Six hundred US army troops have invaded Honduras in an escalation of the 2009 intervention, in which the State Department stood by during a military coup against Honduras’ elected president, Manuel Zelaya. In all likelihood, President Zelaya would have prohibited the deployment of hundreds of US troops as described in a New York Times story today.
Since the 2009 coup, Honduras has been the scene of persistent popular resistance movements and diplomatic censure by all Latin American countries. The new encroachment by 600 American regular-army troops will be challenged as direct foreign military intervention, deepening the dependency of Honduras on the Pentagon.
The US army forces are deployed “under orders to maintain a discreet footprint” at least at three bases in the interior and on the Honduran coast. Barred from combat except in “self-defense,” the Army forces are augmenting Drug Enforcement Agency operatives and Honduran special forces units.
The official US mission has expanded from counter-narcotics to “the potential nexus between transnational organized criminals and terrorists who would do harm to our country,” according to Col. Ross Brown commander of the Joint Task Force Bravo force. (New York Times, May 6, 2012) The allegation that Al Qaeda and other terrorists are “potentially” exploiting narco-routes into the United States has been made in Foreign Affairs magazine and other national security journals.
Hondurans, one of the poorest countries in the Americas, was exploited as a US base of regional military operations during the Central American wars of two decades ago. In the aftermath of the Iran-Contra scandal, Congress passed the Leahy amendment, which prohibits military assistance to any foreign military units engaged in human rights violations. The US embassy in Honduras must certify that there are no violations. Congress has never once attempted to enforce the Leahy amendment in Iraq or Afghanistan.
At the recent Summit of the Americas, US drug policy was questioned by virtually every Central American president, bringing the future of the US-created conference into question.