Palmerola and the ‘preventive war’ in Honduras

The doubtful behavior showed by the United States government before the political crisis in Honduras seems to be explained by the double profile of its politics. On the one hand, it boosted the military coup that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya and on the other, it has had to align with the world contempt to that event, so as to not remain politically isolated on the international scenario.

By overthrowing Zelaya, Washington tried to assure its interests in the region and to guarantee its capacity of pressure and guidance over the neighboring governments, before a disobedient president, coming from the lines of liberalism but inclined towards the airs of sovereignty that go through Latin America, might drive Honduras definitely away of its flock.

Thus, and in the midst of a political expression of what is known as “preventive war”, on Sunday June 28 was perpetrated the military coup that would overthrow Zelaya.

A very significant part of those interests that had to be assured by all means and which, by now, are being protected, is the military base that the United States maintains in the Palmerola area, in Honduras.


With this name is denominated a small town from the Spanish province Catalonia, close to the border with France.

This name seems to exist nowhere in Ibero America but in Honduras, where it identifies an area close to the old capital of that country: Comayagua.

In that area works the base ‘Colonel Jose Enrique Soto Cano’, which is the seat of the Honduran air force and the military aviation school.

That base is located in an area of 3 kilometers in length and 10 in width, in a plateau of 628 meter over the sea level. Since the eighties, in the last century, there works a military enclave from the United States, which is called Joint Task Force Bravo.

This squad is made by about 500 officers attached to six different commands: Joint staff; Air squad 612; Armed forces; Joint security forces; a medical component; and a battalion of the 228 aviation regiment.

Besides, a component of the United States Southern Command gives aerial support for the tasks and missions of the Joint Task Force Bravo.

In that base work at least 18 UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters, among other airplanes for combat and recognition.

The landing strip of this military base, one of the highest in Central America, allows the landing of big airplanes.

There landed airplanes from all around world, in order to receive the humanitarian help offered to that country after the hurricane Mitch lashed it on October 1998, resulting in 10 thousand dead people and thousands of disappeared.

Legality of the base

The Honduran Constitution, in force since 1982, prohibits the permanent presence of foreign military contingents inside the territory of the country.

Article 19 of that Constitution stipulates: “No authority can endorse or ratify treaties or grant concessions that may damage the territorial integrity, the sovereignty and independence of the Republic. That who acts this way will be judged by the crime of treason to the Homeland. The responsibility in this case is imprescriptible.”

And Article 107 affirms the ownership of the land for Hondurans: “The lands of the State, common lands or private properties placed in the area bordering the neighboring states, or in the coast of both seas, in an extension of forty kilometers to inside the country, and the islands, cays, reefs, rocky outcrops and sand banks, can only be acquired or owned or have under any title by natural-born Hondurans.”

And it adds “by societies completely integrated by Honduran partners and by the institutions of the State under penalty of annulling the corresponding contract or act.”

The purchase of urban goods -it reads- embraced in the limits expressed on the previous paragraph will be ruled by a special legislation.

Further on, it reads that “It is prohibited to the recorders of deeds the registration of documents that may be contrary to these dispositions.”

Annexed agreement

Long before, in 1954, the governments of Honduras and the United States endorsed an agreement through which the nation of the North would give military support to the Central American nation, under determined conditions.

Following this agreement, and through an attachment of the same, the military commands of both countries agreed at the beginning of the eighties to establish a North American military contingent in the base Colonel Jose Enrique Soto Cano.

This agreement might be easily invalidated by President Zelaya, a possibility that, as we said before, must have been one of the reasons to induce the Washington Administration to overthrow Zelaya.

In order to evade the Constitution, the spaces to lodge and work for the US military troop in Palmerola are provisional facilities: tents, huts and hovels.

But it is instead a permanent personnel, lodged in permanently provisional facilities.

Antecedents of operations

In compliance with its mission on the region, the Palmerola base was used by the United States army, commanded by Colonel Oliver North, in the eighties, so as to harass the victorious Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua.

Weapons and money coming from drug dealings came in and out of that base in order to finance the army of anti-Sandinista mercenaries.

Remember the ‘Iran-Contras’ scandal, which revealed the wicked drug dealing mechanisms used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the US army in order to gain money and weapons to be used against the Sandinista revolution, evading this way the dispositions stipulated on the Constitution of that country and by the Congress.

The war against the rising Revolution in Nicaragua resulted in tens of thousands of dead people and incalculable economic losses, from which the country has not still recovered.

A different destiny

On May 31 2008, President Zelaya announced that the airport on the Palmerola base would start receiving commercial flights in a term of 60 days.

An accident occurred in Toncontin, the international airport that works in Tegucigalpa city, attributed to the small size of that landing strip, and which resulted in five dead people, was the cause of the presidential announcement.

There are also plans to reconstruct the infrastructure of the airport, following orders of Zelaya with the financial support of the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of our America ( ALBA).

The truth is that the eventual commercial operation in Palmerola would mean a clear restriction to the military operations carried out there, a matter that might be an opening to a new era for the economic, political and social life in that country.

For the moment, this possibility remains kidnapped by the putschist soldiers and the Honduran oligarchy.


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