Ruiz Pastor Landa Dubón, the Honduran Air Force Commanding General, handed over his command last Monday to Coronel Miguel Palacios Romero at a ceremony in which the government was not in attendance. Marlon Pascua, Minister of Defense, sent a letter dated August 24, 2012 to chancellor Arturo Corrales, in which he explained that after visiting with the US Southern Command of the United States of America the decision was made to separate Landa from his command.
The ceremony at Soto Cano Air Base in Comayagua (also known in Honduras as the “Honduran Air Force Base at Palmerola”) was attended by U.S. General Douglas Fraser as well as the US Ambassador to Honduras, Lisa Kubiske. Fraser visited the country on August 24th to meet with Pascua, Corrales and various other authorities to “discuss” the continued bilateral cooperation on security measures between the USA and Honduras. (Although President Porfirio Lobo denies that the visit by Frasier had anything to do with the separation of Landa from his command post.)
Marlon Pascua, Defense Minister, said that the change of the Commander of the (Fuerza Aerea Hondureña) Honduran Air Force had been planned a week before the visit of the Chief of the US Southern Command. There is a rumor that the United States pressed Honduras to dismiss the military officer after the downing of the small plane.
The President said Monday that the head of the Southern Command did not request any change in the Honduran Air Force, but yes, on their visit, the incident was mentioned, and a discussion of the fact that Honduras violated agreements with United States concerning approved actions in the fight against drug trafficking. In the absence of official information, it was even rumored that an undercover agent for the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency – anti-drug agency of United States) died; however, this has not been confirmed by any authority of either of the two countries.
On June 12th, an airplane carrying drugs crashed in the sector of Gualaco, Olancho; an incident that resulted in the death of two people who were onboard. Then, on July 3, 2012, the pilot of another small plane loaded with drugs crashed near Catacamas, Olancho. A person was killed for allegedly making “menacing gestures”. One Brazilian citizen survived and was indicted for drug trafficking.
Honduras and the United States are in the process of implementing the so-called “Anvil operation“, which consists of the monitoring of irregular flights in order to proactively attack drug trafficking by air. According to official reports, more than 70% of drugs smuggled from South America to the United States pass through Central America. According to the Colombian Government, Honduras currently leads in Latin America drug seizures.
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