Honduran-US Exercise Features Airstrip Work
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) _ Honduran soldiers and about 3,000 U.S. troops have begun a four-month military exercise that will include improving airstrips in southern Honduras.
The first phase of the exercise, which began Monday, calls for improvement of airstrips at San Lorenzo, 64 miles south of Tegucigalpa, and at Jamastran, about 90 miles east of the capital.
The troops also will build a 4-mile dirt road at Punta Raton, between Tegucigalpa and San Lorenzo.
About 2,000 Honduran soldiers are participating in the U.S. Army exercise, called ″Ahuas Tara ’87,″ the Honduran armed forces said in a brief statement.
In addition, the first of 4,500 National Guardsmen from eight states and Puerto Rico will begin arriving in this Central American country next week for a separate four-month exercise.
In a related development, the National Assembly at the urging of President Jose Azcona Hoya voted Monday night to retain Gen. Humberto Regalado as chief of the Honduran military until 1990.
Regalado, 50, was named armed forces chief in February, one month after Azcona took office. Regalado had been due to step aside at the end of the year.
Retaining Regalado was viewed as an effort to end possible bickering among officers over who would run the military at a time of growing hostility along the Nicarguan-Honduran border.
Honduras says Sandinista troops crossed into Honduras at least five times in the past eight months in pursuit of U.S.-backed Contra rebels, who operate from southern Honduras in their quest to topple Nicaragua’s leftist government.
The ″Ahuas Tara ’87″ exercise, to end in late April with 12 days of field maneuvers, is intended to ″familiarize troops with new engineering equipment″ and provide experience in training under severe tropical conditions, the Honduran armed forces statement said.
In the National Guard exercises scheduled Jan. 10-May 10 in northern Yoro province, guardsmen will be rotated in and out of Honduras every 17 days.
Participants will come from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, as well as Puerto Rico.
Both exercises are under the command of the Bravo Joint Task Force, made up of about 1,100 U.S. troops permanently stationed at Palmerola air base 30 miles northwest of Tegucigalpa.
More than 15,000 U.S. troops have taken part in nearly continuous joint maneuvers with the Honduran armed forces since June 1982, under a 1954 mutual assistance pact.