U.S. Army General Laura J. Richardson, commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), met with Honduran President Xiomara Castro February 23 to discuss continued security cooperation and issues of mutual concern.
The meeting with President Castro highlighted Gen. Richardson’s February 23-24 visit to Honduras, her first to the country since assuming command of SOUTHCOM October 29, 2021. The trip followed recent U.S. high-level visits to Honduras, including Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit for President Castro’s inauguration January 27.
Gen. Richardson also met with Minister of Defense José Manuel Zelaya, Rear Admiral José Jorge Fortín, chairman of the Chiefs of Staff of the Honduran Armed Forces, and senior Honduran military leaders February 23. The leaders discussed strengthening cooperation to support mutual security goals, address cross-cutting threats, and contribute to stability in Honduras and the region.
Earlier on the 23rd, Gen. Richardson joined U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Colleen A. Hoey to take part in a ceremony as the United States donated 18 freezers to the Honduran Ministry of Health to increase Honduras’ cold storage capacity for COVID-19 vaccines. The donation was made possible through the Office of Security Cooperation under SOUTHCOM’s Humanitarian Assistance Program (HAP). In the past few years, SOUTHCOM has funded 228 humanitarian assistance projects, donating $15 million in infrastructure, equipment, and supplies to Honduras.
On February 24, Gen. Richardson and SOUTHCOM Senior Enlisted Advisor, U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major Benjamin Jones, held a roundtable discussion with Honduran military personnel who have taken part in the renowned International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, and with career Honduran military women who proudly contribute to their nation’s defense.
Wrapping up her trip on the 24th, Richardson visited Joint Task Force-Bravo (JTF-Bravo). The task force, operating out of the Honduran Soto Cano Air Base, has for decades strengthened regional security cooperation and supported humanitarian and disaster relief efforts in Honduras and the region. Most recently, JTF-Bravo personnel helped the people of Haiti as part of earthquake relief efforts in 2021. In late 2020, the task force provided critical disaster relief support to Central America in the aftermath of Hurricane Eta.
The United States and Honduras share a close and longstanding defense partnership, united by shared democratic, diplomatic, economic, historic, cultural, and familial ties.
The Honduran Armed Forces are crucial partners in the fight against transnational criminal organizations and illicit trafficking. For decades, U.S. and Honduran military forces have worked and trained together during numerous training exercises and engagements. The country will host this year’s Fuerzas Comando exercise, an annual SOUTHCOM-sponsored military exercise consisting of a skills competition between military and police Special Operations teams from the Western Hemisphere.