The Reagan administration, unable to reach an agreement with Honduras on training troops from neighboring El Salvador at its Regional Military Training Center, yesterday asked Congress to shut down the facility.
About $10 million of the $18.5 million that had been programmed for the facility will go to beef up military training programs in El Salvador, according to congressional sources. An additional $5 million will be used elsewhere in Honduras and $2 million in Costa Rica, with the remaining $1.5 million going to close the training center, they said.
The reallocation reflects the depth of Honduran concern about growing Salvadoran military strength, as well as Honduras' reluctance to do U.S. bidding without what it regards as adequate compensation.
It also signals the apparent end of a Defense Department effort to use Honduras as a center for modernizing friendly Central American armies.
The Defense Department set up the center at Puerto Castilla in 1983 in part to avoid congressional reluctance to provide military aid to El Salvador. But Honduras fought a brief war with El Salvador in 1969 over their disputed border and has grown increasingly uneasy as Salvadoran troops have become stronger under U.S. training.
Honduras demanded last September that no more Salvadoran soldiers be trained on its territory.
Congress allocated $18.5 million in fiscal 1984 funds for the Regional Military Training Center, and another $18 million for fiscal 1985, on condition that Honduras allow soldiers from the entire region, including El Salvador, to receive training there. The legislation also said Honduras must settle all land claims, in particular the claim of a U.S. citizen, Temistocles Ramirez, who is demanding that Honduras pay him for the land used by the center.
Talks to resolve the issue began last August but were unsuccessful.
The center never became much more than a collection of wooden huts and target ranges, although the idea was to make it a permanent, extensive facility that would be owned by the Hondurans and staffed by U.S. trainers.
Negotiations also are at an impasse on U.S. demands for reforms in Honduran economic policy as a condition for releasing $72.5 million in security assistance for fiscal 1984. Yesterday was the deadline by which Congress was to be notified if the funds are to be reprogrammed, but State Department officials said the deadline was "slipping a little" because both sides were hopeful that an agreement might be reached next week.
Vice President Bush is scheduled to visit Honduras on his way home from Brazil next week.