WASHINGTON D.C. — The United States wants to deploy a force of about 250 Marines to Honduras to provide humanitarian help during the region’s hurricane season, officials said Friday.
Honduran officials are weighing the proposed task force, which would operate out of Palmerola air base from June to November. The contingent also would assist Central American forces on efforts to counter narcotics trafficking.
“We have requested that the Marines be present in Honduras from June through November 2015, during hurricane season, to support Honduras and other countries in the region in the event of a hurricane or other major disaster,” the U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa said in a statement.
Pentagon officials insisted the proposal would not involve the permanent deployment of U.S. troops, a sensitive political issue in a region where U.S. forces historically sided with authoritarian regimes.
“It’s only on a temporary basis,” said Captain Armando Daviu, public affairs officer for U.S. Marine Forces South. “It’s set up to be a quick response emergency force.”
The special purpose Marine air-ground task force would be equipped with four CH-53 cargo helicopters and possibly a C-130 aircraft, he told AFP.
“They will provide a unique and custom-made air and ground logistics support,” he added.
The task force would also contribute troops to “security cooperation” teams already stationed in the area, which train and advise local forces battling organized crime and narcotics smuggling.
Those small training teams — made up of about four to five Marines — are deployed in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Belize.
The Palmerola air base, currently home to about 500 American troops, was once a major staging area in the 1980s for US military support to Contra rebels fighting the Nicaraguan government.