Northern Triangle Service Members Strengthen Fight Against COVID-19
By Lorena Baires / Diálogo April 20, 2020
The Northern Triangle’s armed forces have deployed to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have land, sea, and air border surveillance perimeters to help enforce the lockdown, as they continue to support public security and fight illicit trafficking.
“We conduct constant surveillance on 186 blind spots at the border to prevent people from entering El Salvador without a health check,” El Salvador Minister of Defense Navy Rear Admiral René Merino told Diálogo.
El Salvador has been on lockdown since March 21. Only medical or food services personnel can move around, the National Civil Police (PNC, in Spanish) reported. “If they travel, only two people per vehicle are allowed: the driver and a passenger behind,” Commissioner Mauricio Arriaza, PNC director, told Diálogo. “In public transport, we only allow one person per row.”
For their part, the Guatemalan Armed Forces prepare basic food baskets and deliver them from house to house. “We have teams deployed to deliver these foods,” Guatemalan Minister of Defense Air Force Major General Juan Carlos Alemán, told Diálogo. The Guatemalan Ministry of Defense’s Engineer Command supports the construction of five field hospitals to assist COVID-19 patients. In addition, the ministry has activated the Air Reserve to monitor the country’s border.
“The aircraft set up links with ground forces to prevent the entry of people who circumvent health protocols or attempt to smuggle,” Guatemalan Army Colonel Juan Carlos de Paz, director of the Ministry of Defense’s Public Affairs, told Diálogo. “We work with Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico to protect people’s health and prevent illegal actions.”
In Honduras, the Armed Forces (FAH, in Spanish) produce more than 3,500 masks daily. “We changed our production line from military items to medical supplies,” said Honduran Army Major General Tito Moreno, head of FAH’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Our mechatronic engineers are doing tests with a ventilator prototype for our hospitals. We also produce polyethylene masks and surgical uniforms for protection.”
FAH’s Logistics Directorate coordinates food deliveries for more than 3.2 million people. “We are the operational arm in this mission that will alleviate people’s needs in such difficult times,” Honduran Army Colonel Juan Rubén Girón, head of FAH Logistics Directorate, told Diálogo. “We are responsible for bringing each ration to each home, so that no one is exposed to the virus.”