New Ripples In An Evil Story
by Sister Laetitia Bordes, s.h.
John D. Negroponte, President Bush's nominee as the next ambassador to the United Nations? My ears perked up. I turned up the volume on the radio. I began listening more attentively. Yes, I had heard correctly. Bush was nominating Negroponte, the man who gave the CIA backed Honduran death squads open field when he was ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985.
My mind went back to May 1982 and I saw myself facing Negroponte in his office at the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa. I had gone to Honduras on a fact-finding delegation. We were looking for answers. Thirty-two women had fled the death squads of El Salvador after the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980 to take refuge in Honduras. One of them had been Romero's secretary. Some months after their arrival, these women were forcibly taken from their living quarters in Tegucigalpa, pushed into a van and disappeared. Our delegation was in Honduras to find out what had happened to these women.
John Negroponte listened to us as we exposed the facts. There had been eyewitnesses to the capture and we were well read on the documentation that previous delegations had gathered. Negroponte denied any knowledge of the whereabouts of these women. He insisted that the US Embassy did not interfere in the affairs of the Honduran government and it would be to our advantage to discuss the matter with the latter. Facts, however, reveal quite the contrary. During Negroponte's tenure, US military aid to Honduras grew from $4 million to $77.4 million; the US launched a covert war against Nicaragua and mined its harbors, and the US trained Honduran military to support the Contras.
John Negroponte worked closely with General Alvarez, Chief of the Armed Forces in Honduras, to enable the training of Honduran soldiers in psychological warfare, sabotage, and many types of human rights violations, including torture and kidnapping. Honduran and Salvadoran military were sent to the School of the Americas to receive training in counter-insurgency directed against people of their own country. The CIA created the infamous Honduran Intelligence Battalion 3-16 that was responsible for the murder of many Sandinistas. General Luis Alonso Discua Elvir, a graduate of the School of the Americas, was a founder and commander of Battalion 3-16. In 1982, the US negotiated access to airfields in Honduras and established a regional military training center for Central American forces, principally directed at improving fighting forces of the Salvadoran military.
In 1994, the Honduran Rights Commission outlined the torture and disappearance of at least 184 political opponents.
It also specifically accused John Negroponte of a number of human rights violations. Yet, back in his office that day in 1982, John Negroponte assured us that he had no idea what had happened to the women we were looking for. I had to wait 13 years to find out. In an interview with the Baltimore Sun in1996 Jack Binns, Negroponte's predecessor as US ambassador in Honduras, told how a group of Salvadorans, among whom were the women we had been looking for, were captured on April 22, 1981 and savagely tortured by the DNI, the Honduran Secret Police, before being placed in helicopters of the Salvadoran military. After take off from the airport in Tegucigalpa, the victims were thrown out of the helicopters. Binns told the Baltimore Sun that the North American authorities were well aware of what had happened and that it was a grave violation of human rights. But it was seen as part of Ronald Reagan's counterinsurgency policy.
Now in 2001, I'm seeing new ripples in this story.
Since President Bush made it known that he intended to nominate John Negroponte, other people have suddenly been "disappearing", so to speak. In an article published in the Los Angeles Times on March 25 Maggie Farley and Norman Kempster reported on the sudden deportation of several former Honduran death squad members from the United States. These men could have provided shattering testimony against Negroponte in the forthcoming Senate hearings. One of these recent deportees just happens to be General Luis Alonso Discua, founder of Battalion 3-16. In February, Washington revoked the visa of Discua who was Deputy Ambassador to the UN. Since then, Discua has gone public with details of US support of Battalion 3-16.
Given the history of John Negroponte in Central America, it is indeed horrifying to think that he should be chosen to represent our country at the United Nations, an organization founded to ensure that the human rights of all people receive the highest respect. How many of our Senators, I wonder, let alone the US public, know who John Negroponte really is?
photo: Center for Justice & Accountability