Music - Cortijo Y su Combo "Maquinolandera"
The 545th MP Company in
Operation Granadero l
As per Sp/4 Ken Clarke, who was assigned as an MP to the 545th MP Company at the time, the unit deployed from Fort Hood, Texas with the 227th Combat Aviation Task Force in the fall of 1984 to Cucuyagua, Honduras to provide site security, convoy escorts and airfield security on location. The 545th MP Co was issued live ammo and in the course of their duties was often fired upon by guerillas and retuned fire, but sustained no casualties. The 545th maintained frequent patrols at the airport as well as provided convoy security for Aviation Fuel trucks and medical assistance as required.
Here below is a bit of political, news and historical background from that time frame regarding Operation Granadero l. Keep in mind the political bent of Time Magazine and CNN while reading these articles.
Central America: Last Exit to Costa Rica
By George Russell; Barrett Seaman/Washington; William McWhirter/Tegucigalpa Monday, Apr. 16, 1984
As U.S. exercises begin, Honduras dumps a general
New tremors rattled the volcanic landscape of Central America last week, but they owed nothing to the region's earthquake-prone geology. The stresses came as the Reagan Administration further extended its armed diplomacy in the isthmus. On Capitol Hill, the Administration's attention remained firmly fixed on securing $61.75 million in emergency military aid for El Salvador. Last week the Senate approved the aid by a 76-to-19 vote. But for the moment a sizable portion of Washington's energies seemed to have shifted from the military and political battleground of El Salvador to neighboring Honduras. Not only had that nation assumed a major role in U.S. strategy, it had also just undergone an extraordinary hierarchical shakeup.
In the capital of Tegucigalpa, windows shook as A-37 attack aircraft of the Honduran air force swooped over the coffee-colored National Assembly building to celebrate the leadership change. Inside the legislature, deputies broke into nervous laughter at the noise as they voted 78 to 0 to install Air Force General Walter Lopez Reyes, 43, as the new commander of the armed forces. The next day a tight phalanx of 17 colonels and lieutenant colonels from the 35-member superior council of the armed forces watched approvingly during Lopez’s brief swearing-in. The junior officers were the key actors responsible for the sudden ouster of Lopez’s ambitious predecessor, Defense Minister Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, 46, who was also the country's biggest booster of the U.S. military presence in Honduras.
After his installation, Lopez made a special point of describing Alvarez's removal as a "highly patriotic act, which raises the standing of the constitutional government" headed by Civilian President Roberto Suazo Cordova, 57. Much the same line was taken by the U.S. Meanwhile, some 800 U.S. Army engineers were maneuvering heavy earth-moving equipment off the docks of Puerto Cortes and into the rugged countryside. Their task: to prepare two Honduran army airstrips on the borders with El Salvador and Nicaragua for use in upcoming combat assault exercises. The maneuvers, known as Granadero I, are the latest in a series of large-scale U.S.-Honduran exercises that began in February 1983; as many as 5,000 U.S. troops may be involved over the span of three months.
The early arrivals for Granadero I swelled an already considerable U.S. military Establishment in the country, numbering some 1,750 men and women. Many of those already on the ground will be involved in the operation, but at least 300 members of the 224th Military Intelligence Battalion, based at the Honduran airfield of Palmerola, are actively engaged in the war effort in neighboring El Salvador. The mission of the 224th: to fly reconnaissance missions over El Salvador, collecting military intelligence on the 10,000 guerrillas of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (F.M.L.N.) for relay to the Salvadoran army.
In addition, Honduras is playing host to an unknown number of CIA-sponsored paramilitary operatives, who secretly train and supply an estimated 10,000 Nicaraguan contras waging a hit-and-run war against their country's Sandinista government. Recently, those operations have taken on a new international dimension through the mining of Nicaragua's harbors by the contras: so far, at least four Soviet, Dutch, Panamanian and Liberian ships have been damaged by this sabotage. Last week the U.S. vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the attempted sea blockade. The government of France, long critical of Reagan Administration policy in Central America, has quietly consulted with some Latin American countries over the possibility of helping to remove the mines as a "humanitarian" measure. The French condition for such help is that "one or several friendly European powers" also offer to cooperate. Declaring that it did not intend to join France in the minesweeping venture, the British government nonetheless added that it disapproved, in the words of a spokesman, "of any threat to the principle of freedom of navigation."
The coincidence of Alvarez's ouster with the start of the latest U.S. exercises raised immediate speculation about Washington's role, if any, in what amounted to a Honduran housecleaning. For the past two years, Alvarez has been accused of being the de facto strongman of Honduras, pulling both military and political strings behind the folksy, conservative Suazo. The charge was one that Alvarez took no great pains to deny. A colonel when he took over as armed forces chief, he arranged his own series of promotions to five-star general. Fiercely anticommunist, he launched a harsh antiterrorist campaign and enthusiastically backed the Reagan Administration in creating a regional military training center in Honduras. There, some 100 Green Berets are now training as many as 1,000 Salvadoran troops for their war against the F.M.L.N. While negotiating the training-center deal with Washington, Alvarez largely ignored the foreign policy prerogatives of the Honduran national assembly.
Alvarez's blatant cronyism had become a source of rancor in the Honduran armed forces; so had increasing rumors of corruption within his clique. The Defense Minister began avoiding meetings of the armed forces superior council. When he did attend one last month, says a participant, Alvarez was "gross and vulgar." Younger officers suspected that he was tapping their telephones and following their personal movements. Some junior military men may have been bothered by Alvarez's embrace of the U.S. training center in Honduras for Salvadoran troops: many Honduran officers have lingering memories of their country's 1969 war with El Salvador. Some soldiers fear that at a future date border disputes between the two countries might trigger a return engagement, this time against Salvadoran troops trained in Honduras.
When it finally came, Alvarez's downfall was both quick and ignominious. The day before his ouster, the Defense Minister traveled to a meeting of conservative civilian supporters in the Honduran industrial center of San Pedro Sula. After a party that lasted until 2 a.m., Alvarez arrived groggy and Unshaven at the local military airport for his return to Tegucigalpa. When Alvarez stepped inside a private airport office, he was informed that he was under arrest. He was then handcuffed and hustled aboard an airplane for the 90-minute flight to Costa Rica. On Friday, Alvarez surfaced in Miami.
In praising President Suazo following the ouster, U.S. officials
said that they were surprised but undisturbed by the sudden purge. There
is considerable justification for Washington's confidence, since for the
past two years Suazo has faithfully echoed Alvarez's boosterism on every
aspect of U.S.-Honduran military cooperation. Some Hondurans, however,
appear to feel differently. As the Granadero exercises rolled ahead, an
estimated 4,000 demonstrators marched through the streets of Tegucigalpa
denouncing government oppression and demanding an end to the U.S.
military presence in Honduras. It was the first significant protest
demonstration in the country in more than two years. —By George Russell.
Reported by William McWhirter/Tegucigalpa and Barrett Seaman/Washington .
Mysterious Help from Offshore?
By George Russell; JUNE Erllck/Managua and Barrett Seaman/Washington Monday, Apr. 23, 1984
More pressure on Nicaragua, and more potential for controversy
The campaign of military pressure on Nicaragua continued to expand last week, and so did its potential for controversy. At week's end a contingent of U.S. combat troops returned to Panama from a one-day battle exercise in Honduras, foreshadowing much larger displays of American strength that are soon to begin along Nicaragua's northern border. As part of a coordinated offensive, some 6,000 CIA-backed contras were marching from their Honduran base camps into the Nicaraguan interior. Simultaneously a 200-man contra column moved from the south to occupy a strategic hamlet on Nicaragua's isolated Caribbean coast and gain a new military and political advantage after the most intense and sustained fighting of their hit-and-run guerrilla war. In addition, members of the southern invading force were making an extraordinary claim: that their operations were aided by American support from the sea, an allegation flatly denied by U.S. officials.
The intriguing and potentially inflammatory question of seaborne support arose after a contra assault column stormed into the settlement of San Juan del Norte, a remote Nicaraguan village of some 950 people that once served as a haven for the 17th century British pirate Henry Morgan. The attackers were part of the 4,000-member Revolutionary Democratic Alliance (A.R.D.E.), whose leader is Eden Pastora Gomez, a famed defector from the ranks of Nicaragua's Sandinista government. A.R.D.E.'S objective in seizing the settlement was twofold: to secure a toehold on the jungle fringes of Nicaraguan territory as the first step toward winning international recognition as a contra provisional government, and to win a port of entry for military supply.
After a vigorous three-day firefight, the attackers succeeded in overrunning about 120 Sandinista defenders entrenched amid San Juan del Norte's thatched adobe huts. A.R.D.E. commanders said that mysterious nocturnal support from offshore played a role both before and during the victory.
The contras told TIME'S Jon Anderson, who accompanied the assault group, that prior to their daylight attack San Juan del Norte had been hit by gunfire from the sea. At one point in the fighting, the contras said, they used mortars to drive away a Nicaraguan patrol boat accompanied by two fishing trawlers. The rebel commander said one of the boats had later been sunk and that "your countrymen did it." According to the A.R.D.E. officer, the feat was accomplished by a small boat launched from a ship offshore. Said the rebel officer: "We don't have the trained people to take care of anything on the sea. So it was understood that marine engagements would be taken care of by another party." In the past, the A.R.D.E. has never demonstrated a naval capability.
Informed of the A.R.D.E. claims, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger stated unequivocally that the U.S. had not provided naval assistance. A spokesman for Naval Secretary John Lehman labeled any notion of U.S. Navy involvement "absurd." When asked if any such ship or ships were either operated or supported by the CIA, National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane told TIME: "I cannot comment on intelligence operations." As a matter of policy, the CIA refused to confirm, deny or even discuss any of its operations. Nicaragua's neighbors, Honduras and Costa Rica, have the wherewithal to provide naval assistance, but it is unlikely that either would risk such a direct challenge to the more powerful Sandinista regime.
Whether or not it received help from the sea, the assault force did get other kinds of discreet aid. According to their commanders, the new 82-mm mortars and 50-cal. machine guns that the contras used at San Juan del Norte were delivered ten days earlier by a U.S.-built C-47 transport, which also dropped pallets of food and ammunition under cover of darkness at a Costa Rican site ten miles south of the Nicaraguan border. An A.R.D.E. soldier who is a U.S. citizen, George Davis, of Great Falls, Mont., claimed the pilot was an American. "I'm here to fight Communism, and I guess the pilot is too," said Davis.
Meanwhile, in Honduras, the contra leader in charge of the northern front of the covert war against Nicaragua insisted, somewhat implausibly, given the information leaking out in Washington, that "no U.S. citizen ever has been involved" in the mining of Nicaraguan ports. At a press conference in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, Adolfo Calero Portocarrero, leader of the rebel Nicaraguan Democratic Front (F.D.N.), said that his organization reserved the right to undertake similar actions in the future. The aim, said Calero, was to halt the massive flow of Soviet bloc weapons to the Sandinistas and, only incidentally, to prevent a portion of that arms aid from being passed along to El Salvador. Finally, Calero declared that "we are confident that the U.S. will continue to back the struggle for democracy in the Americas."
Some of Calero's confidence seems to derive from a revamping of his contra organization after months of setbacks blamed on internal rivalries. In the past year, the F.D.N.'s forces have been almost entirely reorganized into small, tough fighting units operating in seven military sectors of Nicaragua. The F.D.N. has adopted the guerrilla tactics used by Marxist-led insurgents in El Salvador, taking over Nicaraguan villages for a few hours, then arranging ambushes of pursuing Sandinista soldiers. Contra leaders claim that Sandinista military morale is drooping. At a "war room" in a campsite near a Honduran army base outside Tegucigalpa, the contras displayed wall-size military maps charting the progress of their latest offensive in the Nicaraguan provinces of Nueva Segovia, Jinotega, Matagalpa and Zelaya Norte. Said contra Military Commander Enrique Bermudez: "The Sandinistas are not so enthusiastic in their fighting. We are very confident."
For all that bravado, the importance of outside support for the F.D.N. operation is obvious. The contras maintain more than a dozen base camps in Honduras; five of them are in a border salient close to the spot where a U.S. military helicopter was shot down last January by Nicaraguan border guards. Helicopter flights link the F.D.N. camps with the interior of Honduras and, according to some of the contra leadership, with rebel task forces inside Nicaragua. (An unmarked helicopter also removed A.R.D.E. casualties from the battle at San Juan del Norte.) The F.D.N. has no helicopters; the apparent conclusion is that the aircraft are supplied by the Honduran government, by the CIA or by both.
Other examples of clandestine aid abound. Honduras' El Aguacate military base, some 60 miles from the Nicaraguan border, is now widely known as the main contra supply depot. The 8,000-ft. airstrip at the base was improved and extended by U.S. Army engineers last year, during the joint U.S.-Honduran military exercise known as Big Pine II. Another helpful installation for the F.D.N. is a sophisticated training base 90 miles southwest of Tegucigalpa, originally built by the U.S. The contras have also made use of Tiger Island, a hush-hush radar station in the Gulf of Fonseca that is tightly guarded by a contingent of about 150 U.S. Marines.
F.D.N. leaders admit that covert U.S. aid accounts for more than 50% of their organization's total funding. Independent estimates of the covert U.S. portion, however, run closer to 75%. Without Reagan Administration funding, an F.D.N. spokesman estimates, the organization could keep fewer than 2,000 combatants in the field, down from 8,000 today.
Covert support of the contras in Honduras is provoking resentment in an unlikely constituency: the U.S. Army. More than 2,500 regular U.S. military personnel are now stationed in Honduras, most of them preparing the groundwork for a new U.S.-Honduran military exercise, known as Granadero I. As a preliminary to that exercise, 120 members of the Panama-based 193rd U.S. Infantry Brigade last week conducted a daylong maneuver alongside 170 Honduran troops, near the sensitive El Aguacate military base. The American soldiers involved with Granadero I are beginning to complain that CIA personnel have, in the words of one U.S. Army officer, "the run of the country," including regular military facilities, and can operate in border areas where the Army men are forbidden to travel.
All of the covert anti-Sandinista activity is supposed to have a purpose: impeding the "arms pipeline" that the Reagan Administration insists is in operation between the Marxist-led government of Nicaragua and the Marxist-led insurgents in El Salvador. U.S. intelligence sources believe that pipeline is still very much in existence. Some of the evidence:
As recently as last month, U.S. sources claim, there were "fairly large" shipments of arms and equipment being loaded from points in northern Nicaragua onto seagoing vessels for trips into the Gulf of Fonseca, between Nicaragua and El Salvador. The materiel was transferred onto small vessels on the island of Conchagũita, less than ten miles off the Salvadoran coastal province of La Union, for disbursement to various guerrilla groups of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (F.M.L.N.) in southern El Salvador.
> Similarly, light planes from Nicaragua have been dropping supplies into remote zones in the Salvadoran countryside. On land, U.S. intelligence sources claim, arms-storage depots exist in the mountainous countryside of Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador. From those depots, arms and equipment move along a myriad of interchangeable routes that are virtually impossible to cut.
> Following the U.S. invasion of Grenada last October, the Sandinistas made much of the fact that Salvadorans were being encouraged to leave Nicaragua. But according to U.S. intelligence sources, F.M.L.N. leaders continue to do business from Managua or from hideouts in the rugged peninsula north of the capital.
> Earlier this year, the Sandinistas protested loudly about bombing attacks by contra rebels against several Nicaraguan radio towers located northwest of Managua. One of the towers was used for broadcasts by the F.M.L.N.'s Radio Venceremos. Another bombing raid was made against an F.M.L.N. arms depot in a small Nicaraguan settlement near the coastal town of Potosi.
In tacit justification of the CIA's mining operations against Nicaragua, intelligence sources also cite the case of the Panamanian freighter Los Caribes, damaged by an explosion in the Nicaraguan harbor of Corinto last month. The ship, the sources say, is the only vessel owned by a consortium called NAMUCAR, which at one time was sponsored by Mexico, Nicaragua, Jamaica and Cuba. For about six years, Los Caribes has made a long, money-losing run back and forth from the Gulf of Mexico through the Panama Canal and up the west coast of Central America, Mexico and the U.S. The ship's unprofitable voyages have been underwritten for the most part by Cuba. Three years ago, the Salvadorans discovered that Los Caribes had a secret cargo area disguised as a set of fuel tanks. The Cubans took the ship into dry dock for a year and a half. When Los Caribes returned to duty, says a U.S. source, it was known to be making arms deliveries to the F.M.L.N. When it docked in Corinto after the mine explosion last month, the ship's cargo manifest was blank. But Los Caribes' hold, say intelligence sources, was filled with unmarked, sealed containers crammed with military hardware.
Indeed, weapons of all kinds have been pouring into Nicaragua. At the port of El Bluff on the Caribbean coast, Nicaragua recently took delivery of a large arms shipment from Bulgaria, the fourth from that country in the past 18 months. Included were 20 medium tanks, 20 PT-76 light amphibious tanks and 16 other armored vehicles, plus three 152-mm howitzers. There is evidence that the Bulgarians have also delivered as many as 1,000 military trucks. In addition, Soviet freighters three months ago disgorged a load of helicopters at a El Bluff.
The Nicaraguan rejoinder is that the weapons are necessary for self-defense. According to Daniel Ortega Saavedra, head of Nicaragua's governing junta, the combination of contra attacks and the mining of the country's ports has led to Nicaraguan casualties of 3,000 dead and wounded, including 219 killed since early March, and economic damage amounting to more than $200 million.
Throughout the controversy set off by the mining of their harbors, the Sandinistas have refrained from a favorite tactic of the past: using the specter of imminent war with the U.S. to increase repression and further consolidate their political grip on the country. In fact, the Sandinistas were slightly loosening press censorship, and declaring their intention to proceed on schedule with national elections—criticized by the Reagan Administration as hopelessly biased in favor of the regime—on Nov. 4. Observed a Western diplomat in Managua: "For once, the Sandinistas seem to be handling the situation in a mature and sophisticated fashion." Another explanation might be that the Nicaraguan regime was simply biding its time while the Reagan Administration's policy in Central America teetered on the verge of a grave setback.
—By George Russell. Reported by June Erllck/Managua and Barrett Seaman/Washington