Canada upholding military aid program despite coup

Canada is still providing training to members of the Honduran army, despite the military coup that sent the Central American country into turmoil late last month.

Honduras riot police stand next to burning tires during a protest by supporters of ousted President Manuel Zelaya in Tegucigalpa

OTTAWA — Canada is still providing training to members of the Honduran army, despite the military coup that sent the Central American country into turmoil late last month.

National Defence confirmed that the government has maintained its military training assistance program with Honduras, which provides language and peacekeeping training to soldiers.

The Conservative government is facing criticism for not following the lead of the United States and European Union in taking concrete action against the regime, although it has condemned the coup.

“That’s a message to them, that we may criticize you in public but don’t worry we’ll maintain economic and military relations with you, and that’s what real power is, economic and military relations,” said Grahame Russell of Rights Action, a non-governmental organization that works in Central America.

Early on June 28, members of the Honduran military stormed the presidential palace in Tegulcigalpa and removed president Manuel Zelaya.

They put him on a plane to Costa Rica, and have barred him from entering the country at border crossings. They’ve also broken up protests by supporters of Zelaya, and maintained curfews across Honduras. Some dissidents have been jailed.

Peter Kent, minister of state for foreign affairs, said Canada’s one-year-old military training program, known as MTAP, is “not a major issue.”

This year, three Honduran soldiers are receiving English-language training at bases in Kingston, Ont., and St. Jean, Que., and two others are attending Canada-funded peacekeeping courses in Chile and Argentina. The cost is estimated at $70,000 annually.

“The MTAP program that we support is, at this point in Honduras, a very small investment,” Kent said. “We’re reviewing all of the security assistance that we provide, but at this point it’s not a major issue.”

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