Stavridis Praises U.S.-Honduran Cooperation in Confronting Mutual Threats
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, Jan. 30, 2009 The commander of U.S. Southern Command arrived here yesterday to reaffirm the United States’ strategic partnership with Honduras and praise the solid bilateral and interagency cooperation that is delivering tangible success.
Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, commander of U.S. Southern Command, center, meets with members of U.S. Military Group Honduras during his visit to Tegucigalpa, Jan. 29, 2009. DoD photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis met with President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, Defense Minister Aristides Mejia Carranza and Defense Chief Maj. Gen. Romeo Orlando Vasquez Velasquez to discuss security challenges of mutual concern: primarily illicit drug, arms and human trafficking.
These, he said, threaten not just national, but also regional stability.
Stavridis also met with U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens and his embassy country team, as well as U.S. Military Group Honduras to explore ways to improve military-to-military training, education and other support to the Honduran government.
Declaring an “excellent state of cooperation between our two militaries,” Stavridis lauded tremendous progress within Honduras’ 11,000-member military.
The Honduran military is the country’s most respected government institution, with only the Catholic Church garnering higher public respect, Air Force Col. Ken Rodriguez, commander of U.S. Military Group Honduras, told Stavridis.
That respect follows a decade-long leadership emphasis on excellence, integrity and professionalism within the ranks, coupled with a close military-to-military relationship with the United States, officials here said.
Stavridis’ noted Honduras’ “extremely full pallet of exercises” to build on those gains. Within the next few months alone, the Honduran military will join the United States and other regional partners to exercise maritime security operations, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, medical readiness and other critical capabilities.
The admiral credited those efforts, along with growing cooperation between the U.S. and Honduran governments, with making big headway against narcotics trafficking and other regional threats.
An example of that success took place the day before Stavridis arrived, when Honduran police seized 1.5 metric tons of cocaine with an estimated street value of $25 million, an aircraft and two “go-fast” boats used by drug runners. Tipped off by intelligence from Southcom’s Joint Interagency Task Force South counterdrug operation based in Key West, Fla., Honduran authorities closed in on the traffickers in their first aircraft interdiction. The Honduran navy also supported the operation.
Stavridis said he congratulated Honduran leaders on the “extraordinary operation” in which their government took the lead in a cooperative arrangement.
The arrival of four U.S.-funded “fast boats,” slated for delivery today, will further enhance Honduras’ drug-interdiction capabilities, Rodriguez explained. The United States is providing the boats, as well training and equipment to operate and maintain them, through the Enduring Friendship security assistance program.
By 2010, the United States plans to buy four light observation aircraft for the Honduran military to augment the four the Hondurans recently bought to support counter-trafficking, he said.
Stavridis noted the long history of friendship and cooperation between the United States and Honduras that he said has paved the way for important security successes.
He thanked Honduran leaders for their support for Joint Task Force Bravo, Southcom’s only permanently deployed U.S. forces in the region, which has operated in Honduras since 1983.
Based at Soto Cano Air Base, Joint Task Force Bravo stands as Southcom’s “911 force,” prepared to respond to natural disasters such as severe flooding and landslides that ravaged much of Costa Rica and Panama in late November and early December. In addition to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the task force supports counternarcotics and other missions in the region.
Stavridis asked both Honduran and U.S. leaders here for advice on ways to build on the already-strong U.S.-Honduran relationship. He also emphasized throughout his sessions that confronting transnational challenges demands close interagency cooperation like that already in place here.
“The future of national security is the interagency, all working together,” he said.
Stavridis’ visit here underscored the value the United States places on its strategic partnership with Honduras in promoting regional security and stability, Rodriguez said.
“We in the United States get as much out of this relationship as [the Hondurans] do,” he said. “What we have is a relationship of comrades in arms, working together to confront mutual threats.”