New US Military Bases in Honduras

Source: Honduras Culture and Politics

The United States military continues to build bases in Honduras, with the public mission of supporting US drug interdiction missions and oversight of the Caribbean, especially the area from Honduras to the Dominican Republic.

The first of these bases, at Catarasca, in the Mosquitia, opened in April 2010. The US built this base from scratch, providing all the materials, logistics, and construction forces through DOD contracts. One of the DOD contracts that only partially built the base was for $1.9 million:

“Caratasca FOL [Forward Operating Location] Facilities”, $1.9 million contract W91278-07-D0098 0001, with Eterna S.A., initially to be completed in May 2009, extended to August 2009.

Now comes word that the visit of the HSV 2 Swift earlier this year brought the materials to build a base on Guanaja, an international tourist destination previously known as a diving mecca for its pristine waters, and a celebrity vacation spot.

Honduras has never had a navy base in the Bay Islands. The Guanaja base, at a cost of $2 million, again built from scratch, contains buildings and a pier built by US Navy personnel, and technology supplied by and installed by the US forces. It will eventually house a Honduran patrol boat, the L. P. Honduras, that was recently retrofitted by the Honduran Navy at a cost of $790,000 after being abandoned for the last 22 years!

The base will also reportedly house both US and Honduran aircraft used for drug interdiction missions. Quotha listed part of the public contract for the base on Guanaja as follows:

“Design Build CN [Counternarcotics] Facility”, contract signed June 2010 for $1.2 million, funded by SouthCom, for completion by Empresa de Construcci├│n y Transporte Eterna, by September 2011.

So the running total for these two bases is upwards of $3.1 million.

But wait, there’s still more.

The USS Oak Hill (LSD-51) is currently docked at Puerto Castillo, nominally so its Marines can hold joint exercises with the Honduran forces. Among the exercises: refurbishing the existing facilities here.

La Tribuna quotes a US Embassy release as saying:

The marines will disembark to work jointly with the Navy of Honduras in infrastructure projects to improve their living quarters, training, and security on the base.

They will also share information on maintaining weapons and military procedures, according to news reports.

This military aid, the Embassy explains, is coordinated by the US Southern Command. This project is partially built on the following contract:

Listed as “Puerto Castillas”, “Team Room and Range,” $350,000 funded by Special Operations Command South, scheduled for July-September 2011.

This contract allows a US presence at the only deep water port in Central America, one the Seabees improved in the 1980s to support the US bases in the Trujillo area (CREM, for example).

La Prensa said that the US Navy had not yet identified a place along the Pacific coast to build a base to support US anti-drug efforts, but this La Tribuna story says that the Swift carried out a similar “training” mission in the Honduran part of the gulf of Fonseca last March. As it happens, there is an abandoned base in the southern Honduran department of Choluteca, the only department in Honduras with coastline on the Pacific, previously upgraded by the US in the 1980s. But it is not clear whether La Tribuna is talking about this former base, or something else.

The 2010-2011 contracts include pier and barrack upgrades at Corinto, Nicaragua, along the Pacific coast, which may be better equipped to support the US Navy.

Add to the bases listed above a multi-million dollar contract to build permanent base housing at Soto Cano airfield in Comayagua, and you have an increasingly permanent US military presence in Honduras, now extending across all of the territory.