Hundreds of US Marines heading to Central America

Miami Herald, By Carol Rosenberg, May 9

Some 280 U.S. Marines are landing in Central America any day now.

The operation has no code name, but it’s the fruit of about a year’s planning by the U.S. Southern Command to insert a newly formed expeditionary outfit into the U.S.-run swath of the Soto Cano air base in Honduras for about 200 days, the longest, largest known Marine deployment onto Central American turf in years. About 90 of the Marines will be going to Guatemala, El Salvador and Belize.

Details so far are scarce about what the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-South will do exactly. It sounds like it will train friendly forces and be in a position to pivot to high-profile disaster relief efforts, which the U.S. military likes to promote in poorer southern hemisphere countries. Spokesmen say the Marines will not do double-duty in the drug war.

On April 30, the deputy Southern Command commander, Army Lt. Gen. Kenneth Tovo, testified before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that the special unit’s ground element will be doing regional training — maritime and river operations, marksmanship and small-unit training. It has an air wing and logistics unit that will be “working with our partners to repair schools and other facilities.”

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