Israel and Honduras maintain close ties in the fields of diplomacy, trade, agriculture and water management, health, innovation, and security. Under Orlando Hernández’s presidency (2014-2022), Honduras became a close ally of Israel, regularly supporting Israel’s policy at the UN and moving Honduras’ embassy to Jerusalem. The military relations between the countries include arms and equipment, training, and cybersecurity systems. As for 2019 Israel is Honduras’ largest supplier of arms.
Honduras and Israel maintain close diplomatic and economic relations. The Military relations between the countries goes back to the 1970sSipri Arms Trade database and reached a peak during Orlando Hernández presidency (2014-2022). In the 1990s Hernández attended a young leadership program by “Mashav”, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, and following his visit to Israel in 2015 the two countries have been in close contact regarding agriculture, water management, the Israeli-Palestinian relations and securityGreer Fay Cashman, Mashav alumnus returns to Israel as president of Honduras, The Jerusalem Post, 30 October 2015.
In December 8, 2016 Honduras and Israel signed a trade agreement amounting to 209 million, which includes the upgrading of aircraft, acquisition of naval weapons and watercraft as well as communication, surveillance and cyber systems.Press release: Israel and Honduras sign an agreement to strengthen the Armed Forces, December 5,2016
Under Hernández Honduras has regularly supported Israel at the UN and became one of tour countries to move their Israel embassy to Jerusalem.Lazar Berman, Outgoing Honduras president: Christians, parliament will protect strong Israel ties, The Times of Israel, 30 December 2021 In 2022, the Honduran foreign ministry under Hernández’s successor, Xiomara Castro, was said to be considering moving the embassy back to Tel Aviv.Honduras Weighs Reversing Jerusalem Embassy Move, Haaretz, 8 August, 2022
Israel’s military support to Honduras started in the late 1970sSipri Arms Trade database and developed in the 1980s, as Honduras hosted anti-Sandinista groups assisted by the USA.Margo Gutierrez and Milton Jamail “Israel in Central America,” Middle East Report 140 (May/June 1986)
After decades of sporadic transactions (e.g. Tavor riflesEquiparán más unidades con potentes fusiles israelíes, El Heraldo, 8 April 2014; ELTA EL/M radars,Alberto López, Honduras instala el tercer radar adquirido a IAI ELTA Systems, infodefensa, 16 February 2016 military relations tightened during Juan Orlando Hernández presidency (2014-2022) and reached a peak in December 8, 2016 with the signing of a major agreement amounting to 209 million USD. The agreement included the re-powering of aircraft (F5, A37 and Bell 412 helicopters); six units of Skylark 3 UAV systems; Sa’ar 62 offshore patrol vessel; communication, surveillance and cyber systems.Press release: Israel and Honduras sign an agreement to strengthen the Armed Forces, December 5,2016 Download deals’ list for detailed information.
As for 2022 these are the items of the 2016 that are known to have arrived to Honduras: the OPV-62; the Elbit communication systems; two out of three Skylark 3 UAV systems (each consisting of two drones). Out of two systems of naval weapons one has been cancelled and the other is still under negotiation. The project of repowering of F5 and A-37 aircraft was cancelled given that the US didn’t approve the purchase of the required replacement parts.Buque, drones y comando, lo único cumplido del convenio con Israel, El Heraldo, 9 May 2022 As for August 2023, 39 million dollars out of the 54 million deal of the OPV-62 have been cancelled.Julio Cruz, Aún se deben del buque adquirido a Israel 15 millones de dólares, El Heraldo, 8 August 2023
In addition to equipment, the military relations between the countries (and in cooperation with the US) include training. In 2019 one thousand Israeli soldiers arrived at Honduras to train the Armed Forces (FFAA) and National Police (PN). Officially, the training focused on border protection, preventing drug trafficking, investigation, and counter-terrorism, with a main mission being the prevention of migrants, especially children, fleeing Honduras to the US.1,000 Israeli Soldiers To Arrive in Honduras to Train Troops, Police on Border Protection, teleSUR, 6 May 2019
As for 2019 Israel is the main provider of arms to Honduras, followed by the USA, Bulgaria, Mexico and Germany.Israel ya es el primer proveedor de armas de Honduras, La Prensa, 12 November 2019
The Honduran Ministry of Defense mentions the following as providers: the Israeli Ministry of Defense, the International Defense Cooperation Directorate of the Israel Ministry of Defense (SIBAT), the Israeli military attaché in Mexico, as well as the Israeli companies: Israel Shipyards Ltd., Elbit Systems Ltd. and ELTA Systems Ltd.Secretaría de Defensa Nacional, Atribuciones de Secretaría de Estado, January 2023
In 2017 a group of Israeli activists represented by lawyer and human rights activist Eitay Mack sent a letter to Israel’s Defense Ministry demanding to freeze or annul the arms sales to Honduras considering the human rights abuses committed by Honduran security forces.Israeli lawyer demands Israel halts arms sales to Honduras, The Times of Israel, A second letter was sent in 2019 following the violence against protestors in the demonstrations that erupted after the investigation of President Hernandez by the US Drug Enforcement Administration. “No move of a foreign embassy to Jerusalem can justify Israeli aid to the murder of civilians,” wrote the activists, “[t]here is no sense in Israel joining the war against the citizens of Honduras, in order to help criminals and drug dealers maintain their rule.”Eitay Mack, Letter to Israel’s Defense Ministry, 5 June 2019 (Hebrew)
Cybersecurity & Surveillance
The Hernández administration expanded the state surveillance network, both enabling it legally and by acquiring cutting-edge systems. Almost a quarter of the 2016 contract between Israel and Honduras regards cybersecurity systems and training for the National Directorate for State Research and Intelligence (DNII). There is also evidence for the operation of Pegasus software by NSO Group,Israel ya es el primer proveedor de armas de Honduras, La Prensa, 12 November 2019 Circles by NSO Group,Bill Marczak, John Scott-Railton, Siddharth Prakash Rao, Siena Anstis, and Ron Deibert. “Running in Circles: Uncovering the Clients of Cyberespionage Firm Circles,” Citizen Lab Research … Continue reading and UFED by Cellebrite.Anna-Catherine Brigida, How surveillance tech helped protect power — and the drug trade — in Honduras, Coda Story, 31 January 2023
The Police Directorate of Investigations used Cellebrite for 939 phone extractions between 2017-2022. Among others it was used against environmental activists. Also the special criminal investigation unit ATIC used Cellebrite and conducted 3,893 extractions between 2015-2022. Documents obtained by “CODA” indicate the the Honduan Police spent at least $136,000 for Cellebrite each year.Anna-Catherine Brigida, How surveillance tech helped protect power — and the drug trade — in Honduras, Coda Story, 31 January 2023 Official documents show that at least part of the Cellebrite systems were provided to Honduras by the US Department of State.Here’s the Surveillance the US Exports to Central America as Aid – And it’s Surviving Trump’s Cuts, Privacy International, 29 July 2019
Use of Israeli arms
Tavor and Galil rifles – in use by The National Anti Maras and Gangs Force (FNAMP),FNAMP, Tavor The Military Police for Public Order (PMOP),PMOP, Galil The Special Forces and The Presidential Security Force (GHP).Equiparán más unidades con potentes fusiles israelíes, El Heraldo, 7 April 2014
EL/M-2082 3D, EL/M-2106NG 3D radars by ELTA – in use by the Honduran Air Force.Alberto López, Honduras instala el tercer radar adquirido a IAI ELTA Systems, infodefensa, 16 February 2016
VHF (portable) – 100 units, VHF (vehicular) – 35 units, VHF/UHF (vehicular) – 35 units, HF (vehicular) – 40 units, HF (portable) – 60 units by Elbit Systems – in use by the Armed Forces of Honduras.Israel alista la primera entrega de equipo a las fuerzas armadas de Honduras, El Heraldo, 7 January 2018
Skylark 3 – by Elbit Systems – in use by the Armed Forces of Honduras.Esta semana llega primer sistema de drones a las fuerzas armadas de Honduras, El Heraldo, 11 November 2018
OPV-62 by Israel Shipyards – in use by Honduran Navy.Dorian Archus, Israel Shipyards Delivered OPV-62 to Honduran Navy, Naval Post, 14 December 2019
Pegasus software by NSO Group – in use by the National Directorate for State Research and Intelligence (DNII).Israel ya es el primer proveedor de armas de Honduras, La Prensa, 12 November 2019
Circles by NSO Group – in use by the National Directorate for State Research and Intelligence (DNII).Bill Marczak, John Scott-Railton, Siddharth Prakash Rao, Siena Anstis, and Ron Deibert. “Running in Circles: Uncovering the Clients of Cyberespionage Firm Circles,” Citizen Lab Research … Continue reading
UFED by Cellebrite – in use by the Police Directorate of Investigations (DPI).Anna-Catherine Brigida, How surveillance tech helped protect power — and the drug trade — in Honduras, Coda Story, 31 January 2023
Human Rights violations
Honduras suffers from violence, femicide, corruption, poverty, environmental vulnerability, and corruption, including collusion between state officials and criminal organizations. Honduras has been severely criticized for its record of human-rights violations and its use of military power for “public security”.HRW Report 2022
In 2013 a hybrid military-police force named the Military Police for Public Order (PMOP) started operating under the command of the Honduran Armed Forces. Members of the PMOP have committed abuses of authority, torture, homicide and extrajudicial killings, kidnapping and rape, “in some cases in complicity with organized crime”.IUDPAS and WOLA, The role of the armed forces in public security in Honduras, August 2020
According to Global Witness, Honduras is the deadliest place for environmental activists with more than 120 killed since 2010 defending their lands from the dangers of mining and dam projects. In some cases, including the 2016 murder of Berta Cáceres, an internationally renowned environmentalist, the people behind the assassinations have ties with official state forces.Global Witness, Honduras: the deadliest country in the world for environmental activism, 31 January 2017
Political and social unrest culminated after the elections held on 26 November 2017, when mass protests following claims of electoral fraud were suppressed violently by security forces. Some of the most serious abuses of power by the PMOP and the military were committed during the post-elections period of 2017.OHCHR, Human rights violations in the context of the 2017 elections in Honduras These include opening fire indiscriminately against protesters, causing death and injury.IUDPAS and WOLA, The role of the armed forces in public security in Honduras, August 2020
Some units associated with abuse of authority, illegal detentions, homicide, torture, rape, extrajudicial killings and extensive use of force against demonstrators and activists use Israeli rifles (namely TavorFNAMP, Tavor and Galil,PMOP, Galil surveillance systems, and cyber technologies.
Although the growing surveillance apparatus of Honduras is meant, allegedly, to support the war against crime and drug trafficking, evidence suggests that cybersecurity and surveillance systems have been used to target activists and protest movements.Anna-Catherine Brigida, How surveillance tech helped protect power — and the drug trade — in Honduras, Coda Story, 31 January 2023
One of the promises made by Xiomara Castro’s administration was to demilitarize the Honduran society and particularly the penal system. Yet, scholars and human rights organizations stress that there hasn’t been any significant change in the country’s militaristic vision of security.Breidy Hernández, Desmilitarización: otra promesa incumplida de Xiomara Castro y su gobierno socialista democrático, Criterio, 20 April 2023
More specifically, following a series of fatal incidents in prisons, the government decided to re-militarizeHonduran armed forces seize control of prisons to stamp out gangs, Al Jazeera, 26 June 2023 the prison system by giving the Military Police of Public Order (PMOP) control of most country’s prisons and installing digital systems of surveillance and monitoring.Alexander Álvarez, Los intentos del Gobierno contra la violencia, Tu Nota, 28 June 2023 President Castro also plans to build an isolated 250km off the coast.Al Jazeera, Honduras to build island colony to imprison gang members, 19 July 2023