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May 11, 1984 - Image 12

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Michigan Daily, 1984-05-11

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Page 12 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, May 11, 1984
Reps. clash on Central America

WASHINGTON (AP) - A Democrat-
ic congressman who toured U.S.-built
facilities in Central America returned
last week with the message: "The
United States has amassed a military
force in Central America that is poised
for war."
But a Republican lawmaker who made
the same trip came away with a dif-
frent conclusion, saying, "I have seen
much better facilities at Scout camps."
THE CONTRASTING assessments of
Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.) and Rep.
Ralph Regula (R-Ohio) demonstrate
the confusion about American objec-
tives that has arisen during an ever-
expanding U.S. military build-up in the
region.
At the end of April 1983, when Presi-
dent Reagan appealed to Congress to
approve his package of economic and
military aid to Central America, about
90 American military men were in El
Salvador and neighboring Honduras.
Now, with Reagan preparing once
again to speak to Congress to seek
support for increasing aid to Central
America, there are about 90 U.S. mili-
tary men in El Salvador, another 2,500
in Honduras, along with a network of
airstrips and radar stations, and
heavier-than-ever CIA involvement
with the growing force of "contras"
fighting the leftist Sandinista govern-
ment of Nicaragua.
IN THE CURRENT Honduran exer-
cises, "Grenadero I -which have been
underway for a month-about 1,000
U.S. troops are joining Honduran
forces..
The exercises have been portrayed
by the Pentagon as normal peacetime
drills. But a cable from the U.S. em-
bassy in Honduras described the pre-
vious 7-month-long maneuvers, "Big
Pine 2," as "what may have been the
longest exercise in U.S. "military his-

U.S. has troops, trainers
throughout troubled region

tory."
In his April 1983 appeal to a joint
congressional session, Reagan said,
"There is no thought of sending Ameri-
can combat troops to Central America;
they are not needed-indeed they have
not been requested there. All our neigh-
bors ask of us is assistance in training
and arms to protect themselves while
they builda better, freer life."
HUT AMERICAN combat troops
have been sent to Honduras, a staunch
U.S. ally that sits between El Salvador
and Nicaragua. While those troops have
not been engaged in fighting in either
nation, they have edged closer to the
borders-and to guerrilla wars in both
nations.
Last week, after visiting Honduras,
Alexander said, "The United States has
amassed a military force itn Central
America that is poised for war, and we
have allowed no equal force for peace."
But Regula, who accompanied Alex-
ander on the same trip, said it would
take "A very substantial amount of
both money and effort" to make the in-
stallations built by the U.S. military fit
for war. "I have seen much better facil-
ities at Scout camps," he said.
Here is a country-by-country revjew of:
U.S. military presence in Central
America:
Guatemala
Five American military people are
stationed with this U.S. ally, which is
governed by a dictatorship. Two are in
the defense attache's office in the U.S.
embassy and the other three are mem-

-v .._ _

V/'ECIA &3

I

hers of a U.S. military group. The
United States cut off military aid to the
Guatemalan government in 1977 in a
dispute over human rights conditions.
While the United States supplies no dir-
ect military aid, the Reagan adminis-
tration wants to sell spare parts for
U.S. helicopters previously supplied to
Guatemala.
Honduras
There are now about 2,500 U.S. mili-
tary personnel in this U.S.-allied coun-
try, including 800 Army engineers from
Ft. Lewis, Wash., who are working to
prepare a pair of dirt airstrips at
Cucuyagua and Jamastran for the
Grenadero I, and although no future ex-
ercises have been announced, the fact
that Grenadero has the numeral one
attached to it indicates later maneu-
vers might be under consideration.
The other 1,700 U.S. Military person-
nel include about 100 Marines who staff
a mobile radar station at Tiger Island
on the Gulf of Fonseca along with about
180 U.S. trainers who are teaching the
Honduran military. Of those trainers,
20 are based in the Honduran capital of
Tegucigalpa and the other 160 are at the
regional military training center near
Trujillo on the Caribbean coastline.
The remaining U.S. personnel also in-
clude 300 members of the Army's secret
224th military intelligence battalion,
stationed at a second radar facility at
Palmerola, They receive information
from 11 OV-1 Mohawk reconnaissance
planes which fly regular missions from
Palmerola over neighboring El Salva-
dor. The information is turned over to
the Honduran military and the Salva-
doran government.
At a cost of $50 million, the Army has
build six dirt airstrips at Aguacate,
Trujillo, San Pedro Sula, San Lorenzo,
Puerto Lempira and Palmerola. Two
more are now under construction at
Cucuyagua and Jamastran and Con-
gress has appropriated money for a
ninth-at La Ceiba-but use of that
money has been blocked in a dispute
over the administration's intentions.
The airstrips are capable of hand-
ling planes as big as C-130 Hercules, one
of the Pentagon's most heavily used
cargo planes. Administration critics
say the airstrips might presage U.S.
military intervention, but the Pentagon
says the strips are not permanent be-
cause they are only for use during the
current series of exercises.
In addition to reconnaissance pro-
vided by the OV-1 planes, the Pentagon
receives information from a Navy frig-
ate usually steaming off the Pacific
coast borders of El Salvador, Honduras
and Nicaragua. And three weeks ago,
the Navy began a "coastal surveil-
lance" exercise using a destroyer and a
frigate in the Gulf of Fonseca.
El Salvador
The Reagan administration is seeking
ever-increasing amounts of aid to help
the U.S.-backed government which has
been fighting rebel groups, which the
United States says are supplies and
supported by Nicaragua and Cuba.
There are 50 U.S. trainers working
with the Salvadoran military, five be-
low the Pentagon's self-imposed limit
of 55 trainers. In addition, there are
another 12 men in the U.S. Military

Group which provides various aid, and
four military personnel attached to the
U.S. embassy in San Salvador. There
is also a- medical team of 23 people,
bringing the current total to 89 U.S.
military people.
In addition to supplying trainers, the
United States also supplies a wide vari-
ety of equipment, including artillery,
small weapons, and ammunition. The
Salvadorans receive additional recon-
naissance help from a variety of U.S.
sources, including the two radar facili-
ties in Honduras, the Navy ship off-
shore and four C-130 reconnaissance
planes which regularly fly over Salva-
dor from Howard Air Force Base in
Panama.
Nicaragua
The United States does not support
the leftist Sandinista government,
which came to power after the 1979
overthrow of the dictator Anastazio
Somoza. The Reagan administration
has accused Nicaragua of supplying aid
and armsato rebels in El Salvador.
In December 1981, President Reagan.
approved a secret order directing the
CIA to aid exiles opposed-to the San-
dinista government, reportedly for the
purpose of halting weapons shipments
to Salvadoran rebels.
These "contra" forces, originally en-
visioned as a paramilitary group of
about 500 people, have grown to-a total
of about 15,000. There are two chief
"contra" groups. One, operating into
northern Nicaragua from bases in Hon-
duras, is the Nicaraguan Democratic
Force, known by its Spanish inititals
FDN. The second, operating into South-
ern Nicaragua from Costa Rica, is the
Revolutionary Democratic Alliance,
known as ARDF
A third "Contra" group is composed
chiefly of Miskito Indians, residents of
Nicaragua's eastern provinces.
Last month, it was revealed that the
CIA had mined the Nicaraguan ports of
Corinto, Puerto Sandino and El Bluff.
The acoustic mines-which exploded
when touched off by the sound of a ship
passing nearby-were placed by CIA-
trained Latin mercenaries operating in
speedboats dropped from a CIA
"mother ship" which remained outside
the 12-mile territorial limit.
U.S. reconnaissance of Nicaragua is
provided-by planes flying along the Nic-
arguan border using side-looking ra-
dar, along with high-flying U-2 spy
planes.
Costa Rica
There are no U.S. military trainers in
Costa Rica, which has no army. How-
ever, three people are ina U.S. Military
Group team and the U.S. ambassador
last week announced that some mili-
tary equipment will be sent to Costa
Rica after the nation's tiny defense
forces clashed with Nicaraguan soldiers
along the border.
U.S. officials say they will supply
jeeps, trucks, light weapons and ammu-
nition, some patrol boats, and two heli-
copters.
Panama
There has long been a substantial
U.S. military presence to guard the
Panama Canal. The Pentagon's South-
ern Command (Southcom), headed by
Gen. Paul Gorman, has responsibility
for all U.S. military forces in Central
America.
The total number of U.S. military
personnel in Panama is about 9,000, in-
cluding the Army base near the Canal
and Howard Air Force Base. There are
1,750 Army troops in three battalions,
including two infantry battalions and a
brigade of Special Forces (Green Beret).

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