Military Leaders from Honduras and the U.S. Conclude CENTSEC in Tegucigalpa

Military Leaders from Honduras and the U.S. Conclude CENTSEC in Tegucigalpa

By Dialogo
April 01, 2015




Upon the completion of the Central American Security Conference (CENTSEC 2015), sponsored by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and the Honduran Armed Forces, the top military representatives from both countries in the region participated in a packed press conference in Tegucigalpa, on March 27, 2015. Following the conclusion of CENTSEC, Major General Freddy Díaz Zelaya, the chief of the Honduran Armed Forces Joint Staff, and Marine Corps General John F. Kelly, SOUTHCOM commander, answered questions from the media outlets that were present. The press conference went as follows:

Can you give us a concrete example of the results and the strategy being used to combat transnational organized crime?


General Freddy Díaz Zelaya:
Precisely one of the topics discussed by [Honduran] President Hernandez during the Central American Security Conference was that we are succeeding in reducing crime; we’ve made significant progress in this area. He spoke about the Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle. This is an initiative that has gained strength and we will be at the United States Congress to talk about prevention, about investing in all the areas that had not previously received investments in order to keep young people away from gangs and illegal issues, so that Honduras can provide opportunities for all Hondurans, so they won’t have to seek opportunity in other countries, such as the United States.

General John F. Kelly:
A year ago, President Hernández invited me here and asked for my assistance any way we could. That’s why we’re working with the Honduran Military and with him. We established what the president refers to as a Maritime Shield, to try to reduce the flow of drugs reaching the Caribbean coast of Honduras. That has been very successful. We’ve seen a reduction in the flow of drugs into Honduras, and that’s a means of prevention.

I don’t see any hostility in this part of the world. In fact, one of the positive things in this part of the world is that there isn’t the slightest possibility of a conflict breaking out between two countries, and that’s a very positive thing. There are other issues that must be dealt with, but war is not one of them and that’s a good thing.

But, to summarize, what have been the main agreements that have been achieved and the strategies that you will be using to fight against organized crime and drug trafficking in Central America?


Gen. Díaz:
The Central American Security Conference is an annual event. Last year it was held in Guatemala, this year it was held here in Honduras, and it has been agreed that the next conference will be held in Costa Rica next year. This conference deals with current issues, such as how best to coordinate between countries in the region with regard to exchanging information, how technology can help us, how to detect the funds flowing from the drug trade to banks… It’s a way to exchange expertise, to delve into these issues so that each country can apply this expertise in the best possible way. The scope and all of the stated goals for this conference have been achieved with an excellent turnout, as we saw at the conference here in Honduras. We’ve seen an opportunity for better communication among all of the countries of Central America, which allows for better understanding regarding the exchange of information, of intelligence to be able to see transnational crime, including transnational crime that extends beyond our collective borders.

Gen. Kelly:
I would say that instead of entering into agreements, we’ve now decided to work more closely. At this conference, we did things a little differently. We didn’t just invite the military institutions of the countries in the region, but we also invited all of the senior officials from the police, because it isn’t just an internal problem for countries. It’s a problem for the police, it’s a problem for the military, and it’s a problem for the Navy off the coast. But that was the biggest change this year, inviting senior police officials to this conference.

General Kelly, you mentioned during the conference that Central America is among the top four priorities for the U.S. in terms of foreign relations. What do you see for Honduras in terms of security over the medium and long term?


Gen. Kelly:
[U.S.] President Barack Obama has said that this part of the world is one of his top four priorities and that’s very important. [U.S.] Vice President Joe Biden has gotten personally involved and met with Honduran President Hernandez, as well as the presidents of Guatemala and El Salvador on multiple occasions. I believe four or five times in less than a year, and he’s traveled here several times. Vice President Biden had a very good conference here last month, so this is a part of the world that has my country’s attention. As you all know, the solutions to these problems are not military solutions. That’s only one part of it. The solutions won’t come solely from the police. That’s another part, but the solution also has to do with economy and education. My government is now working closely with the government of Honduras on some economic initiatives. I believe that my country has allocated a billion dollars, but part of our partnership assumes that Honduras will also invest money.

President Hernández has led this initiative. He has been very aggressive in identifying private investors. We’re helping the presidents of Guatemala and El Salvador organize a private investor conference in Miami in a month or two. The plan is to invite investors from this region, but also attract as many U.S. investors as possible. The conference program will focus on the importance of investing in this region.

This wasn’t part of your question, but I want to say that businesspeople always ask me about the level of violence in this part of the world, and my best positive response to that question is to use Honduras as an example. A little over a year ago, Honduras was the most dangerous country in the world, but that’s no longer the case. The rates of violence and death have been significantly reduced, which is why my strongest argument to these investors is that all of the trends are heading in the right direction and that they should consider this area as a good market for investments. So we’re going to hold this conference in Miami in June and we hope that we’re able to convince them to invest in Honduras.

General Díaz, a few months ago the creation of the Maya-Chortí Binational Task Force between Honduras and Guatemala was announced. Moreover, there was recently a joint operation between Honduras and Nicaragua against organized criminal gangs in the department of Gracias a Dios. I would like to know if this is a trend, if other task forces or joint operations like these are going to be created by Honduras as a way to combat drug trafficking.


Gen. Díaz:
Last Monday, we went to El Florido in Copán to a very special ceremony to launch the Maya-Chortí Task Force. Both President Hernández as well as [Guatemalan] President Otto Pérez expressed their satisfaction at having reached such a significant agreement that allowed for the creation of this task force along the Honduran and Guatemalan sides of the border. This is just the beginning. Larger issues will be soon be dealt with, such as the creation of a single customs area in December. This will be part of the effort to create a climate of security along this border area. We hope that the steps being taken by Honduras and Guatemala will also be taken by other countries.

We have a very close relationship with Nicaragua. We carried out several operations last year to take care of that strip of land along the border that is sometimes neglected by the State. In that sense we have established ongoing communications. Of course, the Central American Armed Forces Conference (CEFAC) has helped us maintain this level of communication, and there is an ongoing coordinated patrol between the Armed Forces of Honduras and Nicaragua, the Armed Forces of Honduras and El Salvador and the Armed Forces of Honduras and Guatemala.

Those are some of the agreements that we already have under the CEFAC framework. Since then, the coordination is becoming stronger every day and every day there are larger joint operations between countries. We hope that everything that is being done to ensure the peace that our people so badly crave, in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, that we’ll be able to achieve it through the efforts of the military, always in support of the National Police. In that sense, as professional Soldiers, we’re clear in our roles and we know that Honduras has a police force that the State has entrusted with the role of protecting people and property. In this framework, the Armed Forces are here to help them, to provide assistance so that they can assume this role and we can return to our role as established by the Honduran State.



Upon the completion of the Central American Security Conference (CENTSEC 2015), sponsored by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and the Honduran Armed Forces, the top military representatives from both countries in the region participated in a packed press conference in Tegucigalpa, on March 27, 2015. Following the conclusion of CENTSEC, Major General Freddy Díaz Zelaya, the chief of the Honduran Armed Forces Joint Staff, and Marine Corps General John F. Kelly, SOUTHCOM commander, answered questions from the media outlets that were present. The press conference went as follows:

Can you give us a concrete example of the results and the strategy being used to combat transnational organized crime?


General Freddy Díaz Zelaya:
Precisely one of the topics discussed by [Honduran] President Hernandez during the Central American Security Conference was that we are succeeding in reducing crime; we’ve made significant progress in this area. He spoke about the Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle. This is an initiative that has gained strength and we will be at the United States Congress to talk about prevention, about investing in all the areas that had not previously received investments in order to keep young people away from gangs and illegal issues, so that Honduras can provide opportunities for all Hondurans, so they won’t have to seek opportunity in other countries, such as the United States.

General John F. Kelly:
A year ago, President Hernández invited me here and asked for my assistance any way we could. That’s why we’re working with the Honduran Military and with him. We established what the president refers to as a Maritime Shield, to try to reduce the flow of drugs reaching the Caribbean coast of Honduras. That has been very successful. We’ve seen a reduction in the flow of drugs into Honduras, and that’s a means of prevention.

I don’t see any hostility in this part of the world. In fact, one of the positive things in this part of the world is that there isn’t the slightest possibility of a conflict breaking out between two countries, and that’s a very positive thing. There are other issues that must be dealt with, but war is not one of them and that’s a good thing.

But, to summarize, what have been the main agreements that have been achieved and the strategies that you will be using to fight against organized crime and drug trafficking in Central America?


Gen. Díaz:
The Central American Security Conference is an annual event. Last year it was held in Guatemala, this year it was held here in Honduras, and it has been agreed that the next conference will be held in Costa Rica next year. This conference deals with current issues, such as how best to coordinate between countries in the region with regard to exchanging information, how technology can help us, how to detect the funds flowing from the drug trade to banks… It’s a way to exchange expertise, to delve into these issues so that each country can apply this expertise in the best possible way. The scope and all of the stated goals for this conference have been achieved with an excellent turnout, as we saw at the conference here in Honduras. We’ve seen an opportunity for better communication among all of the countries of Central America, which allows for better understanding regarding the exchange of information, of intelligence to be able to see transnational crime, including transnational crime that extends beyond our collective borders.

Gen. Kelly:
I would say that instead of entering into agreements, we’ve now decided to work more closely. At this conference, we did things a little differently. We didn’t just invite the military institutions of the countries in the region, but we also invited all of the senior officials from the police, because it isn’t just an internal problem for countries. It’s a problem for the police, it’s a problem for the military, and it’s a problem for the Navy off the coast. But that was the biggest change this year, inviting senior police officials to this conference.

General Kelly, you mentioned during the conference that Central America is among the top four priorities for the U.S. in terms of foreign relations. What do you see for Honduras in terms of security over the medium and long term?


Gen. Kelly:
[U.S.] President Barack Obama has said that this part of the world is one of his top four priorities and that’s very important. [U.S.] Vice President Joe Biden has gotten personally involved and met with Honduran President Hernandez, as well as the presidents of Guatemala and El Salvador on multiple occasions. I believe four or five times in less than a year, and he’s traveled here several times. Vice President Biden had a very good conference here last month, so this is a part of the world that has my country’s attention. As you all know, the solutions to these problems are not military solutions. That’s only one part of it. The solutions won’t come solely from the police. That’s another part, but the solution also has to do with economy and education. My government is now working closely with the government of Honduras on some economic initiatives. I believe that my country has allocated a billion dollars, but part of our partnership assumes that Honduras will also invest money.

President Hernández has led this initiative. He has been very aggressive in identifying private investors. We’re helping the presidents of Guatemala and El Salvador organize a private investor conference in Miami in a month or two. The plan is to invite investors from this region, but also attract as many U.S. investors as possible. The conference program will focus on the importance of investing in this region.

This wasn’t part of your question, but I want to say that businesspeople always ask me about the level of violence in this part of the world, and my best positive response to that question is to use Honduras as an example. A little over a year ago, Honduras was the most dangerous country in the world, but that’s no longer the case. The rates of violence and death have been significantly reduced, which is why my strongest argument to these investors is that all of the trends are heading in the right direction and that they should consider this area as a good market for investments. So we’re going to hold this conference in Miami in June and we hope that we’re able to convince them to invest in Honduras.

General Díaz, a few months ago the creation of the Maya-Chortí Binational Task Force between Honduras and Guatemala was announced. Moreover, there was recently a joint operation between Honduras and Nicaragua against organized criminal gangs in the department of Gracias a Dios. I would like to know if this is a trend, if other task forces or joint operations like these are going to be created by Honduras as a way to combat drug trafficking.


Gen. Díaz:
Last Monday, we went to El Florido in Copán to a very special ceremony to launch the Maya-Chortí Task Force. Both President Hernández as well as [Guatemalan] President Otto Pérez expressed their satisfaction at having reached such a significant agreement that allowed for the creation of this task force along the Honduran and Guatemalan sides of the border. This is just the beginning. Larger issues will be soon be dealt with, such as the creation of a single customs area in December. This will be part of the effort to create a climate of security along this border area. We hope that the steps being taken by Honduras and Guatemala will also be taken by other countries.

We have a very close relationship with Nicaragua. We carried out several operations last year to take care of that strip of land along the border that is sometimes neglected by the State. In that sense we have established ongoing communications. Of course, the Central American Armed Forces Conference (CEFAC) has helped us maintain this level of communication, and there is an ongoing coordinated patrol between the Armed Forces of Honduras and Nicaragua, the Armed Forces of Honduras and El Salvador and the Armed Forces of Honduras and Guatemala.

Those are some of the agreements that we already have under the CEFAC framework. Since then, the coordination is becoming stronger every day and every day there are larger joint operations between countries. We hope that everything that is being done to ensure the peace that our people so badly crave, in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, that we’ll be able to achieve it through the efforts of the military, always in support of the National Police. In that sense, as professional Soldiers, we’re clear in our roles and we know that Honduras has a police force that the State has entrusted with the role of protecting people and property. In this framework, the Armed Forces are here to help them, to provide assistance so that they can assume this role and we can return to our role as established by the Honduran State.
I hope canine training increases for all of Guatemala needs efficiency and integrity to protect the citizens. I hope it's eradicated.
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