Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Too Many Generals

The Honduran armed forces are restless because for the last two years, the Honduran Congress has sat on the promotion of officers.

This is unprecedented in Honduran history.

Like in the United States, in Honduras, once you get above a certain grade, the military proposes career advancement, and the legislative branch (in Honduras, the Congress; in the US, the Senate) ratifies the promotion.

The US Senate routinely fails to promote officers proposed by the armed forces, for a variety of reasons. Now the Honduran Congress is using its authority to do the same in Honduras.

Among proposed advancements now under consideration are the Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Brigadier General René Osorio Canales (to Major General) and Coronel Wilfredo Oliva Lopez (to Brigadier General). Left over from last year are Coronel Marco Vitelio Castillo (Air Force), General Jose Gerardo Funtes Gonzalez, and General Javier Prince Suazo.

Congress has said that some of these promotions don't make sense because the individuals will shortly retire (Fuentes Gonzalez, for example).

The advancement of Vitelio is rumored to have been withheld as a punishment for the theft of an airplane in San Pedro Sula while it was under the control of the Air Force there.

General Prince is clearly not in good regard; he was removed from the Joint Chiefs council and installed instead as Auditor of the Armed Forces last year.

Whatever the truth is about the motivations for not advancing these officers, the large number of pending promotions draws attention to a peculiarity of the Honduran military: it is top heavy.

In 1993 it had as many senior officers as the Salvadoran Army (about 250), yet the Salvadoran army was, at that time, double the size of the Honduran one.

The Honduran military is still top heavy today. Honduras has 12 flag officers (Generals and Admirals) for around 11,000 troops (2009 data), or about 1 General for every 916 soldiers. In contrast, the United States has 1.4 million troops, and 919 Generals (and Admirals), or one General for every 1536 troops (2009 data).

What that means in day to day practice is worth further consideration. Meanwhile, the excess generals-- and other high officers-- are getting restless as the Honduran congress appears less motivated to grant what once were automatic advancements.

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