-Cadalso affirmed that these were issues that
needed to be put behind the countries because the leaders
shared the same vision of the future.



14. (C) FM Perez-Cadalso stressed that the GOH was prepared
to accept an ICJ ruling on its maritime border with
Nicaragua, but that the tariff threatened to start a trade
war between the two countries. He noted that the Maduro
government had been patiently waiting for some action for
more than a year. He warned that the Honduran Congress was
considering taking action because many in Tegucigalpa were
skeptical that the Nicaraguan Congress really planned to act.



15. (C) Perez-Cadalso was equally frustrated about the land
border demarcation with El Salvador. He said that it was now
more than 10 years since the ICJ ruling and there had been
very little progress in actually marking the border as called
for in the ruling. He commented that many Hondurans believe
that El Salvador is simply stalling. He told DAS Fisk that
Honduras was prepared to accept a technical expert (an
independent third party, preferably an American engineer) who
could settle disputes on the spot. Perez-Cadalso said that
the GOH was prepared to accept such an arrangement in order
to make progress.

Palmer