Protecting Honduran territorial waters in the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean is the mission of Captain Paulo Antonio Rodríguez, commander of the Honduran Naval Force (FNH). To fulfill his mission, Capt. Rodriguez works with his staff in strengthening his naval fleet, training, education, and joint interdiction operations.
Capt. Rodríguez met with Diálogo to discuss his military mission.
Diálogo: The FNH, within the framework of the National Inter-Institutional Security Force (FUSINA), carries out maritime patrols to neutralize organized criminal groups. How are these operations conducted?
Capt. Rodriguez: We carry out these operations on a daily basis. We have the main surface units, such as the Coast Guard, and the smaller surface units, which are the rapid response units, available around the clock in order to always be ready for these vessels to provide maritime protection and to avoid or deter the entry of vessels that engage in illegal activities. This is how our force operates. We are always on alert, committed, and we carry out our tasks 100 percent.
Diálogo: How has the donation of a Metal Shark Defiant 85 maritime patrol boat benefited Honduras’ fight against narcotrafficking as part of the naval cooperation program that Honduras has with the United States?
Capt. Rodriguez: We thank our general commander, who through her administration and good relations with the U.S. government has benefited Honduras, our Armed Forces, and therefore our Naval Force. By having this high-tech vessel, we will be able to have more presence in the Caribbean Sea, where we currently have land, sea, and air shields. What this donated vessel does is to secure and strengthen the areas that our ships can cover; if before we covered, for example, one area, we can now cover two areas, so this will secure the entire maritime spectrum and prevent the entry of vessels of any kind that are engaging in illicit activities. We have also received support with state-of-the-art equipment that is being used in our operations. For example in the month of July, we seized 324 kilograms of alleged cocaine, which were put at the disposal of the competent authorities. And this is due to good communication and information on the part of the United States with other international agencies here in the country, and we are always at the forefront in order to comply with the norms.
Diálogo: Carlos Antonio Zavala Baide, a second year cadet at the Honduran Naval Academy, received a scholarship to study at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy for four years. How do these opportunities help strengthen the capabilities of the FNH?
Capt. Rodriguez: Throughout history, the United States has always provided this type of educational assistance. I joined the FNH in 1983 and met several officers, now retired, who graduated from U.S. academies, and over time the threats have changed. And now it’s about cybersecurity, which is a very important topic today; this officer is going to assimilate all this accumulated knowledge and come back and apply it here, while the other officers will be multipliers of this information. So this helps us to ensure operability and fulfill the mission.
Diálogo: Honduras belongs to the countries of the Northern Triangle. How are the naval forces in that area integrated to combat threats?
Capt. Rodríguez: As part of the Central American Armed Forces Conference (CFAC), we have what is the Northern Triangle: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, with combined patrols with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua in the Pacific Ocean. This gives us confidence in this area where we know that our military authorities in these different countries are connected to us. We are a single team, a single force, and therefore we will always be firm, present, and committed in the fight against narcotrafficking and other transnational threats. We also have a tremendous responsibility to our population in this period, precisely in these months of October and November, where in addition to the traditional threats, there are those that the hurricane season brings, which puts us on alert as countries in the area to strengthen or support a nation that may be affected by some type of hurricane.
To see the full interview with Captain Paulo Antonio Rodríguez, commander of the Honduran Naval Force (FNH), please click on the following link: https://dialogo-americas.com/articles/a-conversation-with-captain-pablo-antonio-rodriguez/#.YyMxu3ZByUk