Maritime Patrols between Honduras and Guatemala Continue Successfully
By Iris Amador/Diálogo August 31, 2017In accordance with established plans that are updated twice a year, the Honduran and Guatemalan armed forces are meeting the stipulated timelines for their joint maritime patrol program goals in the Caribbean and along the Motagua River sandbar that runs into the Gulf of Honduras. The border and its problems, regardless of their origin, must be a shared responsibility, both nations affirm. “For the last three years we have been doing binational patrols in this sector, whose maritime and land section is overseen by the Puerto Cortés Naval Base,” Honduran Navy Lieutenant Commander Jairo Enrique Laínez Ordoñez, the commander of the Puerto Cortés Naval Base on Honduras’s Atlantic coast, told Diálogo. The monthly patrols are the responsibility of the border units and incorporate strategies agreed by the two nations to counter threats that plague the region. “We’ve confirmed that the threats are the same. These are joint operations that sometimes include other branches of our armed forces for the purpose of neutralizing a single target,” Lt. Cmdr. Lainez added. “It’s an effective response.” Two flags united at sea Honduran and Guatemalan naval forces are seeking to combat organized crime in all its manifestations: drugs, arms, and human trafficking as well as any type of smuggling. Officials from both countries have found that by joining forces they multiply their effectiveness. “No nation can survive on its own. The exchange of information and experience bolsters our ability to tackle the scourges that harm us and that bring death, destruction, and a lack of security to our region,” Lt. Cmdr. Laínez said. “We’re meeting those objectives,” Brigadier General Pedro Antonio Reina Caro, the commander of the Guatemalan Navy’s Marine Brigade, added. “Sharing tactical intelligence to confront transnational crime has served to help us support our communities, and we can confirm that our presence at sea is a deterrent to criminal groups.” Brig. Gen. Reina Caro said that operating in a coordinated way is one factor that has forced drug traffickers to change their usual routes. “But whether it’s on the Atlantic or the Pacific, our guys are waiting for them,” he noted. “We’re making it harder for them to get through.” In a recent operation in early August, the Guatemalan Navy seized the equivalent of $135,000 in illegal merchandise originating from Honduras. “We communicated with each other. Honduras alerted us. All we had to do was wait for them to come. And they arrived around midnight. There was some crossfire near Santo Tomás de Castilla, adjacent to Puerto Barrios,” Brig. Gen. Reina Caro recounted. “Timely information allowed us to act.” “That kind of information exchange, regardless of which country carries out the seizure, is a success for all of us,” Lt. Cmdr. Laínez added. “No one wants to rest on his laurels. The important thing is to form a bloc to neutralize these threats. One nation’s success is a success for the entire region.” Coordination and agreement The commanders of these border naval units are committed to not only sharing intelligence but also to periodically reviewing their procedures, communications, and results. There has also been integration in some aspects of training. In the monthly patrols, large vessels suitable for the open sea, as well as smaller fast boats capable of entering sandbars, lakes, and lagoons, and better suited to chasing, are used. “Some people think deterrence isn’t enough but it does, in fact, maintain a climate of security for our neighbors in these areas, as well as for people who legally transit from one country to another,” Brig. Gen. Reina Caro affirmed. The Honduran and Guatemalan authorities also support each other in operations directed at environmental protection, such as the cleaning of beaches to keep large quantities of plastic from ending up in the water, and the prevention of illegal fishing. “We have an interest in protecting these natural resources,” Lt. Cmdr. Laínez said. “These patrols are done in compliance with the agreements of the Central American Armed Forces Conference in order to pool our potential and strengthen our bonds of brotherhood.” “They’re bonds of friendship that have existed for a long time,” Brig. Gen. Reina Caro added. “Historically, this is how we’ve worked. We have a shared history. We’ve supported each other. We present ourselves to the world as a single coordinated and harmonious force. We’ve accomplished a lot of things together and that’s how we’ll keep doing it moving forward,” he concluded.