From February 6 to 10, the Canadian Army held the Conference of American Armies (CAA) in Toronto, Ontario. According to the Government of Canada's website, the CAA is "an opportunity for Army leaders from North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean to meet on a regular basis to discuss areas of mutual interest and share lessons learned. The CAA contributes to the security and democratic development of member countries, from a military perspective."
It is these types of conferences that demonstrate Canada's interests in training and coordinating with repressive regimes in the Americas, including the Honduran military, the institution that overthrew a democratically elected President in Honduras in June 2009. As many Canadians continue to falsely believe that Canada is a "peace-keeping" nation, the Canadian government sends Canadian troops to Honduras to train alongside U.S. and Colombian forces.
The Honduran military representative participating in the Toronto-based conference, Coronel Gabriel Rixci Carcamo Bonilla, was the commanding Colonel responsible for the Honduran Third Infantry Battalion based in the northern town of Naco in the department of Cortes from August 2013 to 2014. This particular military base in Naco is of key strategic importance to foreign military training and the development and training of special military units created in the environment of severe repression in post-coup Honduras. In fact, the U.S. military has maintained a foreign operating base in Naco on and off since at least 2012.
The military representative currently participating in the military conference in Toronto, Canada with Latin American military figures was head of the Naco military base in Honduras when the Honduran Military Police of Public Order (PMOP) were trained in 2013. At the same time in 2013, the special hybrid military-police (SWAT-style) Intelligence Troop and Special Security Response Groups, the "TIGRES" were trained on the base in Naco as well. The Military Police and the TIGRES were created to combat organized crime and the so-called "drug war" after the 2009 coup in Honduras but both units have been used extensively to repression the Honduran social movement and struggles in defense of natural resources and territories.
Both the Military Police and the TIGRES have been involved in gross human rights violations in Honduras since the 2009 military coup, and both forces have received training, funding, or have been vetted, either directly or indirectly (like via the Special military force FUSINA) by the United States military. It is worth mentioning that the TIGRES were present on Berta Caceres' final action against a dam project before her assassination in western Honduras when Caceres and COPINH went to protest, one again, the illegal construction of the Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque river.
The military base in Naco, Cortes, is also the site of foreign training provided to the Honduran military and the above mentioned special hybrid security forces. Canadian military were present on the base in 2012, around the time that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the post-coup regime of President Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo. Shortly after, the FTA sparked the approval of a new Mining Law that greatly benefited the interests of Canadian mining companies. In the picture below, Canadian troops can be seen on the military base together with Colombia and American forces, two extremely problematic countries that have led the militarization of Latin America in service of North American imperialism.
The conference in Toronto and the presence of Honduran military on Canadian soil demonstrates Canada's clear foreign policy objectives of militarization and imperialism in complete disregard of basic human rights in Honduras. The Canadian government continues its support of the Honduran regime despite in-depth reports and documentation of extremely high levels of human rights violations, impunity and corruption.
PRESS STATEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, February 9, 2017
Activists disrupt international military conference in downtown Toronto hotel
Toronto. Over a dozen activists with banners and a sound system disrupted a special conference of the Conference of American Armies (CAA) this morning. The conference is a gathering of military leaders from North, Central and South America and is being held at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Toronto. The meeting, which was hosted by the Canadian Army, explored "domestic operations" as its primary theme, alarming activists who associate the CAA with the repression of political activists and land defenders.
"The state, and the military backing it, come down with brutal force on Indigenous peoples asserting their responsibilities to protect the water, as has been so illustrated in the camps of Standing Rock with the involvement of the National Guard," explains Jaydene Lavallee, a Métis organizer present at the hotel action. "This conference on 'domestic operations' is about armies of colonial states mobilizing to better defend industry from Indigenous people and their allies."
From La Guajira, Colombia to Elsipogtog, New Brunswick, militaries engage in domestic conflicts over resource extraction. The CAA, which was created as part of a Cold War strategy to increase collaboration with militaries in Latin America, is no stranger military involvement in internal conflict. Even today, CAA liason officers are linked to the repression of civilians in their own countries who are engaged in land defence struggles or political activism.
"In 2009, Hudbay Minerals had support from the Guatemalan military, including the feared “Kaibil” special forces, to carry out repression against local Mayan Q’eqchi’ communities and make way for Hudbay’s mining operations," explains Grahame Russell of the NGO Rights Action. "This includes the September 27, 2009 assassination of Adolfo Ich and shooting and paralyzing of German Chub."
Honduras-based coordinator of the Honduras Solidarity Network, Karen Spring, points out that current CAA liason officers are linked to political repression in Honduras. Col. Gabriel Rixci Cárcamo Bonilla, CAA liason officer for Honduras, was the commanding Colonel responsible for the Honduran Third Infantry Battalion in the northern town of Naco from 2013 to 2014. During that time, the Intelligence Troop and Special Security Response Groups, known as "TIGRES", and Honduran Military Police of Public Order (PMOP) both received training at Bonilla's base. Both units have been used extensively to repress Honduran social movements and struggles in defence of natural resources and territories.
According to Spring, "the conference in Toronto and the presence of Honduran military on Canadian soil demonstrates Canada's clear foreign policy objectives of militarization and imperialism in complete disregard of basic human rights in Honduras. The Canadian government continues its support of the Honduran regime despite in-depth reports and documentation of extremely high levels of human rights violations, impunity and corruption."
The Conference of American Armies (CAA) was created in 1960 by U.S. commander-in-chief of Southern Command, Major T.F. Bogart and played a large role in U.S Cold War strategy in the Americas. According to Long Island University professor and author of "Predatory States" J. Patrice McSherry, the CAA created communication systems for these armies to collaborate. This laid the groundwork for Operation Condor, which in turn led to the killing, torture, and imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of people while supporting military governments in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Today, militaries across the Americas are active in campaigns of repression against civilians in their own countries who are engaged in land defence struggles or political activism.
Canadian Army press release about the Conference of American Armies (CAA) meeting: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1185839
Detailed backgrounders on military violence in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and Colombia available upon request.