Category Archives: Regional Security

Más de 50 drones ya vuelan en Colombia

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Hacen seguimientos a grupos armados ilegales en las selvas. No tienen ninguna clase de artillería.

El general Tito Saúl Pinilla, comandante de la Fuerza Aérea (FAC), reveló uno de los secretos hasta ahora mejor guardados de las Fuerzas Militares: el país cuenta con más de 50 aviones no tripulados, también conocidos como drones.
Esta flota ya está siguiendo a la guerrilla y a otros grupos ilegales en las selvas, vigilando fronteras y con la mira en las amenazas de la infraestructura minera y petrolera.

Este jueves, EL TIEMPO reveló fotos de los modelos Scan Eagle, que la FAC compró a la Boeing Co.
Estos aviones son usados por EE. UU. en las guerras de Irak y Afganistán, donde han jugado un papel clave en la inteligencia a las redes de Al Qaeda.Aunque los que están en el país no tienen ninguna clase de artillería, en Medio Oriente sí han participado en bombardeos.

Los ART de la Fuerza Aérea tienen una autonomía de vuelo de más de 10 horas y la cámara que tiene incorporada realiza videos y fotos en alta definición, incluso de noche.

Estos drones vienen realizando operaciones desde hace más de un año, especialmente en la serranía de La Macarena, en Orito (Putumayo) la región del Catatumbo y Saravena (Arauca), todos territorios de alto conflicto.

Mientras tanto, universidades y las Fuerzas Armadas avanzan en la construcción de un avión no tripulado criollo. Lo que sí es tecnología local es un simulador de vuelo para los ART. Lo crearon en tres meses, en el sector de El Buque, en Villavicencio, y fue entregado este jueves en la noche.

“Se trata de un trabajo ciento por ciento colombiano”, dijo el general (r) Jorge Humberto González Ruiz, director de la Corporación de Alta Tecnología para la Defensa.

Lo que sigue siendo un misterio es el número de drones que tiene el Ejército.

Reciben simulador de vuelo
fue entregado al mindefensa en Villavicencio

En la noche de este jueves, en la base aérea de Apiay, en Villavicencio, el ministro de Defensa, Juan Carlos Pinzón, recibió el simulador para hacer volar aviones no tripulados.

En ese aparato, que apenas tiene 2 metros de alto por 3 metros de largo, y un software, una palanca y un control remoto, los pilotos pueden aprender a manejar esos aviones como si estuvieran en una cabina desde tierra.

REDACCIÓN JUSTICIA
juamer@eltiempo.com

Economist – Security in Colombia: Fear of missing out

The second-biggest guerrilla group tries to muscle in on peace talks

WHEN the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s strongest guerrilla group, wanted to convince the government that they were serious about restarting peace talks, they tried to prove their good intentions by formally renouncing their decades-old practice of kidnapping for ransom. They also declared a unilateral two-month ceasefire when the talks began, which expired on January 20th. The country’s second-largest guerrilla force, the National Liberation Army (ELN), has adopted the opposite strategy: disgruntled that it has been excluded from the negotiations, which began in November, it has launched a new campaign of attacks to establish its relevance.

On January 18th the ELN abducted five workers for Canada’s Braeval Mining Corporation near the company’s gold and silver mining project in the department of Bolívar. The captives included a Canadian and two Peruvians. The group has also bombed an oil pipeline twice so far in 2013.

The ELN has left little doubt that the attacks are a cry for attention. “Why aren’t we at the [negotiating] table?,” asked Nicolás Rodríguez Bautista, its leader, in a video posted online the day the miners were kidnapped. “That’s a question for President [Juan Manuel] Santos,” he continued.

Since the mid-1960s, the ELN and FARC have fought parallel wars against the Colombian state. Although both groups espouse a Marxist ideology and have financed themselves through kidnappings and the drug trade, they have a long history of mutual mistrust. Whereas the FARC began as a peasant-based organisation and adopted Soviet-style doctrines and a strict military structure, the ELN was founded by university students, oil workers and priests who followed liberation theology and had close ties to Cuba. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Colombian army commanders and ELN leaders actually agreed in 2006 to fight the FARC together in some parts of the country.

Mr Santos has been careful not to give the ELN the public recognition it craves. According to El Colombiano, a newspaper in Medellín, the ELN sent a delegation to the peace talks, but it was turned away because the state’s representatives were not authorised to talk with it. Although the government has not ruled out parallel discussions, it worries that the narrow five-point agenda it has agreed to address with the FARC—aimed mostly at ending the country’s armed conflict—could be diluted by the ELN’s long-standing demand for a broad national convention about all the country’s woes. Moreover, many officials hope they can simply fold the ELN, which has just 2,500 fighters, into any deal with the FARC, which boasts around 9,000.

The government is taking a risk by continuing to sideline the ELN. Felipe Torres, a former member of its national directorate, recently told El Colombiano that the group is far stronger politically than militarily. He said that just one-fifth of its supporters have taken up arms. If true, that should make it easier for the ELN to follow the FARC’s lead by ceasing its campaign of violence and freeing its hostages—steps that the government will surely demand before opening any separate peace process with Colombia’s “other” guerrillas.

The State – Navy has become Mexico’s most important crime-fighting force

By Tim Johnson – McClatchy Newspapers

MEXICO CITY — When a naval unit recently gunned down the leader of the feared Los Zetas crime group, the clash took place in the dusty town of Progreso, 70 miles from the Texas border and hundreds of miles from any ocean, indeed, far from any area where one would expect a modern navy to operate.

But these days, Mexico’s navy is active deep inside the country’s interior, eclipsing the army as the go-to security force in the country’s war on organized crime. It is a transformation that not only highlights Mexico’s peculiar defense organization – which provides the navy its own ministry – but also highlights how the United States has worked to find dependable allies in its campaign to stop drug trafficking.

The navy’s rise is not without political risk, however. As the navy outshines the 200,000-member army, politicians supportive of the army could well move against it, even though several senior retired generals were arrested earlier this year for alleged links to organized crime.

“There is an inter-service rivalry, and I think it’s accentuated by the success of these navy elite units,” said Roderic Camp, a Mexico scholar at Claremont McKenna College in California and author of a book on the Mexican military. “There’s no question that it’s creating tension between the army and the navy.”

For decades, the navy was relegated to protecting Mexico’s offshore oil platforms and patrolling its two ocean coastlines. Its unit of marines was a token amphibious force, and in a strange overlap, it vied with five army amphibious groups.

Then, in 2007, as Mexico’s drug war raged, Mexico’s congress enacted legislation that, in the words of Mexican security analyst Inigo Guevara Moyano, allowed the navy “to operate throughout the country, even in landlocked areas.”

“Some landlocked states, such as Aguascalientes and Zacatecas, have asked specifically for the presence of the marines during times of crisis,” Guevara said.

Actions in recent weeks underscore how the navy has taken the lead in Mexico’s war on crime, beginning with the arrest Sept. 12 in Tamaulipas state of Eduardo “El Coss” Costilla, one of the top leaders of the Gulf Cartel. Two weeks later, naval units captured Ivan Velazquez Caballero, a commander of the Los Zetas crime organization so brutal that he was known as “El Taliban.”

Then on Oct. 4, marines captured Salvador Alfonso Martinez, a Zetas commander known as “The Squirrel.” Three days later, on Oct. 7, a naval unit struck the heaviest blow against drug traffickers since President Felipe Calderon took office in late 2006, killing Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, the founder and head of Los Zetas, apparently as he watched a baseball game at Progreso.

Curiously, despite its successes, the navy shies from foreign media. Its spokesman has declined since 2010 to speak to a McClatchy reporter, saying through an aide that he is too busy to answer questions.

“The navy is very sensitive to the fact that they are small and not as politically powerful as the army,” said Laurence L. McCabe, a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I.

The navy’s close ties with U.S. agencies came to light Aug. 24, when Mexican federal police fired on a U.S. Embassy vehicle on a remote mountain highway. Two CIA agents and a Mexican navy captain were inside the armored vehicle, bound for a mountainside navy base.

What the three men were doing when they were ambushed has remained secret. The embassy later described the incident as an “ambush,” and authorities detained 14 federal police for suspected links to organized crime.

 

Somewhat uniquely, Mexico’s armed forces are divided into two separate Cabinet-level entities, with a naval secretariat overseeing the navy and a national defense secretariat in charge of the army and air force. The two secretariats rarely coordinate except on orders from the presidential office. They sometimes saw each other as foes.

“There were instances of shootouts,” said Richard Downie, director of the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies at the National Defense University in Washington.

 

The navy has one advantage in keeping its force free of organized crime: Unlike the army, naval infantry units have no fixed inland bases. That mean navy officers are not exposed as much as commanders of army bases to the plata o plomo (money or death) demands of crime bosses.

“They go in and out on specific missions. They are not subject to the corruption that comes when you are somewhere for quite some time,” Downie said.

 

Naval infantry units now number about 15,400 out of total navy force of 56,000, Guevara said. Of those, special forces units make up a brigade, perhaps up to 1,800 men.

“Given these numbers, the budget they have, the personnel they can deploy, they’ve been doing quite well,” said Guillermo Vazquez del Mercado, an independent security analyst who once worked for Mexico’s National Security Council.

 

Attitudes within the navy and army differ dramatically. Naval officers routinely seek graduate degrees and interact with civilians, while army officers remain deeply hierarchical and insular, experts say.

Camp, the Claremont McKenna professor who has lectured at both the navy and army academies, said naval officers pepper him with questions while army officers stay silent. Camp said naval officers are four times more likely to study abroad than army officers.

Mexico’s navy sent a permanent rotating liaison to the U.S. Northern Command, the Colorado-based unified military command that overseas activities from Alaska to Mexico, in 2006, years before the Mexican army followed suit. The navy also has liaisons in Key West, Fla., and Norfolk, Va.

Neither Mexico nor the United States has explained what kind of assistance the CIA may be providing to the navy, or indeed the level of intelligence that is offered.

“It’s no secret that we operate (unmanned aerial vehicles) on the border. We do electronic intercepts. That’s in the public domain. What is secret is what we obtain and who we share it with,” said McCabe, of the U.S. Naval War College.

“There’s a lot of folks that just don’t trust the army with intelligence,” he added.

 

Painted as “risk averse” in leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, Mexico’s army has battled corruption allegations for years. In May, prosecutors rounded up three retired army generals and a lieutenant colonel, later charging them with protecting the Beltran Leyva drug cartel.

One of the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks last year excoriated the army for not acting on U.S. intelligence on the whereabouts of Arturo Beltran Leyva, who was holed up in a mansion in Cuernavaca close to an army base. A naval unit later went in and killed the drug lord.

Mexican experts said the naval intelligence unit is honing its own skills in analyzing and gathering information.

“It’s on its way to (being) recognized as the most successful intelligence agency in Mexico, although I would not discard the Federal Police intelligence capabilities,” Guevara said.

Click here for original article.

 

 

The Washington Post – Once a partner of Colombian guerrillas, Venezuela now helps in peace talks

By , Published: October 14

BOGOTA, Colombia — When peace negotiations between Colombia’s government and Marxist rebels begin this week, a country once accused of helping the guerrillas in their war against the government will be on hand: Venezuela, whose president, Hugo Chavez, has had an affinity with the insurgents.

For many Colombians, the populist firebrand is a destabilizing force who wanted to see the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, take power late in the last decade from right-wing President Alvaro Uribe. Chavez once told the Venezuelan congress that Colombia’s guerrillas were fighting for a legitimate cause, and his government was accused of trying to isolate Uribe, a key U.S. ally in the war on drugs during an eight-year term that ended in 2010.

But Uribe’s center-right successor, Juan Manuel Santos, repaired tattered relations with Venezuela and then opted to take advantage of the admiration the FARC has for Chavez. Santos named Venezuela as one of four countries to participate in negotiations that begin Monday with the rebel group in Norway before moving to Cuba, where the bulk of the talks will take place.

And it has become clear in recent weeks that Chavez and his aides — particularly Nicolas Maduro, who was foreign minister until being named vice president this past week — have helped ensure that FARC commanders feel secure about meeting with Santos’s negotiators.

“Chavez has been extremely active on the peace process, not only logistically,” said Aldo Civico, a Rutgers University conflict resolution expert who has spoken to Colombian negotiators about the talks. “My understanding is that he has been able to talk to the members of the FARC negotiation team and encourage them to stay within the dynamic of the peace talks, to engage constructively.”

Norway, a country with a long history of brokering deals in conflicted countries, and Cuba, the host of the talks in the months ahead, will serve in the role of guarantors, with representatives from those countries sitting in on negotiations.

Venezuela and Chile, whose government is considered a close ally of Colombia’s government, are known as “acompañantes” — literally, company. They are to help with logistics, provide diplomatic support and “do whatever the parties ask them to do,” said a Colombian official familiar with the talks, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.

Those who closely track the policies in the region said that Venezuela’s role is especially important because of the relationship Chavez and his closest associates have forged with FARC commanders during the Venezuelan leader’s 14 years in power.

“Without Venezuela, it would be very difficult to have a successful negotiation,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue policy group in Washington. “They give some guarantees of legitimacy and credibility to the process and ensure that the talks stay on track.”

Santos, as defense minister for Uribe, oversaw some of the army’s biggest blows against the FARC, including strikes that killed some top commanders.

At the same time, Colombian military and police intelligence reported that the long, porous border Colombia shares with Venezuela had become a sanctuary for FARC units — a claim that was supported by people who live in border towns, rebel deserters and documents seized by Colombia’s army in abandoned rebel camps.

The United States also asserted that Venezuela had close ties to the FARC, and in 2008 it accused three top aides to Chavez of helping the rebels traffic in cocaine and battle Uribe’s government.

But upon his inauguration as president in August 2010, Santos moved fast to reopen a dialogue with Venezuela. “His main objective was to pursue a peace process, and he knew it would be hard to achieve without Chavez’s cooperation,” Shifter said.

The Venezuelan government, which had strenuously denied the accusations against it, responded positively to Santos’s diplomatic initiatives, noted Adam Isacson, a senior analyst on Colombia for the policy group Washington Office on Latin America.

“You have a president who wants to be seen as a peacemaker and wants to unite the region and cares about that,” Isacson said of Chavez. “Whatever advantage he saw in having a relationship with the FARC is probably now gone.”

Guerrilla negotiators have recently spoken publicly of Venezuela’s role in facilitating the talks and helping with the logistics that permitted them to get to Cuba for the preliminary negotiations that took place earlier this year with Colombian government representatives.

Chavez, too, has spoken about his government’s role in the talks, saying that his hope is for the guerrillas to reintegrate into society and continue their struggle through politics. He has also named a representative who will be in Cuba, Roy Chaderton, an experienced diplomat who has served in Washington as ambassador to the Organization of American States.

“With the guarantees Colombia’s government offers, with a good debate, with good talks, with a good accord, I think that the FARC could move into a political process,” Chavez said at a news conference last month in Caracas, Venezuela’s capital.

“They asked us for help,” he said of the FARC, “and I told the president, ‘Whatever needs to be done for Colombia’s peace, I’m willing to do it.’”

Click here for original article.

NYT – U.S. Rethinks a Drug War After Deaths in Honduras

 

By  and 
Published: October 12, 2012

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — The Honduran Air Force pilot did not know what to do. It was the dead of night, and he was chasing a small, suspected drug plane at a dangerously low altitude, just a few hundred feet above the Caribbean. He fired warning shots, but instead of landing, the plane flew lower and closer to the sea.

So the pilot made a decision, thinking it was the best thing to do,” said Arturo Corrales, Honduras’s foreign minister, one of several officials to give the first detailed account of the episode. “He shot down the plane.”

Four days later, on July 31, it happened again. Another flight departed from a small town on the Venezuelan coast, and using American radar intelligence, a Honduran fighter pilot shot it down over the water.

How many people were killed? Were drugs aboard, or innocent civilians? Officials here and in Washington say they do not know. The planes were never found. But the two episodes — clear violations of international law and established protocols — have ignited outrage in the United States, bringing one of its most ambitious international offensives against drug traffickers to a sudden halt just months after it started.

All joint operations in Honduras are now suspended. Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, expressing the concerns of several Democrats in Congress, is holding up tens of millions of dollars in security assistance, not just because of the planes, but also over suspected human rights abuses by the Honduran police and three shootings in which commandos with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration effectively led raids when they were only supposed to act as advisers.

The downed aircraft, in particular, reminded veteran officials of an American missionary plane that was shot down in 2001 by Peruvian authorities using American intelligence. It was only a matter of time, they said, before another plane with the supposedly guilty turned out to be filled with the innocent.

But the clash between the Obama administration and lawmakers had been building for months. Fearful that Central America was becoming overrun by organized crime, perhaps worse than in the worst parts of Mexico, the State Department, the D.E.A. and the Pentagon rushed ahead this year with a muscular antidrug program with several Latin American nations, hoping to protect Honduras and use it as a chokepoint to cut off the flow of drugs heading north.

Then the series of fatal enforcement actions — some by the Honduran military, others involving shootings by American agents — quickly turned the antidrug cooperation, often promoted as a model of international teamwork, into a case study of what can go wrong when the tactics of war are used to fight a crime problem that goes well beyond drugs.

“You can’t cure the whole body by just treating the arm,” said Edmundo Orellana, Honduras’s former defense minister and attorney general. “You have to heal the whole thing.”

A sweeping new plan for Honduras, focused more on judicial reform and institution-building, is now being jointly developed by Honduras and the United States. But State Department officials must first reassure Congress that the deaths have been investigated and that new safeguards, like limits on the role of American forces, will be put in place.

“We are trying to see what to do differently or better,” said Lisa J. Kubiske, the American ambassador in Honduras.

The challenge is dizzying, and the new plan, according to a recent draft shown to The New York Times, is more aspirational than anything aimed at combating drugs and impunity in Mexico, or Colombia before that. It includes not just boats and helicopters, but also broad restructuring: several new investigative entities, an expanded vetting program for the police, more power for prosecutors, and a network of safe houses for witnesses.

Officials from both countries have often failed to fully grasp the weakness of the Honduran institutions deployed to turn the country around. But the need to act is obvious. The country’s homicide rate is among the highest in the world, and corruption has chewed through government from top to bottom.

“We know that unless we really help these governments and address the complexities of these challenges they face, their people and societies would be further endangered,” said Maria Otero, under secretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights.

“Honduras,” she added, “is the most vulnerable and threatened of them all.”

A Country’s Cry for Help

The foreign minister, Mr. Corrales, a hulk of a man with a loud laugh and a degree in engineering, said he visited Washington in early 2011 with a request for help in four areas: investigation, impunity, organized crime and corruption. President Porfirio Lobo, in meetings with the Americans, put it more bluntly: “We’re drowning.”

In 2010, a year after a military coup eventually brought the conservative Lobo government to power, drug flights to Honduras spiked to 82, from six in 2006. Half the country, which is only a little bigger than Tennessee, was out of government control. Then last October, the mingling of corruption and impunity hit the front pages here with the murder of Rafael Alejandro Vargas, the 22-year-old son of Julieta Castellanos, the rector of Honduras’s largest university.

Mr. Vargas’s death stood out not just because he was the son of a prominent academic; he was killed by police officers, who appeared to have kidnapped him as he left a birthday party, and then killed him when they realized who he was. Many of the officers were not arrested.

“It was a wake-up call for all of Honduras of just how corrupt and infiltrated the police were,” Ms. Otero said.

Another State Department official said the killing — along with the soaring homicide rate and the increased trafficking — sounded alarms in Washington: “It raised for us the specter of Honduras becoming another northern Mexico.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton demanded a strong response, and William R. Brownfield, the assistant secretary for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, became the point man for what was created: a broad security program centered on rapid-response law enforcement activities organized by the D.E.A. and the Pentagon.

Known as Anvil, it was meant to work alongside efforts like outreach to youth and training for some police officers, prosecutors and judges. But the interdiction of cocaine was the immediate focus. Mr. Brownfield and other officials wanted to test whether they could keep drug planes from landing on Honduras’s isolated Caribbean coast.

The plan was for American and Colombian radar intelligence to guide D.E.A. agents working with the Honduran police. They would intercept drug planes once they landed, using State Department helicopters flown by Guatemalan pilots. “It was the most multinational law enforcement operation we have ever conducted,” Mr. Brownfield said.

They started in the spring, and several officials, including Ambassador Kubiske, said the program had succeeded in many ways. From April 24 to July 3, 4.7 tons of cocaine were seized, and the number of drug flights coming into Honduras fell significantly.

But the operation had evident procedural flaws. It was started without some simple measures that could have prevented deaths or allowed for swift investigations and a full public accounting when things went wrong.

According to a senior American official who was not authorized to speak on the record, there were no detailed rules governing American participation in law enforcement operations. Honduran officials also described cases in which the rules of engagement for the D.E.A. and the police were vague and ad hoc.

“In these kinds of situations, who can really say how the decision to shoot is made?” said Héctor Iván Mejía, a spokesman for the Honduran National Police.

And for a law enforcement program, investigations seemed to be an afterthought. On several occasions, crime scenes were left unsecured for more than 12 hours, until an investigator could be flown to them. After episodes in which suspects were injured or killed, it often took days — and significant public pressure — to begin inquiries about whether deadly force was justified, too late to create a full and credible account.

The Honduran authorities were not much help. After one previously undisclosed interdiction raid in July, soldiers refused to board an American military helicopter that had come to collect reinforcements.

More broadly, it was often unclear who was in charge. Sometimes neither Honduran nor American authorities seemed to know who was ultimately responsible for the policy.

The D.E.A.’s role was especially contentious. Its commandos were part of a tactical assault program known as FAST, for Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Team, which has been credited with victories against drug traffickers from Peru to Afghanistan. But a May 11 shooting in a town called Ahuas, in which gunfire killed four people whom neighbors said were innocent, led to concerns in Congress that the D.E.A.’s commandos were operating with impunity.

The agents were supposed to act as trainers. “During our operations in Honduras, Honduran law enforcement is always in the lead, and we play a support and mentorship role,” said Dawn Dearden, a spokeswoman for the D.E.A.

But American officials overseeing Anvil now acknowledge that turned out not to be the case. Members of the Honduran police teams told government investigators that they took their orders from the D.E.A. Americans officials said that the FAST teams, deploying tactics honed in Afghanistan, did not feel confident in the Hondurans’ abilities to take the lead.

Three of the five joint interdiction operations during Anvil included deadly shootings. In Ahuas, officials said the gunfire came from the Honduran police. In late June, D.E.A. agents shot and killed the pilot of a plane bearing drugs, and another pilot who landed farther inland on July 3. Anvil ended soon afterward, several days ahead of schedule.

“This operation was bungled in its conception, in its implementation and in its aftermath,” said Mr. Leahy, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s panel on the State Department and foreign operations.

Representative Howard L. Berman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote to Mrs. Clinton, “Unfortunately, this is not the first time the United States has come perilously close to an overmilitarized strategy toward a country too small and institutionally weak for its citizens to challenge the policy.”

Mr. Brownfield, the assistant secretary, said it was impossible to “offer a zero risk program for interdicting drugs in Central America.” He noted that the shootings during interdiction raids happened in the middle of the night, in remote locations that were hard for investigators to reach. Despite these challenges, he said that investigations were conducted and that he was “basically satisfied” that he knew what had happened.

But an aide to Mr. Leahy said members of Congress were not reassured. “One of several reasons funds currently are being withheld is that we have yet to see the results of any investigation, and there is little confidence that the next time would be any better,” the aide said.

Military Justice Gone Awry

When the Honduran Air Force pilot took off from his base at La Ceiba on July 26, tracking a plane without a flight plan, the State Department helicopters used for interdiction had already returned to Guatemala. The D.E.A. agents were gone. Anvil had ended, but the broader mission of joint enforcement and the sharing of American intelligence had not.

From the moment the Honduran pilot departed in his aging Tucano turboprop, just before midnight, he was in radio contact with Colombian authorities, who regularly receive radar intelligence from the American military’s Southern Command.

Intelligence-sharing is a major component of the American approach to fighting drugs regionally, and military commanders said they were not especially worried about any mistakes as they watched the suspicious flight on their radar screens. Nearly a decade earlier, Honduran military commanders signed an agreement with the United States to abide by laws that prohibit firing on civilian aircraft. After all, small single-engine planes are used by local airlines, courier services and missionaries all over Honduras’s remote northeastern coast.

Yet Honduran and American officials said the Honduran pilots did not seem to be aware of the rules.

Mr. Corrales, the foreign minister, and some American officials have concluded that the downed planes amounted to misapplied military justice, urged on by societal anger and the broader weaknesses of Honduras’s institutions.

“It reflects a lot of frustration in the country, that they think this is a tool they need to use,” Ambassador Kubiske said. “If you had a law enforcement system and then a justice system that could reliably detain suspected narcos when they land — if they could seize the goods and put together a strong case.” She added, “If they had a strong functioning system, then this would look like a less attractive alternative.”

Creating a stronger system is at the core of what some officials are now calling Anvil II. A draft of the plan provided by Mr. Corrales shows a major shift toward shoring up judicial institutions with new entities focused on organized and financial crime.

Mr. Corrales said the plan was closer to what he had hoped for before Anvil, with a few protective fixes: each vetted investigative unit will include up to three embedded prosecutors, who will direct the activities of Honduran police officers and D.E.A. agents.

The D.E.A.’s role will also probably change. American officials say they are discussing how to keep it more limited, possibly by requiring FAST agents to stay on helicopters during raids, “more like a coach on the sidelines,” one American military official said.

Much of what is being proposed would be paid for with a national security tax Honduras recently established. The Americans have agreed to help Honduras determine how the money will be spent, and if Congress releases its hold on American contributions, joint security programs will accelerate quickly.

But many Hondurans worry that the pull of the familiar — of muscular, military-style interdiction — may be difficult to resist. In the handwritten notes on Mr. Corrales’s draft, he placed a No. 1 next to two items: intelligence-sharing, and a reference to training for 20 Honduran helicopter pilots.

Honduran officials have also resisted demands from Congress for a more thorough investigation of Juan Carlos Bonilla, the head of the Honduran police, who has been accused of running a death squad that killed at least three people from 1998 to 2002. (He was acquitted of a single murder charge in 2004, though critics say the case was hindered by corruption.)

Dr. Castellanos, the university rector, said the challenge for Honduras and the Americans would be staying focused on long-term problems like corruption. “It’s a tragedy; there is no confidence in the state,” she said, wearing black in her university office.

The old game of cocaine cat-and-mouse tends to look like a quicker fix, she said, with its obvious targets and clear victories measured in tons seized. Since Anvil ended, officials have seen a revival of suspicious planes heading to Honduras, with many landing inland, along rivers.

“This moment presents us with an opportunity for institutional reform,” Dr. Castellanos said. But that will depend on whether the new effort goes after more than just drugs and uproots the criminal networks that have already burrowed into Honduran society.

“There’s infiltration everywhere,” she said. “There is no guarantee it can be stopped.”

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Diálogo – Operation Martillo Deemed a ‘Complete Success’ in Guatemala, Honduras

By Adam Williams

GUATEMALA CITY — The first 90 days of the multinational anti-drug initiative known as Operation Martillo were a “complete success,” Guatemalan Government Minister Héctor Mauricio López Bonilla said in the nation’s capital on July 12.

From April 14 through July 12, the Guatemalan, Honduran and U.S. anti-narcotics mission confiscated more than 2,340 kilograms of drugs and incinerated an additional 3,000 kilos along the Caribbean coastlines of Guatemala and Honduras. That’s the word from Ulises Noe Anzueto Giron, Guatemala’s defense minister, speaking at a luncheon here highlighting the mission’s accomplishments.

“I am convinced that with each day of this mission, regional security is improving,” said José Miguel Cabrie, the Honduran ambassador to Guatemala. “Drug trafficking is gravely affecting our countries, but the people involved in this mission are taking the steps to improve regional peace, justice, and above all, to reduce the fear of crime in our nations.”

In recent years, the jungle and mountainous regions of Central America’s eastern coast have become primary transport locations for drugs traveling north from South America. About 79 percent of cocaine flights that take off from South American airstrips land in Honduras, according to a U.S. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs report published in March.

Challenge ahead is a ‘monumental task’

“The fight to restore security to this region is a monumental task,” said Anzueto. “We are very pleased with the results of this first step in the operation and consider it a first victory, though we know the threat of drug-traffic is great. The fight is only just beginning.”

In January, Southcom paired with more than 15 countries, including all seven Central American nations, to target the illicit trafficking of drugs throughout the isthmus. The effort is being assisted by Colombia, Mexico, Canada and several European nations.

In the first four months of the initiative, Operacion Martillo (Operation Hammer in English) has resulted in the confiscation of more than 32 metric tons of cocaine, and has slashed air trafficking of drugs by 60 to 70 percent, said Rear Admiral Chuck Michel, Director of the U.S. Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-S).

“The results of Operation Martillo are immediately evident,” said López Bonilla. “Within weeks it was clear that drug traffic was diverting away from patrolled areas. We were able to close drug entry points and will continue to do so in other parts of the country and region.”

Operation Martillo includes all 7 nations of Central America

The pilots that took part in Operation Martillo’s first 90-day installment were relaxed on the afternoon of July 12. Dressed in fatigues, they laughed among themselves and enjoyed a traditional Guatemalan lunch of chicken, rice, beans and plantains as officers praised them.

“While we celebrate here today that we lost no personnel or aircraft during the mission, we know that we must continue our pursuit to improve the lives of the citizens of this region,” López Bonilla said. “Central America is a drug corridor and routes are always changing.”

All seven Central American nations were included on the U.S. State Department’s 2012 Major Illicit Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing list. The report estimated that 90 percent of the 700 metric tons of cocaine shipped annually from Colombia and other producing nations pass through Central America.

While the Caribbean coasts of Honduras and Guatemala remain primary drug transit locations, Anzuelo said that Operation Martillo’s next initiative will likely incorporate amplified surveillance and patrol over Pacific waters. With most drug shipments destined for Mexico, Anzuelo said deployment of forces to the Pacific are necessary to limit northbound passageways.

“Drug trafficking networks are mobile, powerful, transnational organizations,” he said. “If it is known that the Caribbean coastline is being heavily monitored, the operation could shift to the Pacific.”

Sinaloa cartel links revealed

Operation Martillo uncovered links between Mexico’s Sinoloa cartel and drug routes in the Gulf of Honduras, he said. Given the breadth of that cartel’s regional operations, it is thought that the organization has already infiltrated Guatemala’s Pacific waters and are employing fishermen to transport drugs from sea to land.

“Unfortunately we are seeing more and more evidence that local fishermen are being incorporated in the international drug trade,” Lopez Bonilla said. “Legal, licensed fishermen are being employed by drug organizations to pick up shipments that planes drop in the water.”

Guatemalan fishermen often collect the floating drugs at specified drop points during the night and transfer the packages inland, he added, noting that “we have several reports of this activity in Pacific waters and a likely next step in our operations will be to uncover the roots of these transport networks.”

Operation Martillo “has no firm end-date,” according to RADM Michel. Members of the Guatemalan and Honduran armed forces echo that idea.

While the mission’s first stage merited large drug seizures, arrests and a reduction in clandestine flights through remote regions, they assert that the multinational collaborative effort must continue in order to improve security in Central America’s northern triangle, where murder rates are among the world’s highest.

“It’s only been three months,” Anzuelo said. “We are definitely pleased and encouraged by the results, though this is a small piece of a bigger operation. Martillo will require collaboration of all the countries of the isthmus and we must assure that we are organized, trained and prepared to continue to reduce drug operations in Central America.”

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GT – Brazil pledges to help Haiti build new army

Brazil will help Haiti form a defense force that can eventually take over from the UN peacekeeping mission.

Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim announced the decision during a meeting Thursday with his Haitian counterpart Jean Rodolphe Joazile. He said the Brazilian government would send a military mission to determine how Brazil could help the Caribbean country.

“Haiti’s government requested we cooperate in this manner. We are now trying to work on the ways the help can be given,” Amorim said.

Amorim said Brazil only agreed to help on condition the armed forces would not become a personal militia. He said he was assured by Joazile the new army would be a public force.

“This is not about restituting the old army, against which these accusations were made, or building a model that works as a personal militia,” he said.

Amorim said Haitian officers might study engineering in Brazil, which would help the new Haitian military build professional and institutional capacity. Military engineering could help with civil defense – an important capacity for a country prone to natural disasters such as flooding and earthquakes, he said.

Amorim said, as the new collaboration with Haiti progressed, Brazil’s participation in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) would be reduced.

The Brazilian contingent in MINUSTAH was more than doubled after the massive earthquake which devastated the capital of Port-au-Prince and surrounding regions in January 2010 and the country now has 2,000 soldiers in Haiti.

“I do not know how long this will take, but the process of reducing the contingent in MINUSTAH has already started and will continue. It is not good for Haiti, the UN, or Brazil that the forces stay there in a permanent way,” he said.

But with the reduction of the military contingent, a local force must be formed to take over some of the peacekeeping forces’ tasks, he said. In addition to security work, Haiti would also need to guard its borders and sea, as well as be able to deal with natural disasters, Amorim said.

Brazil has been in command of the military component of MINUSTAH as well as the largest military contingent in the mission since it began in 2004. The mission was supposed to end in late 2010, but was extended by the UN amid concerns about stability in Haiti. Its current mandate extends until October 2012, which is likely to be renewed.

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