|Just the mention of the U.S.’s Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras still sends fear into the heart of many Hondurans, a place where memory is not an endangered species. The ever expanding military base is not only symbolic of each U.S. intervention and lengthy occupations that followed and which involved the creation of other bases for American troops, but it destroyed Honduras’s democracy and constitutional reforms. Meanwhile, waves of violence triggered by last November’s most recent contested presidential election continues to leave dozens dead and hundreds injured and in jail.
Give an Inch and They’ll (U.S. and Pentagon) Take a Country
Although incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez was suspiciously declared the winner of the November 26 run-off election, the illusion didn’t last long. After a three week stretch of much-interrupted recounting and accusations of ballot stuffing, along with raids on polling stations to destroy paper ballots, supporters of opposition leader Slavador Nasrallah were right to insist the election was stolen. They were also correct to have denounced how Washington once again intervened by using Soto Cano Air Base as a staging ground to unleash Honduran security forces and police against the people.
To this day U.S. officials maintain that they have no U.S. military presence in Honduras, but I know differently. In the 1980’s, my unit knew that building a small Army barracks and school that was only a sideshow for a much larger operation. After more than three decades, Soto Cano now dwarfs the three hundred-person academy. It also provides a mechanism for the U.S. government to circumvent Honduras’ constitution and elections, while also providing a staging ground for more military interventions throughout Latin America followed by, of course, political and corporate acts of domination.
The Greatest Purveyor of Violence
The defeat of Slavador Nasrallah’s liberal policies actually evoked memories of President Manuel Zelaya. Promising to curtail U.S. militarism and pursue constitutional reforms, he too proposed to use Soto Cano’s runway as part of a new “international” airport for joint civilian and military use. After suggesting reparations for Indigenous Peoples who once lived there, the U.S. countered with its “might makes right” policy. On June 28, 2009, Washington claimed ownership over the entire bases’ land and infrastructure-including resources-and through a coup d’etat illegally removed President Zelaya from power.
President Zelaya was seized by the military and flown to Costa Rica via Soto Cano Air Base-and a U.S. aircraft. In the meantime, as Washington continued to increase troops and pour millions of dollars into expanding the air base to accommodate more F-16 fighter jets and C-5 cargo planes, along with a pool, a gym, sports fields, and other recreation facilities covering twenty-two miles of roads, trends of decreasing poverty reversed. Extreme poverty rose alongside illiteracy, unemployment. And Soto Cano’s political domination over Honduras continues.
Deadly and Clandestine Operations Brought to You by the U.S.
Many Honduran protesters know that behind Honduras’s security forces and brutal paramilitary squads is Washington. They also realize that U.S. aid sent to their country in the form of teargas, rubber bullets, water cannons, live ammunition, and tanks, is being used to suppress popular uprisings and kill democracy. Whether or not the upcoming scheduled protest actions on January 27 will dislodge Honduras’ illegitimate president in favor of Salvador Nasralla isn’t known. What is known, however, is that more Honduran activists and protesters will more than likely be jailed and killed.
What’s still known too is how during the Cold War Washington groomed other presidents to torture and kill activists and freedom-loving people. To be sure, as the U.S. converted Honduras into a base camp for contra mercenaries-condemned by the UN as terrorists, it sent wave after wave of murderers into Nicaragua to end its democratic experiment. Meanwhile, Hondurans watched thousands of their infant children die from malnutrition and disease. Activists and labor leaders disappeared or turned up murdered. Thanks to an oppressive government and death squads, most were too hungry to care.
For now, don’t expect the U.S.’s Soto Cano Air Base to become an international airport-let alone U.S. troops leaving and turning it over to Hondurans. It’s so significant that Pentagon officials often refer to it as Joint Task Force Bravo, a command base that matches that of entire regional commands like the Southern or European Commands and Pacific Commands. And just like the surrounding jungle, which is unfortunately receding due to militarism, it too has taken on a life of its own. It’s a life that entails crushing democracy and constitutional reforms in Honduras and elsewhere in Latin America.
Make no mistake, democratic illusions never last long in the shadow of U.S. military bases around the globe.
Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John’s Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for www.WN.com. You can read more of Dallas’ writings at www.beverlydarling.com and www.WN.com//dallasdarling.)