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The Pentagon targets Honduras

By Michael Kramer

May 31, 2012

A delegation of human rights activists from the U.S., organized by Rights Action and the Alliance for Global Justice, recently visited the site of the May 11 massacre of indigenous Moskito people in Honduras.

Four people were killed and others severely wounded while traveling in canoes on the Patuca River. The river is the only way of getting around in an area that has no roads. The victims — who had nothing to do with drug trafficking — were shot by helicopter fire during a joint U.S.-Honduran drug interdiction operation that was planned using counterinsurgency tactics developed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At a U.S. State Department press conference on May 17, the Obama administration admitted that members of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (FAST) were aboard the helicopters, that the helicopters were owned by the State Department, and that they were flown by Guatemalan military officers and “contract pilots.”

The administration denied that the FAST unit fired any weapons. However, no matter who did the firing, it is inconceivable that the FAST hit-squad did not have ultimate command and control of this operation.

On May 22-23, the human rights delegation visited the remote community of Ahuas in the Moskitia region of Honduras, located on the Caribbean coast. In a press release the delegation reported that it “witnessed an atmosphere of terror being generated amongst dire poverty, in an area where the indigenous people are now losing control of natural resources.” (May 27)

The press release adds, “Following the massacre, at least one helicopter landed and at least 10 tall, light-skinned English speakers with limited Spanish proficiency, wearing military-type uniforms, exited the helicopters. … They aimed guns at, threatened to kill, and handcuffed residents of the town who had come to assist the wounded.”

Pentagon’s expanding role in Honduras

This atrocity highlights the expanding role of the Pentagon in Honduras. FAST teams, headquartered at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va., and Kabul, Afghanistan, are a paramilitary arm of the Pentagon. They are able to move in and out of countries like Honduras with a low profile.

FAST members are mostly U.S. military veterans with Special Operations experience. The fact that FAST appears on an organizational chart of the U.S. Department of Justice means nothing — it is a semi-clandestine arm of the Pentagon.

The main U.S. military base in Honduras is at the Soto Cano Air Base, 60 miles from capital city Tegucigalpa. The U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment, which flies Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters, is stationed there. Meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force’s 612th Air Base Squadron maintains a C-5A Galaxy-capable, all-weather, day/night runway for potential large-scale deployments of ground troops. A number of smaller bases have recently been built in La Venta, Guanaja, Barra de Caratasca and Puerto Castilla for use by DEA/FAST.

As the liberation movement in Honduras gathers strength, experience, internal support and international solidarity, the U.S.-backed oligarchy and its figurehead, Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, are in a panic. Lobo’s reaction to the killings on the Patuca River was to call for more DEA/FAST support!

The drug war is a phony war with a lot of innocent people caught in the middle. The banks — which every year launder billions of dollars in drug profits — are almost never targeted. In Honduras the Pentagon’s real target is the liberation movement, whose leading force is the National Front for Popular Resistance, which calls for a new Honduras based on justice for all working and oppressed peoples and freedom from imperialist control.

U.S. troops and DEA/FAST out of Honduras!

Kramer, a member of Veterans for Peace, has traveled to Honduras on solidarity delegations organized by the International Action Center.

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UPDATED Jun 2, 2012 8:40 AM
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