Central American Troops Make Important
Contribution in Iraq
Nearly 1,000 Central American soldiers have made important
contributions to reconstruction and security efforts in Iraq, while representing
their respective nations with distinction and making favorable impressions on
their coalition counterparts, according to U.S. officials.
Three hundred sixty-one Salvadoran soldiers, 367 Honduran soldiers, and 115
Nicaraguan soldiers joined 302 troops from the Dominican Republic and 1,300 from
Spain to participate in the Spanish-led Plus Ultra Brigade stationed in
south-central Iraq. The Brigade is part of a Polish-led multinational division.
Although the first contingents of Central American troops returned to their
respective nations earlier in 2004 following six-month deployments, the soldiers
from the Salvadoran Cuscatlan battalion, the Honduran Xatruch battalion, and the
Nicaraguan humanitarian contingent acquitted themselves well during their
deployment, U.S. officials say.
The Plus Ultra Brigade includes security, engineering, and medical personnel and
carries out an array of activities. These activities include security efforts
and outreach to local Iraqi communities.
The first contingent of Central American personnel conducted security patrols
and played an important role in the removal and destruction of landmines in
Central American engineers, most notably "sappers" with the Nicaraguan
contingent, destroyed over 22,000 tons of explosives, including ammunition and
weapons. They also were able to provide considerable expertise to coalition
troops on Soviet-era weaponry and munitions.
The Central American troops also carried out humanitarian efforts such as food
donations, the construction of walkways and footbridges, the construction of
well and irrigation infrastructure for local agriculture, and the distribution
of school and sports equipment, including the construction of school playground
Furthermore, Central American medical personnel treated over 10,000 Iraqi
civilians, including Shiite locals and Kurdish refugees. They also provided
medical and humanitarian care to a local orphanage and a Center for the Disabled
in the city of Ad Diwaniyah in south-central Iraq. The humanitarian efforts of
the first contingent of Central American troops were recognized by local
authorities and Iraqi civilians with various awards, including one presented by
the Iraqi Society for Charity.
The contributions of the Central American troops also have been hailed widely by
In a visit to El Salvador, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western
Hemisphere Roger Noriega said that the contribution of Salvadoran troops to
coalition efforts in Iraq "are important and key."
"The mission in Iraq is very delicate, very complex," he said. "Despite this, El
Salvador is contributing to the security of the world."
In a letter to the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador, an official with the Coalition
Provisional Authority who has extensive dealings with the Cuscatlan Battalion
commented: "The Salvadoran Battalion is a superb fighting unit which has carried
out a difficult assignment with considerable Úlan."
"We have repeatedly turned to them for assistance on all sorts of issues and
found them to be consummate professionals," the official added. "They are among
our best coalition partners."
Following a ceremony welcoming home the first contingent of Salvadoran troops
from Iraq, U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Douglas Barclay indicated he was
equally impressed by the troops.
"I could not have been more impressed by the Salvadoran soldiers -- their pride
in and dedication to their mission, their esprit de corps, and their eagerness
to put their training to use," he said. "We are truly partners as well as
U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Barbara Moore was similarly appreciative of
Nicaragua's contribution to coalition efforts in Iraq.
"The humanitarian activities of the Nicaraguan troops in Iraq will have a
lasting impact, most especially on the Iraqi civilians who directly benefited
from their attention," she said. "For Nicaragua, long a recipient of generous
disaster and development assistance, it was an important opportunity to
reciprocate to the international community by offering their substantial
expertise in de-mining and unexploded ordnance."
Moore observed: "The Nicaraguan deployment demonstrated to the Iraqis and to the
Nicaraguans themselves that a well-trained, professional military can make a
tremendous humanitarian contribution."
U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Larry Palmer was equally effusive in his praise for
the contribution of Honduran troops during a ceremony welcoming home the first
"I am happy to see the return of the Honduran troops form Iraq, and that is why
I am congratulating each one of them for their great work, their courage and
their support, he said. "I thank all of them for their efforts and sacrifices."
At a January 31 farewell ceremony in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, honoring the second
Xatruch Battalion as they departed for Iraq, one Honduran soldier outlined the
challenge facing the second contingent of troops.
"Our mission is peace in Iraq, and our counterparts have represented Honduras
well," Emerson Tejeda told La Tribuna newspaper. "We have to surpass what they
The 380 Salvadoran soldiers of the second Cuscatlan battalion face a similar
challenge during their current six-month stint.
Increased insurgent activity in south-central Iraq may complicate the current
Central American contingents' efforts to surpass the accomplishments of their
Salvadoran soldier Natividad Mendez Ramos became the first Latin American
casualty in Iraq, as a result of an April 4 attack against a coalition base in
Najaf that also left 12 other Salvadoran soldiers injured.
Just over a week later, on April 12, insurgents fired three mortar rounds on the
Honduran military base in Najaf. No casualties or material damage were reported,
Due to a lack of funds, Nicaragua was unable to send a second contingent to
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information
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