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  • US Southern Command head Craig Faller (L), US Businesses charge Heide Fulton (C), President Juan Orlando Hernandez (R) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, June 21, 2019.

    US Southern Command head Craig Faller (L), US Businesses charge Heide Fulton (C), President Juan Orlando Hernandez (R) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, June 21, 2019. | Photo: EFE

Published 22 June 2019

U.S. Southcom leader Craig Faller arrives at a U.S. military base in Honduras with a special task force amidst protests that demand the resignation of President Hernandez.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH) welcomed the United States Southern Command (Southcom) leader Craig Faller Friday who was accompanied by a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force. The group convened in Palmerola, a  U.S. military base located in Honduras about 75 km north of the nation's capital of Tegucigalpa.

RELATED:

Honduras: Night Protests Leave 2 Dead, 21 Injured in Tegucigalpa

"It is good to know that we will have the support of this group of marines, especially when we have to face a series of disaster-related problems due to climate change," Hernandez said regarding the arrival of 300 troops.

According to information from the Honduran presidency, the U.S. Marines will develop a multinational maritime task force with the stated intention to improve the Central American response to natural disasters in the region. 

Guatemala and Honduras in particular have both suffered a mix of severe droughts and and heavy flooding over the past year, likely due to climate change, that have resulted in deaths and impacted these nations' agriculture sector and the small farmers who produce the majority of their food. These respective governments have largely failed to mitigate the results of the extreme weather, or offer meaningful solutions to small farmers.

The admiral that they will execute several humanitarian assistance projects in Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in the next six months. Among the projects are building elementary schools and training the next generation of senior officers in those countries. 

The arrival of Southcom admiral and his troops comes amid a deep political crisis in Honduras that escalated in April when teachers and doctors initiated protests against a law they said would privatize and further weaken the nation's education and healthcare services. Though JOH later repealed the law, protests have continued calling for his ouster.

Many across the nation have been calling for the president's removal since before he was declared winner of the 2017 elections pointing to several corruption investigations against the leader dating back to when he led the legislator, and that he and his government allies rigged the ballots to place the incumbent back in the presidential palace nearly two years ago.  

This past week even members of the militarized National Police force joined protesters, saying they would no longer repress the demonstrators, three of whom have been killed and over 30 injured, according to teleSUR correspondents in Honduras. The police are also demanding better working conditions. The administration responded with putting the Military Police on the streets.

JOH said that the Marines' presence is important because Honduras and the U.S., which are 3,000 km away from each other, are "neighboring" countries that must "help each other".

The president claimd that "radical groups ... undermine shared values ​​and issue such as democracy, the rule of law and human rights, which are fundamental to build the new country to which we aspire," ending by saying, "these are not simple or easy times, they are complex."​​​​​​​

Admiral Faller said that with Honduras "we have so many years of working together" and "a relationship of great respect; above all, we have a very strong military relationship."​​​​​​​

U.S. Department of Defense aid for Honduras has dropped under the Trump administration to a reported US$20 million for 2019, down from the US$181 million in 2017. The Republican leader has threatened to cut humanitarian aid as well to the Northern Triangle region of Central America as a fix to stave the flow of the refugees from this region trying to reach the U.S. 

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